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How to Remember More of What You Learn with Spaced Repetition (2016) (collegeinfogeek.com)
188 points by e19293001 on April 20, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 45 comments

Shameless plug: I made Code Cards (https://codecards.me/), which helps you remember programming concepts by active spaced repetition. Think of it as Anki but made with code specifically in mind.

In the interest of full transparency, I think there are some things missing to make it the best tool it can possibly be. I'm still mulling over how to tweak it so it works better w.r.t. motivation/relevancy and availability/convenience.

Write-up: https://www.oskarth.com/srspractice/

HN thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13521066

I love Anki. I use it for 10 minutes a day for retaining math, vocabulary, and programming languages.

I've also hacked together a system, inspired by spaced repetition, for remembering better books I've read. It's turned into so much more. If you have an interest in remembering books better or using technology to get more out of reading, I'd love to chat.

I would like to chat for sure. I ran across Anki a few months ago, and thought about all the potentially incredible interactions between spaced repetition and Natural Language Processing techniques.

For a super basic idea, imagine a Chrome plugin that creates an Anki deck out of a Wikipedia article at the click of a button? (Maybe not the most useful application, but pretty neat and a great place for a simple proof of concept.)

And what if you took that a step farther and made an app that does the same thing with text extracted from an image set. So you could take pictures of a textbook page or pages and have it do the same thing with those.

Of course, there are many practical challenges to developing the NLP process in a way that it can identify the most salient parts of a text and capture flash-card-friendly phrases or factual statements, but I think the challenges could be overcome. And it would be an amazing feat to capture the benefits of spaced repetition without the upfront cost of manual deck creation.

You could call it version 1.0 of the system Neo uses to learn everything about everything in the Matrix :)

I don't think NLP is necessary though.

If you take a look at the stackoverflow data dump sooner or later every possible variation of a question for a particular answer is going to get asked. Ofcourse there are always new topics that haven't been covered but this is a minuscule portion of the entire data set. I think it's a safe bet looking at Q&A happening on sites like Quora\Reddit etc in a couple years the chances that someone is going come up with a question that no one has asked before is going to be very low.

Wikipedia is missing 2 important pieces.

1. Linkage between all these questions and the content on the site. Currently Google provides this link.

2. A system to communicate to the reader what skill level /pre-reqs they need to fully appreciate/understand the content they are looking at. The UI for such a system already exists in most games.

Once these pieces are in place you are ready to create a very useful Anki deck on anything.

What most people don't realize is the entire mass of human knowledge given the size of most wiki/q&a site dump is about 100-150 GB. Throw in all the edu video content being produced on Khan Academy, NPTEL etc and you get to a 1-2TB. This isn't a big amount of data. All it needs is a learning system built on top of it for it all to be put to good use.

i think one of the problems with this one-click card software is part of the the reason anki is effective is you make the cards yourself. it is just part of the processes. ive been using anki for the past six month to learn italian, and had great success but books like forever fluent show studies that say if you dont create the cards yourself, you will not see as much progress.

I've tried stuff like this before and am certainly interested for language learning but there are drawbacks to becoming too efficient at entering flashcards. A huge amount of the benefit comes from seeking out and manually encoding the info into a flashcard. A big caveat on SRS systems that gets overlooked is they are very good at reinforcing knowledge but not great at teaching it to start with.

I've not had good luck with these types of software. Initially it works well, but doesn't seem to scale with the number of "flash cards". It wouldn't be long before I get to the point where I'm not learning any more...

That happened to me. I have maybe 30 books loaded equating to approximately 4000 flashcards. I just set a timer and do 10 minutes worth of reviews each morning or review on my phone when waiting around. The benefits seem to be worth it.

>I just set a timer and do 10 minutes worth of reviews each morning or review on my phone when waiting around. The benefits seem to be worth it.

This may be part of why it didn't work for me:

1. I don't want to do 10 minutes - that's a lot. Perhaps 1-3 minutes.

2. There will be times/days I will not or cannot do it. The tool I used to use seemed to not handle that too well. I think it expected the usage to be too regular. Spaced repetition does not require regular usage.

Check out beeminder. The threat of giving money to a company if you fail your goals has been particularly motivating to me. Plus the progress visualization is helpful too.

Edit: maybe not worth it for something you want to spend so little time on. I think it's better than the calendar chain-link apps out there because the visualization/progress doesn't completely break if you miss a day.

Sure, I would love to understand how you are managing your reading. Some of text is prolific that I would like to commit it to my long term memory. I use Anki for some of the stuff for year, but it never came to point where I am using it regularly.

Shoot me an email at daniel dot doyon at gmail

I would also like to know how you remember books better. Perhaps you can write up a blog spot since there seems to be enough people interested?

Can you give me your email id? Cannot find it in your bio.

Sure, daniel dot doyon at gmail

I am interested, please email me

I'm a fan of spaced repetition. Here is the definitive bag of tips about it:

Effective learning: Twenty rules of formulating knowledge - SuperMemo https://www.supermemo.com/en/articles/20rules

That's interesting! I've been wanting to make a little quiz system to help memorize in-life things and ensure i don't forget stuff i want to know. Spelling, phone numbers, etc.

Space repetition seems easy to implement and useful, thanks!


Supermemo is on the market for over 20 years, I remember using it on Amiga.

Quite amazing that they are still on the market, with not much competition.

[Shameless Plug]

We recently launched a free flashcards app on the Mac App Store called PAL: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pal-flashcards/id1187236321?...

It's also available on https://www.pal9000.com

We've tried keeping it as simple as possible which a fair number of people seem to like. :)

I've practiced this for as long as I can recall - not because I was told to, but because I found recalling something and working with it in an appropriate mental context worked to cement seemingly limitless amounts of information in my mind.

