The Quiz-and-Recall method of studying is seen as one of the best ways to study. We call it spaced repetition.


Because instead of pondering over pages of notes and textbooks for hours, you should be actively making yourself answer questions about the material.

Today I’ll talk about an application called Anki, a flashcard program that uses spaced repetition to help you do this. It’s become one of my favourite study tools.

What is forgetting curve, spacing effect and spaced repetition?

The forgetting curve proves the decline of memory retention in time.

It shows how information is lost over time when there is no attempt to retain it. In other words, we tend to remember things only if we keep recalling them in intervals.

spaced repetition

Illustrative forgetting curve

On the other hand, the spacing effect is the phenomenon whereby learning is greater when studying is spread out over time, as opposed to studying the same amount of content in a single session.

Practically, this effect suggests that “cramming” (intense, last-minute studying) the night before an exam is not likely to be as effective as studying at intervals in a longer time frame.

Together, the forgetting curve and the spacing effect are the fundamental concepts behind spaced repetition.

Spaced repetition is a phenomenon of learning based on the psychological spacing principle.

Basically, you will remember things more successfully by reviewing them a few times over a long time interval rather than trying to cram them in during a short interval (like just before exams).

The idea behind spaced repetition is to have you review material at the moment you’re most likely to forget it; therefore, the more confident you are about a question or concept, the longer it will be before you review it again.

Let’s understand this with an example:

For example, suppose you don’t know where Barcelona is? And suppose right now I tell you where Barcelona is.

The Barcelona is in Spain.

Let’s assume your memory is such that you’ll remember this new fact—that the Barcelona is in Spain—after your very first exposure to it, for a clean 20 minutes. After which you’ll forget.

But, if at 19 minutes and 59 seconds, while we’re having a cup of coffee, I remind you…

The Barcelona is in Spain.

…spaced repetition theory says you’ll be able to remember Barcelona is in Spain, for now, say 40 minutes. After which you’ll forget.

But, if I remind you again 39 minutes and 59 seconds later that…

The Barcelona is in Spain.

…you’ll be able to retain this piece of geographic trivia in memory for an even longer period, let’s say up to one hour.

And if we continue to proceed in this manner, where I keep reminding you that Barcelona is in Spain precisely at the moment you’re about to forget, the time in between memory lapses grows exponentially from hours to days, then for months, then for years.

And eventually, as the theory goes, the knowledge — that Barcelona is in Spain — will be more or less permanently lodged in your memory.

How does it work?

Spaced repetition has mainly been implemented into learning via flash cards.

Anki is a program that computerizes the process, taking out much of the administrative work like organizing cards and scheduling the correct times to study.

The application captures all the cards you’ve created in organized decks (bundles).

Spaced repetition Spaced Repetition

You can also import shared decks that other people have made, of which there are thousands.

When you start reviewing a deck, Anki will give you a user-specified number of new cards to review for the day as well as displaying cards from previous sessions that are scheduled to be reviewed again.

This way, you are constantly going over new material while solidifying questions you’ve already seen.

When you reveal the answer to a flash card, the program will ask you to rate how confident you were in answering it.

The less confident you were, the sooner it will show you that card again. If you didn’t know the answer at all, Anki will show it again during the same review session.

Anki is available for Windows, Mac OSX, iPhone, Android. It’s also available online through AnkiOnline, so everyone should be able to use it.

The Anki homepage has a video detailing the setup process, so go watch it and start studying smarter!

In case you have any question regarding your studies, please comment down below, I would love to answer all your questions.

Please share this post with your study buddies and help them study better and achieve better results. If you want to get updates when I release more great content like this, be sure to sign up for my email newsletter below! (Technology you know)

About Prajjwal Kaushik

Being a CA aspirant, I had to deal with a lot of studies and work pressure. Juggling between studies and work was hard to manage. Thus, I studied and learned for myself. I learned about various study techniques/ hacks and applied them in my life. Tried and Tested each one of them and handpicked only a few best ones. Now, I help students to smartly deal with their studies, manage their time, find their passion and build a remarkable school/ college experience.

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