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The brain and Drillster: the power of spaced repetition


It sounds quite logical: the learning effect is stronger when the brain needs to make an effort to retrieve specific information. If your brain is challenged by an assignment or question, it has to work hard to retrieve and process information in the brain. It is this very effort that amplifies the learning effect. This is the power of spaced repetition, repeating learning material with increasing time intervals between each learning session.  

How does spaced repetition work? 

Much research has been done in the 70s of the previous century. The German science journalist Sebastian Leitner was the first to develop a practical application for spaced repetition. He made the hand computer, a system that works with flashcards and learning boxes. Flashcards that were incorrectly memorized, were placed in another box than flashcards that were memorized correctly. The flashcards that were incorrectly memorized, were then practiced again.

When time elapses between the moment that you learn for the first time and the moment that you repeat it, the forgetting process has already started. As a consequence, your brain has to work much harder to retrieve the information than when you would have repeated it immediately after you learned the material for the very first time. The more time elapses, the more effort the brain needs to make to process and retrieve information, and the stronger the learning effect.


How does Drillster apply spaced repetition? 

Drillster has a proprietary algorithm that repeats (equivalent) questions. We place an increasing time interval between each repetition. The forgetting process that characterizes our brain, starts immediately after you have answered a question. If more time elapses between the moments of repetition, the brain will have to make a bigger effort to find an answer to the question, so the learning effect will be stronger and more durable.

Unlike Sebastian Leitner’s hand computer, Drillster can calculate the exact moment on which it is effective to brush up on your knowledge. The Drillster app will send you a notification, just before you tend to forget. You can update your knowledge in the drill. Your brain has worked well, the learning has been very effective. You benefit from the power of spaced repetition.

I hear you thinking, how does Drillster know when the time is right to brush up on my knowledge? Drillster uses assessment based and adaptive learning techniques. In our next blog, we will explain what this means.  


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