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Curve of forgetting

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Without revision you will forget 40% of new information within 24 hours, even if you write it down. You can change this.

From Dr Claire Brown in The Conversation:

Students often tell teachers they have excellent memories and don’t need to take notes because they can easily recall information. Research says this is not the case. We tend to lose almost 40% of new information within the first 24 hours of first reading or hearing it.

German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1895 conducted some of the first experiments on memory and recall, and spaced learning. He developed the forgetting curve, which shows how information is lost quickly over time if there is no strategy or effort to retain it.

If we take notes effectively, however, we can retain and retrieve almost 100% of the information we receive.

The rate of forgetting is minimised if students interact (re-read/discuss/write/engage) with their notes within 24 hours. A second repetition for a shorter period of time within a day brings recall back up to 100%. A third repetition within a week for an even shorter time brings recall back to 100%.


‘What’s the best, most effective way to take notes?’, Dr Claire Brown, The Conversation, 2015.