The Most Powerful Way to Remember What You Study

Hey, what is going on, guys? So I think we can all
agree that studying takes far, far too much time so
what I wanna do in this video is show you guys
how you can remember more of what you learn, even
if you’re spending fewer actual hours studying,
and the way to do that is by spacing out
that study time. This is a technique
called spaced repetition and to do it you add
progressively longer and longer time
intervals in between each of your study sessions. So in this video I wanna
show you exactly how you can do that, both with
your paper flash cards and with apps both for
smartphones and computers. But first I wanted to get
into why this technique is so powerful and also
talk to you a little bit about the history behind
it and how it relates to our memories in general. Spaced repetition leverages
a memory phenomenon known as the spacing
effect, which describes how our brains make better
connections and overall remember things more
effectively when we space out our learning over time. How’s how Pierce J.
Howard, the author of my least favorite book to
haul into coffee shops, puts it: “Work involving
higher mental functions, “such as analysis and
synthesis, needs to be “spaced out in order
to allow new neural “connections to solidify. “New learning drives
out old learning when “insufficient time intervenes.” And we’ve actually
known about this effect for quite a long time. Back in the late-1800s
a psychologist named Hermann Ebbinghaus
basically launched the field of memory science
itself by embarking upon an intense study where
he made himself memorize long, long lists of
nonsense syllables. And through that research
he eventually came to develop what’s called
The Forgetting Curve, which describes how
memories decay over time. But what he also learned
was that by spacing out his efforts to
memorize these lists, he could put in less
actual study time to get them memorized perfectly. For example, for one list
of 12 syllables he found out it took him 68 repetitions
on one day and then seven repetitions the
next day to memorize it perfectly, but by
spacing out his studying over the course of three
days he found he could achieve his same level
of perfection in only 38 repetitions. Over the past 130 years
since he published his findings, lots of other
studies have been able to replicate this same
positive results, which leads us to the question, “Why does
the spacing effect work?” Well to put it in simple
terms, it turns out that one of the most important
parts of learning process is actually forgetting. Now what forgetting truly
is is a subject for another video that I’ll publish in
the future, but the most important thing to note
here is that the more we’ve forgotten something, that
is the harder we have to work to retrieve it
since we last learned it or studied it, the
greater the increase in learning will be. To make this a bit more
clear, here’s how the author Benedict Carey, who wrote
the book “How We Learn,” explains it: “Some amount
of breakdown must occur “for us to strengthen
learning when we revisit the material. “Without a little forgetting,
you get no benefit “from further study. “It is what allows
learning to build, “like an exercised muscle.” And that’s the main
reason why Carey calls spaced repetition one of
the most powerful methods for remembering what
you’ve learned in his book. And I would add to that
the fact that you can do this with basically any
other learning technique. It’s entirely complementary
because it’s all about just modifying the time
periods in which you study. You can do anything
within those time periods, you’re just using
the time periods as intelligently as possible. With that being said, now
I wanna get into how you can put spaced repetition
into action and implement it into your own study systems. And we’re gonna talk about
apps and computer programs that you can use in a
minute here but first I want to talk about a system
that you can use with your paper flash cards, which
is called the Leitner System, and here’s how it works. The first step is to
decide on the number of boxes that you’re gonna
use to hold the cards in your system. Now I don’t actually own
little boxes so I’ve just substituted rubber bands
and sticky notes that say “Box,” but that actually
works just as well and actually makes the
system more portable, so that’s pretty cool,
and from there each individual box is going
to represent a different study time interval. So Box 1 might be studying
every day, Box 2 might be studied every
other day, and so on. And when you’re studying
the cards in the boxes, every time you get a card
right it’s gonna graduate to the next box, so
you’re gonna see it less and less often. But if you get a card
wrong, it’s gonna go all the way to box number 1,
no matter where it was. And by using this system
you get two main benefits. Number one, you’re maximizing
your learning through the spacing effect, but
number two, you’re also studying more efficiently
because you’re spending more time on the cards that
