What is spaced repetition? Plus a free notion template!
Singaporean students are notorious for their rote learning methods. Does constantly rereading and rewriting notes sound like something you do when you study? How about blindly highlighting pages of texts, and never looking at them again after that?
Cramming content and later regurgitating it in the ways listed above is only useful in the short run. However, if you tried to recall anything you studied a month later, you probably would have forgotten most of it.
If you want to remember everything you studied for the long-term, learn to use spaced repetition today!
This article will cover all you need to know about spaced repetition: what it is, how it works, and how you can incorporate it into your own study routine.
There’s even a Notion template we’ve made specifically to keep track of your spaced repetition schedule. Keep reading to find out how to use this template for a seamless transition into spaced repetition!
Spaced repetition – sometimes called spaced learning – is a memorisation method where you distribute your review or practice of something that you want to remember.
Cognitive psychologists have found out that spacing out your revision over time is a better way of cementing new content into your memory.
In contrast, reviewing things in close succession (duration-wise) isn’t helpful for memory enhancement. This is also known as ‘massed practice’, compared to spaced learning that makes use of ‘distributed practice’.
Why and how does spaced repetition work?
The adage “practice makes perfect” is the crux of the spaced repetition technique. It works simply because you practice and/or review information continuously as time passes.
The human brain works such that routine reviewing of information makes it easier for said information to be retrieved in the future. It also solidifies it, allowing it to be stored in your long-term memory.
On the contrary, cramming as many things as you can in a short time only allows this information to be stored in your short-term memory because you don’t try to retrieve that information constantly over time.
This is why you will eventually forget almost everything about a month later if you’ve crammed on the night before an exam!
How do you use spaced repetition with active recall?
So you now know that spacing out your revision with increasing time intervals is the most efficient method of remembering things. But what should you do each time you revisit a topic? And how long should the intervals between each review be?
This is where active recall comes into play. For maximum effectiveness of each study session, you’ll want to use spaced repetition in conjunction with active recall.
I’ll demonstrate this with an illustration.
Let’s say you have to memorise a bunch of facts for history. You’re required to remember the countries and people involved, who did what and why, and the consequences of their actions. That’s a lot of information, isn’t it?
To ensure you get the most out of your study session, you could use active recall via flashcards. Write down key terms and important things to note on your flashcards and you’re done.
What you’ll want to do now is take a break; this is where spaced repetition begins. Do something—anything except look at your newly-made flashcards for an hour.
Once that hour is up, revisit your flashcards and test yourself. We’ll call this Review 1.
On the following day, revisit your flashcards once again and test yourself. This is Review 2.
The idea is to increase the time intervals after each rep. As a rule of thumb, here’s the typical time intervals:
By the end of 3 months, it’s assumed that you’ve achieved topic mastery! This means you’ve successfully encoded everything into your long-term memory and can now retrieve this information with incredible ease. It’s like having the flashcards in your brain, forever.
You’re free to tweak the time intervals to suit your learning speed. As long as it’s spaced out and the intervals increase each time, you’re good to go.
Spaced repetition apps to optimise your experience
Just as active recall and spaced repetition should be paired for maximum effectiveness, apps for spaced repetition and active recall should be used simultaneously.
Flashcard apps: Anki and Quizlet
My own set of Quizlet flashcards when I studied Korean
[Anki] Free, with an option for the premium subscription
[Quizlet] Free, with an option for premium modes
[Anki] iOS, macOS, Windows, Google Play Store
[Quizlet] iOS, Google Play Store
For active recall apps, use flashcard apps like Anki or Quizlet. Here’s an overview of these flashcard apps!
I personally found using Quizlet optimal for practising active recall. I would usually go through my deck of vocabulary flashcards while on my daily commute.
It’s an easy way to get in spaced repetition and active recall in one sitting. Quizlet automatically reshuffles the deck for me every time I go through it so that I’m forced to recall the vocabulary.
Sourced from Notion
Price: Free / Personal pro: $4 per month / Team: $8 per month subscription
Available on: iOS App Store, Google Play Store, Windows, macOS
Notion is a highly customisable note-taking app that you can use for multiple purposes. For this reason, it’s brilliant for creating a template for spaced repetition.
Here’s an article on the best note-taking apps for our review of Notion!
We’ve also made a Notion template so you can keep track of your spaced repetition schedule and remind yourself to revise in a fuss-free manner.
The template includes the general time intervals mentioned earlier. Simply create additional tables for each subject that you want to start a spaced repetition schedule for.
More detailed instructions are provided within the template on how to navigate and use it.
Price: Free, offers in-app purchases
Available on: iOS, macOS
If you aren’t keen on using Notion together with Anki or Quizlet, I’ve got your back.
Spaced is an alternative app that you can use for spaced repetition that combines the flashcard features of Anki and Quizlet with the scheduling capabilities of Notion.
An all-in-one app that reminds you when to go through your flashcards, it’s perfect if you find it cumbersome to switch between multiple apps.
It features a minimalist interface that is relatively easy to use and even has its own built-in flashcards deck about various subjects.
Unfortunately, this app is only available on iOS and macOS.
Space: Spaced Repetition
Available on: iOS, macOS, Windows, Google Play Store
This is another all-in-one alternative app that provides reminders so you can stay on track with your spaced repetition schedule.
What’s good about it is the availability across multiple platforms so that you can sync and access your flashcards on multiple devices.
It has a clean look and offers more options for designing and formatting flashcards with pictures, bullet points, etc.
Final thoughts on Spaced Repetition
Overall, spaced learning is a great technique to pick up if you want to stop the seemingly endless cycle of regurgitation. It encourages meaningful retention of information, which means you aren’t just learning for the sake of tests and exams anymore.
Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll have gained a wealth of information about spaced repetition and can add it to your learning toolbox.