The Curve of Forgetting Information


The image above is a visual example of how soon we forget information if we don’t review it quickly enough. The graph is based on a one hour lecture. The following is a portion of an article from the Counseling Services at the University of Waterloo.

On day 1, at the beginning of the lecture, you go in knowing nothing, or 0%, (where the curve starts at the baseline). At the end of the lecture you know 100% of what you know, however well you know it (where the curve rises to its highest point).

By day 2, if you have done nothing with the information you learned in that lecture, didn’t think about it again, read it again, etc. you will have lost 50%-80% of what you learned. Our brains are constantly recording information on a temporary basis: scraps of conversation heard on the sidewalk, what the person in front of you is wearing. Because the information isn’t necessary, and it doesn’t come up again, our brains dump it all off, along with what was learned in the lecture that you actually do want to hold on to!

By day 7, we remember even less, and by day 30, we retain about 2%-3% of the original hour! This nicely coincides with midterm exams, and may account for feeling as if you’ve never seen this before in your life when you’re studying for exams – you may need to actually re-learn it from scratch.”

I highly recommend reviewing the entire article which includes timeline suggestions on how to review material so you do not have to re-learn it.  You can find it here.

Another excellent resource to consider is using the Livescribe Smart Pen! The Smart pen will record your lecture while you are taking notes. It actually takes 70 pictures per second as you are writing so it can link a specific written word with whatever the professor is saying at that precise moment. For more information on the Smart Pen read last week’s post


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