need the most attention and less time on the
ones you know really well rather than studying
every single card equally. Now this paper system
works really well for both of those goals but if
you wanna take advantage of more advanced scheduling
algorithms and other features, you’re gonna
need to find yourself a space repetition app
and there are a lot of contenders in this
area but I wanna focus first on what is probably
the most popular one right now and that
is called Anki. Anki has a huge community,
it’s insanely customizable, and best of all, it has
apps for almost every platform out there and
almost all of them are free with the exception of the
iPhone app, which oddly costs a whopping $25. Now I think the price is
that high because it’s their way of basically letting
people support the app since it’s free everywhere else
but if you’re on an iPhone and you don’t wanna pay
that much, fear not because Anki also has a companion
web app called AnkiWeb, which is accessible
from mobile Safari. So you can use that
free if you want. Now with Anki, creating
cards is really, really easy and I really like
the fact that you can add basically any kind of media
you want to your cards, including pictures, which
is awesome because adding pictures to your flash
cards can really help increase retention. However, the killer feature
of Anki is the ability to rate cards based on
difficulty when you’re studying them. So essentially, when you
turn a card over, you can tell the program how hard
it was for you to dredge the answer up from the
depths of your memory and it will use that data
to decide how long it’s gonna be before you
see that card again. And that’s really the
main strength of space repetition apps
versus a paper system. Each individual card
can be tracked, can have a difficulty rating,
and can be adjusted in the algorithm so
you’re getting the most benefit of the spacing effect. Anki is definitely not
the only space repetition app out there, though,
so if you’re looking for alternatives, I’ve got
a few things in mind for you to take a look at,
number one being an app called TinyCards, which I
showed off in my previous video on how to make
better flash cards. Now TinyCards is only for
the iPhone, unfortunately, but there should be an
Android version coming soon, and honestly, when compared
to Anki I think it’s a lot more simple, a lot
prettier, and the process of making cards is more
fun and faster because they have an excellent
system for adding images to your cards. Aside from TinyCards
there are also apps like Flashcards Deluxe, Memrise,
SuperMemo, Mnemosyne, Eidetic, Quizlet, and
probably a bunch of others that I don’t even know
about right now but I’m sure you will let me know
about down in the Comments. So before I wrap this
video up I have a couple more things I wanna
mention, number one being the script I wrote for
this video is actually about half the length
of the blog post I wrote so if you want a lot
more detail, especially pertaining to the memory
bits and how the spacing effect works, you can
click the blog post link in the description down
below or on the card on screen right now and read
to your heart’s content. Also, and I have been
really excited to announce this for quite a long
time now, there’s now an official College
Info Geek t-shirt on and I’m super,
super stoked about this. I’ve already ordered
mine and there’s gonna be a link down in the
description, also a card so if you would like to
get your very own shirt, which may or may not
grant superpowers, you can click either of those
links and order one. Now one cool thing about
these shirts’ design is it was actually created
by the College Info Geek community. My good friend Ashley did
the hand-lettered design itself but the mantra or
saying on the shirt was actually decided upon by
people in the College Info Geek community over on
Reddit, which I think is really, really cool, and
I would love to continue to play up this community
aspect so if you get a shirt I would love to
see you tweeting awesome pictures of you wearing
it to send to me over on @TomFrankly and I will
probably retweet them. You can also put them
in the Reddit as well if you like and other than
that, that’s all I have for this video, guys, so
thanks so much for watching. And if you found it
useful, give it a Like to support this channel
and you can also Subscribe with that button right
down there if you wanna get new videos on being
a more effective student every single week. You can also get a copy
of my book on earning better grades by going to
the picture of the book right there and clicking
your mouse button. You can find the previous
video right over there which was about how to
use flash cards more effectively and if you
wanna find that awesome article which is way
more detailed than this video was, go to the Full
Article thing right there. If you’d like to connect
with me you can use the social media links
down below but there’s also a non-zero probability
that you can connect with me by yelling
into a conch shell, so maybe give that a try too.

