Beating the Forgetting Curve with Spaced Repetition

Beating the Forgetting Curve with Spaced Repetition

Discover how to study for medical school more efficiently and effectively by prioritizing long-term retention over short-term memorization.


Lecturio Team


March 11, 2021

Long nights studying, a rising workload… all of it can make cramming seem like a great solution for exams and assignments. Resist the urge and instead learn how to use Spaced Repetition to help you set yourself up better for the future by really understanding the material you’re studying. Let’s learn about what Spaced Repetition is, how you can use this science-based study technique, and why it will be especially helpful for you as a medical student. 

What is Spaced Repetition?

It’s always a good day when you arrive for a test, submit an assignment, or do hands-on practice and the information you need seems readily available in your mind. This information being freely available doesn’t come easy, though! Spaced Repetition is here to make this free recall that much easier. What is Spaced Repetition, though?

Spaced Repetition: A way to learn sizeable pieces of information by putting a long time between each review of a previously learned material. 

Forgetting curves with repetition
This graph shows how Spaced Repetition can make a difference. When you review information or concepts repeatedly over various time intervals, your retrieval improves.

There are two ways you can break down information into sizeable pieces:

  • For material that you understand better, you should wait a longer time period between each review. 
  • For material that still seems new to you, you should wait a shorter amount of time between each review. 

As a medical student, the amount of information you have to remember over time is extensive. With Spaced Repetition, you’re ensuring that you’re not only gaining and retaining new knowledge, but that you’re also bringing up concepts you learned a while ago and ensuring that the information is encoded into your long-term memory.

Why are these spaced intervals important? They will dramatically improve long-term memory recall! This method will give you the opportunity to learn more effectively, improve your academic performance, and become a better health care professional. How you use it, though, will make all the difference.

How Can I Use Spaced Repetition?

Let’s get specific on how to use this method. The first step to setting up the time intervals is to figure out how well you know the information. Is it new information? Plan less time between each study block. Feeling like you’ve mastered the information? Plan more time between each study block. Overall, find a way to apply the technique to encourage that aforementioned free recall. This will also change as you continue to master information, so make sure to reevaluate your knowledge retention as time goes on.

You can develop your own Spaced Repetition plan for general studying, but we’ve made this easier for you: Lecturio already has a Spaced Repetition algorithm built in, so you just need to watch videos and answer the recall questions we already provide, then review your Spaced Repetition questions in our platform.

Screenshot spaced repetition

Here’s how:

  1. Use Lecturio videos to study: At the end of each video, retention quiz questions will appear to test how well you understand and remember what you just learned. Answer how confident you are in your answer, which will be important for the next element.
  2. Lecturio’s Spaced Repetition system factors in your confidence level of each question: The system will make questions you weren’t confident about reappear in a shorter interval of time in your Spaced Repetition deck. If you are confident in your answer, and especially if you answer the question correctly, it will take a longer time for that question to reappear in your deck. 
  3. Review your recall questions and understand what each question status means
    • “Unanswered”: Questions you have not been tested on yet. 
    • “Due Today”: Questions you got wrong, which the system believes it is time for you to try again. It could also be a question you got right and it is time for you to answer again so you can test your understanding of the topic.
      • (Just because it says “due today” doesn’t mean you have to answer all the “due” questions that day… but we definitely recommend it for maximum long-term retention!)
    • “Learned”: Questions you have answered correctly and are scheduled to reappear in your studies later. 

Why is Spaced Repetition Helpful?

Beyond all these technicalities, this method is connected to learning science. Through medical school, your knowledge could be divided into two forms: factual and procedural. 

  • Factual knowledge is the theoretical background of medical education, or the “what” information. 
  • Procedural knowledge is the practice part of medicine, or the “how” and “why” information. 

The good news? Spaced Repetition can help you master both of these two forms. This strategy will help you have better long-term retention of the material. 

Something else to keep in mind is that you are likely to forget what you learned at a predictable rate. Forgetting at a predictable rate makes sense. You have a large amount of information to take in every week and it will be hard to remember it all. This is why Spaced Repetition is so beneficial for medical students. It’s a scientifically-based practice that will increase retention so you are ready to do you best in the medical field. Once you have a good grasp of this technique, you’ll notice and enjoy how the information you learn and study becomes easier to recall.

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