Improving Your Study With Spaced Repetition

Have you ever walked away from an intense study session wondering how you’ll be able to retain all the information you covered? Are your flashcards a random mix of easy and difficult? Do you wish you had a proven, evidence-based learning technique to prepare for a licensure exam like the PANCE®?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are not alone. Many students feel like they can’t possibly retain any more information, and many students are unknowingly inefficient in their use of flashcards for test preparation. 

This is where the spaced repetition technique comes into play. Spaced repetition is a proven, evidenced-based learning technique that is part of the recent upgrade to the UWorld Flashcards feature. Here’s how it works:

Spaced repetition helps you see difficult information more frequently until you master it, then decreases the frequency so your brain is challenged to create long-term retention.

It’s all about enhancing the learning process by optimizing the flashcard repetitions in order to reap the maximum benefit. The most difficult flashcards are given priority. Upon mastery, they are then presented at optimal times to ensure retention.

In an article for The Guardian, James Gupta writes: “We know that the brain preferentially stores information it deems to be important. It strengthens and consolidates memories of things it encounters regularly and frequently. So spaced repetition — revisiting information regularly at set intervals over time — makes a lot of sense.”

Additionally, the NCBI published an article titled “How to Learn Effectively in Medical School: Test Yourself, Learn Actively, and Repeat in Intervals” that discusses studies which show the effectiveness of spaced repetition. In one such study, 250 students studied 30 concepts regarding reproductive physiology and immunology. It was determined that: “Longer delay between initial learning and recalling facts was associated with poorer retention rate. Therefore, the group that learned with expanding retrieval practice and no delay preceding the first assessment proved to have the best learning strategy.”

Here’s a fun way to think of spaced repetition . . . 

If I told you that Alexander Hamilton attended King’s College, you might forget that fact a week from now, a day from now, or even an hour from now. It would be especially difficult to remember if I told you that information along with 50 other facts about Alexander Hamilton.

But if you listen to “My Shot” from the Hamilton soundtrack 5 times today, 4 times tomorrow, 3 times the next day, twice a day after that — it’s information forever etched in your mind. 

When you hear “My Shot” two weeks from now, you’ll instinctively rap along: 

I’ma get a scholarship to King’s College
I prob’ly shouldn’t brag, but dag, I amaze and astonish
The problem is I got a lot of brains but no polish

It’s this technique of optimized repetition that makes spaced repetition such a vital discipline in academic study and high-stakes exam preparation. Be sure to incorporate the technique into your exam prep during your study sessions.

Don’t leave your PANCE or PANRE® study to outdated and inefficient study methods. Be sure to check out UWorld’s innovative online test-prep resource, utilizing spaced repetition flashcards. You’re young, scrappy and hungry. Don’t throw away your shot for exam success.

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