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Preparing for an Exam

Have an exam coming up? We got you – tell us when it is and plan your study schedule, and we'll make sure you learn everything.

Soren Bjornstad avatar
Written by Soren Bjornstad
Updated this week

RemNote's exam scheduler allows you to adjust your study schedule to achieve mastery by an upcoming exam date. You set an exam date for a particular folder or document and choose a study plan; RemNote does the rest.

The exam scheduler is a Pro feature, but you can try it for free for your first exam to see if it's useful to you.

What the scheduler does

Flashcard scheduling and practice changes in several ways when you have an active exam set for some cards:

  • Top Priority: Exams are prioritized first in your global queue (that is, you’ll see cards from exams before Active cards) and at the top of the list of documents in the Flashcard Home.

  • Retrievability Period: In the last few days (or weeks, for very large exams) before your exam, all cards will be shown one last time, regardless of whether they’d otherwise be due. This ensures that your knowledge is top-of-mind by the exam date.

  • Maintenance Period: Sometimes you learn material early in a semester, but won’t really need to know it until much later. If you wish, you can have RemNote show you such low-value material less often until you get closer to the exam; you’ll forget and need to be reminded of more of that material, but we’ll give you extra repetitions shortly before the exam to make sure you have relearned it, and you’ll spend much less time practicing it in total.

For an account of the exact problems with a standard spaced-repetition schedule the exam scheduler seeks to solve and how it does so, read Understanding the Exam Scheduler.

In addition to the scheduling changes, exams provide several tools for your convenience:

  • Calendar: In the Flashcard Home, click Exams & Goals to see a summary of the practice needed on upcoming exam flashcards.

  • Customize Practice Amount: You can customize the maximum target number of cards per day, the desired number of repetitions for each card, and the start date for each exam, so you can plan what your semester will look like ahead of time.

  • Daily Target Adjustments: If necessary, your daily target will automatically be increased to ensure that you achieve your exam practice goals each week.

  • Notifications: If you fall behind in practicing for an exam, or if the retrievability period is beginning, RemNote will send you a reminder.

Creating an exam

To start using the exam scheduler to prepare for an exam:

  1. Open a document or folder with at least one card.

  2. Click the dropdown arrow next to the Practice button at the top.

  3. Click Set Exam Date.

  4. Select one of the three proposed study plans. Customize the parameters if you wish; the default options should be fine for most people.

  5. Press Confirm.

That's it! You can now trust RemNote to keep you on track for your exam and automatically adjust your upcoming practice sessions. For visibility into the upcoming practice, you can either look at the graph on the document’s Flashcard Stats page, or the global exam calendar on the Flashcard Home.

Study periods

When you configure an exam, we segment practice between your start date and the exam date into four study periods. You can see these in the graph when you configure an exam (for example, in the screenshot above).

  • Learning Period: All cards you haven't yet seen are introduced during the learning period. Cards exit the learning period after two repetitions. The learning period is always present to ensure that you can fully learn and understand the ideas you've just created flashcards on.

  • Maintenance Period: In the maintenance period, you solidify your understanding of each card and retain the information until your exam approaches. During this period, you can choose to reduce your practice burden if you don’t need to remember the cards until your exam; see the Choosing a study plan section for details.

  • Consolidation Period: If you've set your practice burden to Reduced or None during the maintenance period (again, see Study plans), a consolidation period follows the maintenance period. During this period, retrievability increases back to a baseline level, giving you time to relearn anything you forgot during the reduced-practice period.

  • Retrievability Period: Right before your exam, all cards come back one more time to increase your confidence and ensure you'll be able to easily retrieve the information on your exam date.

For simplicity, the consolidation and retrievability periods are shown as one Retrievability period within the app; just think of the retrievability period as “making sure you’re ready for the exam.”

Choosing a study plan

The best way to study depends on what material you’re learning and what your course of study looks like. To make sure the exam scheduler works great for all kinds of situations, RemNote offers three broad study plans.

  • Start Today: We’ll introduce all cards as soon as possible while keeping within your maximum new cards/day settings (30 by default). You’ll continue practicing the cards regularly until your exam date approaches.

  • Start Today, With Breaks: Similar to Start Today, but after all the cards have been introduced, we’ll let your chance of remembering each card drop off a bit until your exam comes closer, reducing the amount of practice time required in the meantime.

    Compared to Start Today, this option considerably reduces the amount of time you spend practicing cards, and you’ll remember just as well when exam day arrives – but you’ll have a worse memory of the cards between learning them and the exam. Consider what your course of study looks like to decide whether this is a good tradeoff. Do you have midterms or quizzes or projects that require an understanding of the material? Does the new material you’re learning depend on the old material, so that remembering the old material better will help you learn the new material?

  • Start Later: We’ll schedule your exam now, but wait to start practicing any cards for some time. When the start date appears, we’ll proceed like you chose Start Today. This option makes sense if you’ve imported many cards that you haven’t learned yet. It’s usually a frustrating choice if you’ve just learned the material and taken the notes yourself, as it means you’ll forget much of what you learned and have to relearn it when the start date arrives.

Parameters

Study plans can be further customized with the following parameters. The default parameters are fine for most people, so if you’re not excited about more options, feel free to skip these!

  • Max Cards Per Day: Cap the total number of cards per day you'll be asked to practice. We’ll also look at your other scheduled exams and adjust their parameters to ensure that you don't have too much practice burden on any day.

