How Spaced Repetition improves memory

iStock-506716345Knowledge retention is difficult. Research shows that just 20 minutes after learning something new, 40% of that information is forgotten. After six days, just 23% of knowledge is retained.

Luckily, every time we repeat a training session, we reinforce our knowledge of that information. Neuroscience shows that our brains work well with regular, repeated exposure to small pieces of learning. This is known as Spaced Repetition, which introduces intervals between training sessions.

What is Spaced Repetition?

Spaced Repetition is a memory enhancement method that spreads out learning over time. This technique aids information retention as it keeps the material fresh in your mind and forces you to use active recall. 

Spaced Repetition can trace its roots all the way back to the 19th century.

In 1885, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus published an experimental study: Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology. The main part of this work was the forgetting curve.

The forgetting curve demonstrates how memory weakens over time if no attempt is made to retain information. Research shows that within one hour of learning something, people forget 50% of it. Within just 24 hours, they forget 70% and, within a week, they will have forgotten 90% of the new information.

Spaced Repetition, however, attempts to mitigate the effects of the forgetting curve by increasing the intervals of time between reviews of previously learned material. When someone becomes more proficient, the gaps between teachings become greater – initial repetitions may be needed within days, but later they can be made after weeks, months or years.

Each time information is recalled and reviewed, it is further ingrained into the long-term memory.


ebbinghaus diagram

The science

The human brain has approximately 86 billion nerve cells called neurons. These are the building blocks of the brain. When people gain new knowledge, neurons and the synapses that join them become more strongly connected, allowing the neurons to communicate with each other more efficiently.

As people recall information, the neurons and synapses become stronger, making things easier to remember. The stronger the neural connections, the more effectively you will have learned something.


Benefits of Spaced Repetition

Research shows that Spaced Repetition has many benefits for learning and knowledge retention.

One study found that by using flashcards and spacing out learning, 90% of participants performed better in exams when compared to other methods of learning.

Another found that spacing out a lecture and review quiz improved test performance. After attending a 45-minute lecture, half of the participants took an exam the day after the lecture, whilst the other half were tested eight days later. Each student took a final test five weeks after their respective initial exams. Participants who took the quiz eight days after the lecture performed significantly better on the final test than the other students, suggesting Spaced Repetition can improve knowledge retention.

Other research has shown that Spaced Repetition can increase knowledge retention by a staggering 200%, without any additional learning time!


Pair with microlearning

Microlearning is perfect for Spaced Repetition.

This method breaks information down into manageable, bite-sized pieces which are easy to learn and recall. Each microlearning session is quick and takes just 2–3 minutes to complete. The shortness of these sessions makes them easy to repeat at regular intervals.


Traditional, longer training sessions tend to be ineffective for knowledge retention.

To embed information into the long-term memory, it is essential to utilise Spaced Repetition. This learning method improves a person’s ability to memorise and apply new information.



Why Wranx?

Wranx is a microlearning platform that utilises Spaced Repetition to improve knowledge, retention and engagement.

We provide month-long modules which are made up of daily drills – a series of around 10 questions a day. Each module is created by a team of content writers, giving you a unique training program. Our digital platform allows training to be completed on any device, at any time.

Wranx has created bespoke training modules for a number of clients, making their learning more effective and efficient. For example, The North Face® uses Wranx to deliver product knowledge training to their disparate workforce. Since adopting our platform, The North Face® in the US has seen the average training session reduced to just 1 minute and 58 seconds, highlighting how conveniently training fits into a working day.

Find out more about our service here.

Written by: Persia Shahkarami

Published: 3 Feb, 2022