Comments 99

  • I love the idea but I find it hard to make Anki flashcards out of my university notes. Any tips for that?

  • Can you tell me how to retain information if 19 subject categorically and each subject is volatile.

    -From Medical PG aspriant

  • As someone who use this thecnic to study English I gotta say that Anki is the best app. I think that physical flashcards are way better than the apps the only problem with physical flashcards It's the space, sooner or later you'll end up with thousands of them and it will be difficult to find room to stow them. I have more than 3 thousand flashcards.

  • Hi boy…you are grate.but you speak realy weak in english and its so hard for me to understand you.please speak a little slower…you are amazing

  • Good video, Thomas. Best video on memory I've seen so far!

  • slow down dude, you are so fast

  • Simply forgetting doesn't help you remember things more. In short it's letting that information sink in long enough(absorbing the information) and then some repetition with pauses of course because of the limit of your short term/ working memory. The key thing is pausing to let the information sink in. Reading some novels I've looked up some of the same words 20+ times and I still don't remember them but then there's a few I remember simply because I took some time to let those definition's sink in. Obviously this won't make you Rain Man, but it helps.

    Taking pauses between the largest chunk of information you can remember, understand and summarize(perhaps 1-3 sentences or maybe less) from my experience is a better way to remember things, along with a little repetition. So read a sentence, summarize it, pause read another sentence summarize it pause, review the last few sentences, then summarize everything in full and so on.

    What makes spaced repetition effective is the common sense notion that because you can only hold so much information in your working memory, and the longer periods you study you simply aren't spending as much time converting things into long term memory. Compare watching a series of tv shows vs. a 10minute video. Which one are you going to remember and recall more of assuming you having similar interest, usefulness and so on? I believe everyone thinks the 10 minute video.

  • Do a video on remarkable paper pleaseeeeeeee

  • Another app is brainscape

  • Subbed from Video Influencers! 😊😊😊

  • Can you do learning video pointed toward teaching our kids? πŸ™‚

  • What if we have 1 day???

  • used anki for 3 years. its semi helpful , but it can't replace actual practice for mathematics, programming, etc.

  • Studyblue is another good flashcard website! You can add pictures to it and it also suggests cards that others have written in realtime while you're making your flashcards, so you can add info to yours or just copy other people's cards to your collection.

  • Hi Tom, I'm following you because like many other people I would like to get done more to be more effective with my time.Β 
    For instance meditation is becoming a tool that is shared widely to do just that, although for real practitioners it's not the main goal. This is just an example. I'm wondering if you would be interested in making a video with a critical look at our performance society. I think it's very needed right now. I'm just wondering why we humans are wanting to turn ourselfs into robots. I'm also wondering what will the future look like with robotization… which would mean what we are aiming to achieve will be done way better by them so how can we instead develop the most valuable thing we have "our humanity" in a system that doesn't reward it.

  • Dude, you're awesome! Keep rocking!

  • Just found your channel. Awesome advise can’t wait to see some more

  • I like your voice. It makes me listen.

  • Can i get transcript of video. I want to study slowly.pls provide

  • だいけゃん

  • I have my huge science test tomorrow and I haven’t started study yet:(

  • Watching you at x0.85 speed actually sounds fairly normal! Still, I like the efficiency πŸ˜›

  • I have a test in a week and I'm very uncertain on how to implement this into my schedule? PLEASE HELP!

  • Thank you πŸ™‚

  • This video is pretty awesome. I am studying for the bar (over 13 subjects) and I needed a new system of learning because it's very easy to forget the law when studying over 600 rules in a short span. I started implementing the Lietner system these past few days and it's working amazing!

  • Good stuff but please speak slower

  • How can someone be so smart

  • I don't understand how to exactly keep a record of which box to use on which day when using a manual Leitner system. Please help

  • thsnk you so so much you are a great insaan

  • may god give you all the success you need…

  • Anki is really helpful and I have used it for 2 years.Thanks very much.

  • Man, now I just wanna know what the significance of "who is Daichan's father?" could possibly be.


  • Memorisation isn’t the same thing as learning

  • thank you πŸ™‚

  • U talk too fast to grasp the concept

  • Ah, powerpoint, the most powerful flashcard program…

  • ΠŸΠ΅Ρ€Π΅Π²Π΅Π΄ΠΈ это Π²ΠΈΠ΄ΠΈΠΎ )

  • Who else is trying to learn Japanese?

  • I hate spaced repetition schemes. I barely have enough time for 2 passes, let alone the probably 5+ recommended passes.


  • Can we add vietnamese what he say :<

  • What’s up with the food at 4:08 ?

  • 3:25

  • Do you learn Japanese?


  • anki will not let me sign in with my email. It keeps telling me that my email is invalid, thus ending my ability to use the app. anki sucks for that reason alone. i sent them an email, and have not heard back from them.

  • Bubble is useing this system

  • No need

  • How to be more mature

  • i wish i had this during high school lmao still helpful now though

  • How would this work for someone in the university (Example: an engineering student) who has about 8 course to learn per semester (about 4 months), each course having about 6-7 topics to learn?
    It's kinda hard to space that out….

    This isn't criticizing the video, I just need advice on how to customize it to my situation.

  • Ω‡Ω„ΩˆπŸ˜³

  • Good channel!

  • Hi. Just wanted to share that I just recently discovered your channel and just today I found out about your website AND YOUR FREE BOOK. And now I want to ask: Where have you been all my school life? Anyway, I'm in law school now and I need this more than anything else right now. It's been rough lately. So, thank you.