  • Practice During Maintenance Period

    • Full keeps the retrievability of each card at 85–90%. If you're continuing to learn new material in class that builds on earlier material, or you have quizzes, tests, or projects between now and the exam that require knowledge of the material, this is the preferred option.

    • Reduced reduces the retrievability of your cards to approximately 70% until your exam approaches, then increases it again. If you don't need to actively retrieve most of this material until the exam, this option can save you a lot of time.

    • None eliminates the maintenance period entirely, so that you’ll do two initial reviews of each card and then won’t see it again until your exam approaches. This can make sense if you’re in a real time crunch and you don’t need to know the information at all until your exam. Be aware though that the experience of practicing just before your exam will be more like cramming than doing a final review, since you will have forgotten a good chunk of the material if you didn’t use it in the meantime.

  • Repetitions: This sets the minimum desired number of repetitions for each card between now and your exam. (Cards you struggle with will be shown more times than selected here.) If your exam is some distance away, reducing the number of repetitions below a certain level will require you to switch to Start Later mode, since you’ll forget the cards before the exam if you don’t see them often enough.

  • Introduce New Cards: In Start Later mode, this controls the day you delay beginning exam study until.

  • Start Retrievability Period: In Start Today, With Breaks mode, this controls the start day of the consolidation/retrievability period. You can move it earlier to start raising your desired retention sooner.

There are also several advanced options, which should seldom be needed:

  • Max New Cards Per Day: Same as Max Cards Per Day, but only capping the rate at which new cards are introduced.

  • Priority Amongst Other Exams: If you have multiple exams with overlapping practice dates, this parameter lets you prioritize how much of your time is spent on each exam. The priority between two overlapping exams represents the ratio of cards between those exams. For example, if you have Exam A with priority 2 and Exam B with priority 1, you'll see twice as many cards from Exam A each day (if cards exist to be practiced).

  • Anticipated Extra New Cards:

  • Pull Forward Cards With Existing History: If you’ve already learned some cards that will be on the exam when you schedule the exam, we normally leave their practice schedules as-is. If you want to relearn them as if they were new, enable this checkbox. (This option won't be shown if you haven't studied any cards in the exam's document(s) yet.)

  • Disable Retrievability Period: Like the None option to Practice During Maintenance Period.

What study plan should I choose?

As deep believers in the power of spaced repetition, we think that Start Today is the ideal option in most cases – it’ll give you the most stable, permanent knowledge for the amount of time you put in. However, most people sometimes need to temporarily learn things they don’t actually care about remembering, or learn more material over a given time period than they can afford to retain continuously, so the other options are helpful too.

Here are some typical situations and what study plan we might choose.

  • Important exam happening soon: For exams this week or next week or content you really want to internalize, choose Start Today. You'll be able to see your practice schedule, and we'll keep you on track to ensure mastery by the exam date.

  • Unimportant quizzes: For small quizzes you don't care much about, or content you’re fine cramming, choose Start Later. You'll get a notification to start practicing on your chosen start date. For harder material, make sure to choose a higher number of repetitions.

  • Cramming: Discovering you have a test coming up and having to spend hours cramming isn't ideal, but we’ve all been there! If you have an exam tomorrow or in the next few days, make sure to activate the exam scheduler. We'll make sure that you've fully mastered all cards (rather than potentially pushing back some of the cards to a later practice date), and will let you customize your study time.

  • Large exam in the distant future: For exams that include a large amount of material that isn’t tightly interconnected, choose Start Immediately, With Breaks. This will let you get an initial understanding of the ideas in the learning period, save some time during the maintenance period, then bring all of the ideas back in the consolidation/retrievability periods.

  • Imported Cards: For cards you’ve imported from elsewhere and need to learn by some date, choose Start Later and set the date when you want to start studying. If you're importing a lot of material, you can schedule a different start date for each folder or document so you can stay on track.

  • Upcoming Meetings or Presentations: The exam scheduler isn’t just for exams! If you want to be in top form on any set of flashcards at some particular time, set a target date using the exam scheduler.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are new cards spread out over time?

Every time you introduce a new card in a spaced-repetition schedule, you're committing to follow-up reviews on future days to keep remembering it – introducing a card doesn't just mean practicing it that day, it also means practicing it on several future days before your exam. To keep the number of cards you have to practice roughly steady from day to day, it's often necessary to introduce new cards slowly – perhaps faster at the beginning when you have nothing to review, then slower later on once you have many things to review.

Why do I see multiple practice sessions for each card during the retrievability period?

RemNote tries to schedule exactly one practice per card in the retrievability period. But on large exams, it might take a few days or even weeks to see all of the cards once, so there’s a chance you’ll forget the cards shown first before the end of the retrievability period if you only see them once. In that case, we'll show those more than once.

Does the exam scheduler automatically include newly added cards?

Yes, each time you add a card to the exam or delete an existing card, RemNote automatically recalculates your schedule to provide you with the most efficient way to practice your cards.

Does the exam scheduler consider pre-exam flashcard practice?

If you've already studied some of the cards that will be on the exam, the Exam Scheduler will take this into account when it creates your study plan.

If you want to re-learn your cards as if they were new, select the Pull Forward Cards With Existing History checkbox in the Advanced Settings when you schedule your exam.

I have lots of exams coming up. How can I keep track of everything?

In the Flashcard Home, click the Exams & Goals tab to view a summary of your exam dates and how much you're practicing for each on each day.

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