Beat the Forgetting Curve

Study skills | Kiran Kapur | 13 July 2018

Stress-free exams may not exist, but you can reduce the stress by proper revision technique. In this blog, we will look at the best ways to boost your memory by using repetition.

Most qualifications require you to revise for an exam. This can be daunting if it's been a while and it can bring back hideous memories of past exams. With the exception of the CIM Foundation Marketing Principles exam, you will have to go to an exam hall, sit in a room with other people, with an invigilator saying “you may open the exam paper” and “you have 10 minutes remaining”.

The Forgetting Curve

Depressingly, your brain does not retain new information efficiently. This graph of the Forgetting Curve shows the average human brain's recall over time. 

Repetition and review fights the Forgetting Curve

There is a simple method to help you to retain the information and that is reviewing what you have just learnt, sometimes described as ‘repetition’ or ‘revision’, meaning that you go over the information you have learnt to reinforce it. 

The following graph show how much your recall improves by using this review technique after 10 minutes, one day and one week. As you can see, the amount you retain is higher with each review done. For long term memory, you can review again after 1 month, but most of us don't leave enough time before the exam to do this.

(source: Open University)

Some ideas for how to review what you’ve learnt:

  1. Write out abbreviated notes
  2. Glance over what you were reading and speak out loud what you covered
  3. Test yourself, or ask someone else to test you
  4. Explain to someone else what you’ve learnt
  5. Try an exam question

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