The Most Powerful Way to Remember What You Study

Hey, what is going on, guys? So I think we can all
agree that studying takes far, far too much time so
what I wanna do in this video is show you guys
how you can remember more of what you learn, even
if you’re spending fewer actual hours studying,
and the way to do that is by spacing out
that study time. This is a technique
called spaced repetition and to do it you add
progressively longer and longer time
intervals in between each of your study sessions. So in this video I wanna
show you exactly how you can do that, both with
your paper flash cards and with apps both for
smartphones and computers. But first I wanted to get
into why this technique is so powerful and also
talk to you a little bit about the history behind
it and how it relates to our memories in general. Spaced repetition leverages
a memory phenomenon known as the spacing
effect, which describes how our brains make better
connections and overall remember things more
effectively when we space out our learning over time. How’s how Pierce J.
Howard, the author of my least favorite book to
haul into coffee shops, puts it: “Work involving
higher mental functions, “such as analysis and
synthesis, needs to be “spaced out in order
to allow new neural “connections to solidify. “New learning drives
out old learning when “insufficient time intervenes.” And we’ve actually
known about this effect for quite a long time. Back in the late-1800s
a psychologist named Hermann Ebbinghaus
basically launched the field of memory science
itself by embarking upon an intense study where
he made himself memorize long, long lists of
nonsense syllables. And through that research
he eventually came to develop what’s called
The Forgetting Curve, which describes how
memories decay over time. But what he also learned
was that by spacing out his efforts to
memorize these lists, he could put in less
actual study time to get them memorized perfectly. For example, for one list
of 12 syllables he found out it took him 68 repetitions
on one day and then seven repetitions the
next day to memorize it perfectly, but by
spacing out his studying over the course of three
days he found he could achieve his same level
of perfection in only 38 repetitions. Over the past 130 years
since he published his findings, lots of other
studies have been able to replicate this same
positive results, which leads us to the question, “Why does
the spacing effect work?” Well to put it in simple
terms, it turns out that one of the most important
parts of learning process is actually forgetting. Now what forgetting truly
is is a subject for another video that I’ll publish in
the future, but the most important thing to note
here is that the more we’ve forgotten something, that
is the harder we have to work to retrieve it
since we last learned it or studied it, the
greater the increase in learning will be. To make this a bit more
clear, here’s how the author Benedict Carey, who wrote
the book “How We Learn,” explains it: “Some amount
of breakdown must occur “for us to strengthen
learning when we revisit the material. “Without a little forgetting,
you get no benefit “from further study. “It is what allows
learning to build, “like an exercised muscle.” And that’s the main
reason why Carey calls spaced repetition one of
the most powerful methods for remembering what
you’ve learned in his book. And I would add to that
the fact that you can do this with basically any
other learning technique. It’s entirely complementary
because it’s all about just modifying the time
periods in which you study. You can do anything
within those time periods, you’re just using
the time periods as intelligently as possible. With that being said, now
I wanna get into how you can put spaced repetition
into action and implement it into your own study systems. And we’re gonna talk about
apps and computer programs that you can use in a
minute here but first I want to talk about a system
that you can use with your paper flash cards, which
is called the Leitner System, and here’s how it works. The first step is to
decide on the number of boxes that you’re gonna
use to hold the cards in your system. Now I don’t actually own
little boxes so I’ve just substituted rubber bands
and sticky notes that say “Box,” but that actually
works just as well and actually makes the
system more portable, so that’s pretty cool,
and from there each individual box is going
to represent a different study time interval. So Box 1 might be studying
every day, Box 2 might be studied every
other day, and so on. And when you’re studying
the cards in the boxes, every time you get a card
right it’s gonna graduate to the next box, so
you’re gonna see it less and less often. But if you get a card
wrong, it’s gonna go all the way to box number 1,
no matter where it was. And by using this system
you get two main benefits. Number one, you’re maximizing
your learning through the spacing effect, but
number two, you’re also studying more efficiently
because you’re spending more time on the cards that
need the most attention and less time on the