  • How can you use this system if you have loads of material to memorize? (I'm studying Medicine)

  • Who else is studying and can’t remember anything they are studying 😭

  • Watch this at 0.75 speed, thank me later πŸ˜‚πŸ™

  • I forgot what he said…

  • Thank you so much for sharing. I had not heard of the Leitner system, although I use flash cards. I will definitely use it. Cheers!

  • wish someone could tailor this to med school cos there's way too much information to learn to just put it all into flashcards and have time to revisit each one, as well as learning the new information you need. i mean you'd probably have to start 2 years in advance

  • This video is old and you probably now it by now, but Brainscape is a brilliant flashcard app. It even uses that « box systemΒ Β» that you mention! :))

  • spacing >>> cramming.

    trust me I never knew i could get A's

  • The best way to memorise what you’ve studied is to actually study instead of watching YouTube I can learn a lot from this πŸ“šπŸ“–

  • Brainscape is a pretty good flashcards app

  • This sounds interesting, but in order to create the card you already have to study a lot. At least it would be my case. I`m studying a master course and there is just too much content to understand and breaking it down into pieces would require an almost full understanding already…

  • Arabic translation is inaccurate and incomprehensible

  • If you need a custom written essay, term paper, research paper on a general topic, or a typical high school, college or university level assignment, you can place an order away here – Our writers are all at least a graduate in their chosen field of study. Many more have Master's or doctoral experience. Every essay you buy from us is 100% original to you!

  • 4:08 "App" what? why? I am confused

  • This is awesome, and it spawned an idea for me. Thanks dude, sweet video! 😎
    Edit: how ironic is it gonna be when i forget my idea lol.

  • This worked I'm learning my time tables better since I tried this thanks Thomas. πŸ™‚

  • Awesome content

  • he looks like that he has a hat on

  • You have a cool background!

  • Hi, Thomas ! I've sent you an email recently but I still have no reply, so I decided to write here. I have my BA thesis defence soon and I am really stressed about it. How can I overcome stress? I have 17 questions to prepare and learn by heart. I prepared them but have no idea how to learn them. I mean, I keep reading them again and again , I highlighted the most important issues in the text. The more I read, the less I remember. How to deal with it? Could you help me , please?

  • cΓ³ ai việt nam tα»« chα»‹ Mei Chan tα»›i Δ‘Γ’y hΓ΄ng

  • Does this apply to art kinda doubt it

  • IAM not interested in maths what to do

  • Because of spaced repetition, today i have to review what i have learned yesterday, last week, last month, last year, last five years and so on; all of which took me a day to learn. I cant postpone it because i have another set tomorrow.

  • I like the subjects of your videos and I think they are really useful. However, I think your presentation is a bit hard to follow. I don't know if others feel the same or not…

  • too complicated. these explanations do not make the concept simple enough to be usable.

  • Ψ§ΩƒΩˆ ΨΉΨ±Ψ¨ Ψ¨Ω„Ψ·ΩŠΨ§Ψ±Ω‡ πŸ™‚

  • Hi Thomas, how're you? Firstly thank you for the video! Do you think it's possible to merge the use of spaced repetition (Leitner System) with other techniques like pomodoro time?

  • Thank you Thomas this
    Was absolute helpful!

  • Con subtitulos en espaΓ±ol! dejo mi like y me suscribo, Γ©xitos!!

  • The med students know what sup with Anki! lol

  • So about that book. Is it worth buying it? Is there great information on it what can help me to improve the toppics what is on the main page? I am looking for something to read when I am outside but I want it to be usefull to improfe my life to the maximum. Thanks a lot.

  • Just do what I always say β€œstudy for your next test like it’s the last one”

  • This is such an excellent technique and I really love that I am seeing it highlighted more and more. Thanks for the great content.

  • this. is. amazing.
    thank you the frank engine.

  • Interesting

  • starts 2:52

  • Why do you feel you need to speak so quickly. I get it. you read well. But slow down. Just because you read super fast does not make you a better communicator.

  • You should make a video about tips on writing a open book exam or online exam.

  • need a study partner for highschool math, physics and science(biology)
    [email protected]

  • ε…¬εœ’γ§γ™γ‹οΌŸγ«η¬‘γ†

  • Found Dr. Cortex from Crash Bandicoot at 3:15!

  • For all iPhone users watching this in 2019

    Anki is now free on the AppStore
    The name is AnkiApp

    You’re welcome


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