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Getting Started with Spaced Repetition
Getting Started with Spaced Repetition

What is spaced repetition and how does it work in RemNote?

Soren Bjornstad avatar
Written by Soren Bjornstad
Updated over a week ago

Why is learning so difficult and time-consuming?

One reason is that we often forget most of what we’ve learned, so we have to keep relearning it over and over again over a course of study. But as you’ve probably noticed, you’re much less likely to forget things you regularly review. It turns out that if you consistently review facts at the right time, you can be almost certain of remembering them at each review, and you can remember things for months or even years with just a few carefully-spaced reviews.

An easy way to consistently review facts at the right time is with flashcards. When we actively review flashcards at carefully scheduled times, we call this spaced repetition, and the spacing effect underlying it is one of the most replicated effects in psychology. Flashcards reviewed using a spaced-repetition system (SRS) like that offered by RemNote consistently outperform almost every other learning technique.

RemNote makes the power of spaced repetition accessible to everyone by simplifying the process of creating and reviewing effectively scheduled flashcards.

For more information about the theory behind spaced repetition, check out Understanding Spaced Repetition. If you're ready to get started using spaced repetition in RemNote, read on!

How to practice flashcards with spaced repetition

Spaced-repetition systems like RemNote operate almost automatically. All you need to do is work through some flashcards regularly and give feedback on how difficult they were, and RemNote does the rest.

Find or create cards to practice

First, you need to create some cards (or import them from another app). Then you're ready to practice the cards (flip through them and try to recall the answers).

You can practice either the cards in a specific document, or all your cards. For cards in a specific document, use the practice button in the upper-right corner of the document to practice cards from the document queue:

For all cards from all documents, use the Practice Today’s Cards button in the Flashcard Home to practice cards from the global queue:

It’s usually most convenient to use the global queue to practice cards from all your documents at once, because this allows RemNote to work out which topics are currently most urgent and make the most of your available study time, rather than you having to keep track of this yourself. Use prioritization to tell RemNote which documents you have exams on soon, consider important, would like to work on if you have time, or don’t want to remember anymore at all.

Practice the subset of cards you need to see today for optimum memory

When you practice flashcards, either in the global queue with all your cards, or in a document-specific queue, RemNote shows only the cards that are due for review. A card is due for review when RemNote estimates that there is a 10% chance that you’ve forgotten the card. If the card is quite new, this will occur only a couple of days after the previous review; if you’ve known it for a long time, there might be months or years in between reviews. (If you're curious about why it's 10%, or how RemNote calculates the amount of time until that happens, have a look at Understanding Spaced Repetition.)

Tip: If, for whatever reason, you want to practice even cards that aren’t due for review, check out Practicing Specific Flashcards.

Practice by answering and rating cards

When you practice a card, you’ll first see only the front side of the card. Take a moment to recall the answer, then select Show Answer and check your answer. If you prefer, you can type an answer on the front side and have RemNote compare it for you, rather than doing it in your head.

Once you reach the back of the card, you'll need to rate it (say how difficult it was to remember). This helps RemNote understand when you'll need to see it again in the future. Rate a card by clicking one of the large buttons at the bottom or pressing the appropriate keyboard shortcut (hover over the button to see them). The times on each button are the next time you'll see the card if you choose that rating.

The available ratings are as follows:

  • Forgot: You couldn’t remember the answer, or you were otherwise unsatisfied with your answer and want to see the card again soon. RemNote will show the card to you again within a few minutes.

  • Partially recalled: You were able to remember the answer, but it was very difficult, you missed some fine detail, or you felt uncertain about it. RemNote will be more conservative about how long it lets you wait before seeing the card again in the future.

  • Recalled with effort: You remembered the answer, and you had to think about it for a moment but didn’t struggle. RemNote will conclude it has the difficulty just right.

  • Easily recalled: You were able to remember the answer almost immediately, with no difficulty. RemNote will be more liberal about how long it lets you wait before seeing the card again in the future.

  • Skip: You misread what the card was asking you to recall or accidentally flipped it over before you were ready. RemNote won’t record any rating, and it will show the card to you again in an hour, after you’ve had a chance to forget what was on the back, so you can evaluate yourself properly.

If you choose Forgot, RemNote will wait less time before the next practice than it did last time. For the other ratings, it will wait longer (see Understanding Spaced Repetition for more details on why).

Better understand card ratings

A few more things to understand about ratings:

  • If you’re new to this, don’t fret too much about selecting the “correct” rating. As long as you select Forgot when you forget and some other button when you remember, less-than-perfect selections here will have only a minor impact on your studies.

  • “Recalled with effort” is the sweet spot – practicing has the greatest impact on your memory when you have to try a little bit, so RemNote tries to show cards at a moment when recalling the answer is just slightly effortful. You’ll probably select this option 75% of the time or more.

  • Forgetting is an expected part of the process of learning, and forgetting a card you're practicing doesn't mean you did anything wrong! In fact, the spaced-repetition algorithm is intentionally designed to have you forget about 10% of your cards at practice time, because trying to remember too much more is too inefficient to be useful. Your real-world performance will actually be better than this number makes it sound – if you're forgetting 10% of your cards at review time, you actually remember about 95% of them at any given moment, and you can temporarily boost this number even further for an exam or other critical moment using the exam scheduler.

Staying on track

For spaced repetition to work at its best, you need to practice your flashcards regularly, ideally almost every day. The Daily Learning Goal feature helps you build strong practice habits: you say how many cards you’re willing to practice every day, and RemNote prompts you to reach that goal.

RemNote will show a thin blue bar at the top of the queue to report your progress towards each day's goal as you practice:

Your actual target for the day may be lower than your configured Daily Learning Goal if you don't need to practice that many cards to keep up, and higher if you have an exam coming up and urgently need to practice more cards to be ready for it.

RemNote will also keep track of streaks (e.g., if you reach your goal 5 days in a row) and show a heatmap of which days you reached your goal in the Flashcard Home. And, if you have the appropriate option on in Settings > Notifications, you'll get a push notification in the early evening if you haven’t hit your goal for the day yet.

Practicing flashcards on your phone

If you haven’t yet downloaded the RemNote mobile app (available for iOS and Android devices at no additional cost), consider doing that now – it’s a great way to find time for that daily practice habit. You can practice your flashcards in moments that might otherwise have been wasted, like while riding the bus or waiting in line. Just tap the flashcards icon in the lower-right corner of the app twice to start practicing.

Download the app from your device's app store or https://remnote.com/download.

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