ones you know really well rather than studying
every single card equally. Now this paper system
works really well for both of those goals but if
you wanna take advantage of more advanced scheduling
algorithms and other features, you’re gonna
need to find yourself a space repetition app
and there are a lot of contenders in this
area but I wanna focus first on what is probably
the most popular one right now and that
is called Anki. Anki has a huge community,
it’s insanely customizable, and best of all, it has
apps for almost every platform out there and
almost all of them are free with the exception of the
iPhone app, which oddly costs a whopping $25. Now I think the price is
that high because it’s their way of basically letting
people support the app since it’s free everywhere else
but if you’re on an iPhone and you don’t wanna pay
that much, fear not because Anki also has a companion
web app called AnkiWeb, which is accessible
from mobile Safari. So you can use that
free if you want. Now with Anki, creating
cards is really, really easy and I really like
the fact that you can add basically any kind of media
you want to your cards, including pictures, which
is awesome because adding pictures to your flash
cards can really help increase retention. However, the killer feature
of Anki is the ability to rate cards based on
difficulty when you’re studying them. So essentially, when you
turn a card over, you can tell the program how hard
it was for you to dredge the answer up from the
depths of your memory and it will use that data
to decide how long it’s gonna be before you
see that card again. And that’s really the
main strength of space repetition apps
versus a paper system. Each individual card
can be tracked, can have a difficulty rating,
and can be adjusted in the algorithm so
you’re getting the most benefit of the spacing effect. Anki is definitely not
the only space repetition app out there, though,
so if you’re looking for alternatives, I’ve got
a few things in mind for you to take a look at,
number one being an app called TinyCards, which I
showed off in my previous video on how to make
better flash cards. Now TinyCards is only for
the iPhone, unfortunately, but there should be an
Android version coming soon, and honestly, when compared
to Anki I think it’s a lot more simple, a lot
prettier, and the process of making cards is more
fun and faster because they have an excellent
system for adding images to your cards. Aside from TinyCards
there are also apps like Flashcards Deluxe, Memrise,
SuperMemo, Mnemosyne, Eidetic, Quizlet, and
probably a bunch of others that I don’t even know
about right now but I’m sure you will let me know
about down in the Comments. So before I wrap this
video up I have a couple more things I wanna
mention, number one being the script I wrote for
this video is actually about half the length
of the blog post I wrote so if you want a lot
more detail, especially pertaining to the memory
bits and how the spacing effect works, you can
click the blog post link in the description down
below or on the card on screen right now and read
to your heart’s content. Also, and I have been
really excited to announce this for quite a long
time now, there’s now an official College
Info Geek t-shirt on and I’m super,
super stoked about this. I’ve already ordered
mine and there’s gonna be a link down in the
description, also a card so if you would like to
get your very own shirt, which may or may not
grant superpowers, you can click either of those
links and order one. Now one cool thing about
these shirts’ design is it was actually created
by the College Info Geek community. My good friend Ashley did
the hand-lettered design itself but the mantra or
saying on the shirt was actually decided upon by
people in the College Info Geek community over on
Reddit, which I think is really, really cool, and
I would love to continue to play up this community
aspect so if you get a shirt I would love to
see you tweeting awesome pictures of you wearing
it to send to me over on @TomFrankly and I will
probably retweet them. You can also put them
in the Reddit as well if you like and other than
that, that’s all I have for this video, guys, so
thanks so much for watching. And if you found it
useful, give it a Like to support this channel
and you can also Subscribe with that button right
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a more effective student every single week. You can also get a copy
of my book on earning better grades by going to
the picture of the book right there and clicking
your mouse button. You can find the previous
video right over there which was about how to
use flash cards more effectively and if you
wanna find that awesome article which is way
more detailed than this video was, go to the Full
Article thing right there. If you’d like to connect
with me you can use the social media links
down below but there’s also a non-zero probability
that you can connect with me by yelling
into a conch shell, so maybe give that a try too.

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