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Spaced Repetition

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spaced repetition is a learning technique in which increasing intervals of time are used between subsequent reviews. Alternative names include expanding rehearsal, graduated intervals, repetition spacing, repetition scheduling, spaced retrieval and expanded retrieval. Spaced repetition is not simple rote repetition of phrases. It emphasizes active recall rather than recognition, and uses recall methods of memory such as questioning, free recall, free association, intellective reflection, or prompting using other mnemonic triggers or cues.

Humans differ little in the way their memory works. People with large differences in IQ will often exhibit similar spaced repetition patterns. For example, when we learn a foreign word, most people require a repetition within 1-10 days to ensure 95% retention. The second repetition may already come later. For example, between 2-25 days. After a few repetitions, well structured and meaningful learning material can be repeated with intervals lasting many years.


Practical applications of spaced repetition were first suggested in the book Psychology of Study by Prof. C. A. Mace in 1932.

Pimsleur language courses use spaced repetition techniques, and in the 1970s Sebastian Leitner devised his Leitner system, an all-purpose system based on flashcards.

The SuperMemo repetition spacing algorithm was devised in Poland during the 1980's as a way to remedy a molecular biology student's "frustration of learning progress". The method has been scientifically proven to retain between 90%-95% of all knowledge entered into the process.

More recently, spaced repetition has also been implemented into computer-assisted language learning software. Such software can collect information about student's memory and gradually adapt the optimum spacing of repetitions to individual needs. A typical optimization criterion used in spaced repetition is the requested level of knowledge retention, i.e. percent of knowledge that is to be remembered.

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