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How Much Do You Remember?

16 March 2015

A lot of learning involves committing things to memory. We often read or hear or see something but how much do we remember of that as time passes?

This issue was investigated by a German Psychologist called Herman Ebbinghaus in 1885. He tested how much information people retained over time and discovered the following:

  • After 20 minutes we forget 40% of what we have learnt
  • After 1 hour we forget about 50% of what we have learnt
  • After 2 days we forget about 75% of what we have learnt

Ebbinghaus showed his results on what is known as a “Forgetting Curve”:

So what is the key to remembering what you have learnt? There are certain memory tricks to try such as using rhymes for example. However, the most effective way of remembering something is just through repetition.

In the example above, if you learnt the topic again 1 day later, your memory would jump back up to 100%. Also, because you have learnt it twice, you remember it for longer. Ebbinghaus suggests that after 4 or 5 repetitions, each spaced at least 1 day apart, our memory would retain over 90%.

So, whether it is students learning for school or adults learning something at home, the key is repetition. As the motto tells us, practice makes perfect.

Patrick Horne