The Forgetting Curve

Reviewing notes in detail following each class, or at minimum sometime during the day before you go to bed, will greatly increase your ability to recall what you've learned, as the graph below shows. At the end of nine weeks, students who reviewed their notes within a day recalled about 75% of what they'd been taught. Those students who did not review their notes following class were not able to recall even 50% of the information covered during the lecture after one day, and only slightly more than 20% of the information nine weeks later.

The fact of the matter is that we learn and remember through repetition. During your review of your notes we recommend that you add any additional information you recall from class lecture or add questions in the margins of your notes to help you study the material later. During your review of your notes you may also find that you don't understand some of the information you wrote down, and that need to ask the professor, TA or another student for clarification.

Forgetting Curve Graph

The forgetting curve is a visual representation of how we forget different pieces of information over time whenever we make no attempt to retain it. The more we try to retain a piece of information, the stronger the memory of that information becomes. The stronger the memory, the more likely that we will be able to remember the information over time.

You can see that phenomenon at work in the forgetting curve graph. When we first learn someone, we quickly forget much of the information related to it, usually within a few days. However, if we review that new information the next day, we are more likely to remember what we learned for a longer period of time. If we continue to review what we learn over the next few days, we lock in that new information for vastly larger periods of time.

Memory isn’t a static thing, and not everything we learn will be equally well remembered. Take, for instance, a series of classes you’ll be taking over the course of the day. The first is at eight in the morning, the second at 11 in the morning, and the final lesson at three in the afternoon. You may still be groggy for waking up at your earliest class, and you may be tired by the time your final class of the day rolls around. In contrast, you may be wide awake for your 11 o’clock class.

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