Studying for an Exam through Spaced Repetition

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Getting a degree while you are working full-time and doing your parenting duties can make things go crazy. While focusing on three things at once is not impossible, it can be extremely tough. One of the most challenging parts of pursuing a post-grad course like Master of Science in Business Analytics is preparing for a significant exam while trying to distribute your available hours to your obligations in the office and your home.

Everyone has different strategies for studying for a test. A lot of students in NUS and other universities are still holding on to the old-age technique of cramming. People with a busy schedule and limited time opt to have late-night dates with their textbooks and bottles of Red Bull. However, science shows that one of the best ways to improve your recall and pass any exam is through spaced repetition.

While cramming can be an effective method to stuff your brain with a large number of facts in the shortest period, studying during the last 24 hours can be a recipe for disaster. According to a 19th-century psychologist, you can retain 100% of what you have read through instant recall. However, you can only remember about 44% of the information after merely an hour. Thus, reading through your 500-page book over and over again the night before the exam will not help you retain the information in the long term.


Spaced repetition is a useful strategy that utilizes the spacing effect in acquiring long term knowledge. Your brain collects and strengthens memories of information that it encounters regularly and frequently. This means that you have to review information repeatedly over a space of time so you can improve your retention and recall. For example, you wouldn’t want to read a text twenty times in one day because you will not learn it by heart. Instead, you have to read it from time to time and only consult the text again in case your memory fails.

A survey suggests that people who study by spaced repetition will likely outperform those who cram for an exam. This is because learning, not memorization, improves recall. Your brain needs time to absorb all the data that you’re trying to feed it. Putting some free time in between study sessions gives a break that your mind needs to retain the information. The simplest way to utilize spaced repetition is to make flashcards and practice answering the cards every after few days. Revisit those cards that you answered correctly less often and frequently review those flashcards with wrong answers. By doing this, you can be sure that your brain will not go black and blank during the final test.

When preparing for an exam, always remember that your goal is not to memorize mass information in a short time. Your goal is to learn and retain the data, and you can only achieve this by studying in frequent and repeated spaced intervals. Before the test, do not be tempted to stay up all night, hoping to remember everything on the big day. Get a good night’s sleep and remind yourself that it’s rare for an all-nighter to get an A.

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