I'm not convinced that an app or any external crutch is required - one simply needs to get in the habit of reflecting on new information, and sporadically testing retention. The first step for me to start the loop is to subvocalise (or vocalise if I'm in private) the pertinent info several times after receipt, which beds the memory of learning something in, and the context, if not the fullness of the information itself. It's enough - it's a hook to trigger recall of the full information - sits in episodic memory as "a thing I said or did", rather than passive "this happened/I heard this" information, and therefore surfaces the entry point easily. If an entertaining association rises at that point, I store that too, as it acts as a mnemonic.

I do find myself sometimes doing this with useless information, however, and end up memorising pretty much every bit of information I only intended to retain for 30 seconds (e.g. a chunk of foreign text, ticket numbers, seating plans) - and find myself doing habitual recall on them until they cement like everything else.

One thing that the article doesn't touch on but I think is important is sleep - I find if I recall immediately before nodding off the information sticks far more firmly, and I resultantly wake up in the middle of the night with fresh insights. Conversely, when I don't get enough sleep for a prolonged period, my recall definitely gets substantially worse - I find I both can't remember things and if I do, they're distorted, or I don't trust the information.

From my own org-mode link dumps:


A great resource on this is gwern's page on spaced repetition[1], discussed previously[2]

[1] https://www.gwern.net/Spaced%20repetition [2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13151790

thanks for sharing this gem!

Spaced reptition isn't exactly a time-saving study method. It takes lots of time to build and maintain a large deck. For very small things to memorize (like the kana), it's probably easier to just make flashcards. But it's fantastic when you need to remember large parts of a very large flashcardable set of information, like "the kanji" or "new target language words". And it's best when you have already made a good start on the topic.

I'm currently using Anki to memorise vocabulary for Indonesian. One thing I find enormously useful is to link the Indonesian word I'm trying to learn to an English (or even another Indonesian word) word I already know.

For example, here's how I remember the word for 'choose': In The Matrix, Neo has to choose between a red pill and a blue pill. Therefore the Indonesian word for 'choose' is 'pilih'.

To remember the word for 'page' I think of newspaper pages blowing in the local park. I already know the Indonesian word for 'park' is 'taman' so it then becomes very easy to remember that the word for 'page' is 'laman'.

Thus each word has a little mnemonic story associated with it. Eventually through repeated exposure to the word I don't need the story any more, but it's enormously useful in getting to that stage.

If this interests you and you want to dive deeper into how you learn, I am enjoying this coursera course and highly recommend it:


Chalk me up as an Anki user. I couldn't have done as well as I have in my college español class without it. I felt like I had superpowers when I knew vocabulary that some of the native speakers struggled with.

The thing I like most about Anki is that it can show you nice little graphs of your progress. No matter whether that line is curving upwards or downwards, it helps a great deal to motivate myself for regular study.

Where is this feature? I haven't noticed it.

upper right corner, the vertical bar graphs

huh, nice! I hadn't noticed that before either.

There's this scaling problem with Anki, in that if you're doing 20 new cards a day, it gets overwhelming really fast. I haven't done the math yet to figure out how many (or few) new cards per day you should limit yourself to in order to have a manageable review workload over the duration of a course - anyone have any ideas?

Sometimes it seems like the pace of college courses is by definition inefficient, like the only way you can pass is by cramming and forgetting. Not even naturally optimized for retention.

There's a great book called 'Making It Stick' which details effective, proven methods to improve memorisation and learning. Spaced repition (or more generally active recall) is one of those major methods.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Make-Stick-Science-Successful-Learnin...

I had a similar realization this semester. It felt like after I learned a new concept, I had to give it time to solidify.

The best students were always caught up with the class and following along whereas the average or below students were fully focused on one class at a time depending on which one had an assignment/exam coming up.

I wondered why some students are able to keep up while others fall behind. I think it boils down to efficient study strategies like this and never falling behind in one class because there's something due for another class.

The article mentions optimum spacing if you have an exam coming up. Has anyone found useful references in regards to optimum spacing if you want to permanently memorize information?

The schedule mentioned for exams is not used in most SRS; they already target permanent memorization (which is one reason why they sometimes need a 'cramming mode' for students who are willing to pay extra reviews in order to have cards memorized by a particular date).

You kinda have to find what works for you, but a good rule of thumb is to double the time - e.g. review after 1 day, then 2 days, then 4, then 8, 16, etc. If you get a card wrong, it goes back to 1 day. Pretty soon, the cards you know will be permanently memorized, and should only get reviewed in 6 months or a year, etc.

The rule of thumb is that retention interval correlates directly to spacing gap (ie., the longer you wait to practice, the longer you retain). That's one reason that SRS systems use expanding intervals.

I learned about SRS when I started studying Japanese. It's the main principle behind WaniKani, which teaches you kanji and vocab. It's been working astonishingly well, and it's extremely gratifying to slowly accumulate more knowledge from a seemingly intractable subject.

I'm actually a huge fan of spaced repetition. Kinda mad I didn't know this about the brain back in college. I now use this interval method paired with Deliberate Practice for everything -- even working on an app that mirrors my current workflow.

Does this concept apply to learning skills (as opposed to memorization)? The general wisdom for mastering skills seems to be "just practice a lot." I wonder if spaced repetition could speed up this process.

For skill learning, look into Anders Ericsson's book "Peak". There's much more to say than just "practice a lot" :)

Shameless plug: I made a spaced repetition website too. https://qquiz.com

I use it for Spanish vocabulary but have German, English and several others on it.

In addition to spaced repetition you can encode information in a way (method of Loci) that makes it very hard to forget. Did they mention this?

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