Top Tips for IELTS

Spaced repetition – how it can help you remember the words you want to learn

This is a post with a difference. What you’ll find here are two things – I’m killing two birds with one stone – as we say in English.

you will learn a little about the science of learning in a guest post by Michael Bollinger of Cardwiki. The idea here should make you think about how to learn vocabulary and revise/prepare better for exams. This idea I believe in and is one I use in my classroom – as I suspect many teachers do. I just wasn’t familiar with the science.

I have also added a reading comprehension test! Why? This is exactly the sort of article you can expect to get in IELTS.

Read these questions first

It is  a good idea to read the questions before you get to the text in an exam. Do that and you will get a good idea of what the text is about and you can direct your reading better. You know what you are looking for.

  1. Professor Mace specialised in the psychology of learning.  True/False/Not Given
  2. Researchers have shown that a group of students who used spaced repetition obtained better exam results than those who did not. True/False/Not Given
  3. The writer suggests that people who don’t revise will forget what they have learnt True/False/Not Given
  4. It is important for learners to decide when and how often they should revise. True/False/Not Given
  5. The writer suggests that revision works best inside the classroom. True/False/Not given

Read and think and learn

This is a great piece. Please read it. There’s lots to think about here. If you like, you can check the answers to my T/F/NG questions at the end. They are designed to help you get the main points of the article.

How spaced repetition techniques can help students to improve their exam results

As an educator, you will often be approached by students who want help or advice on revision methods. Some students may have been using the same unsuccessful revision methods for years, and failing to achieve their true potential because of this. So next time you are asked for advice on how to revise for the big test, it might be time to advise your students about the highly successful technique known as “spaced repetition”.

Spaced repetition techniques involve learners reviewing material at gradually increasing intervals, rather than regular ones. Increasing the space of time between each review will help to strengthen a student’s ability to recall a memory, as well as increasing the likelihood that they will remember it for a long time. Compared to revision strategies such as cramming, students will definitely remember the information for much longer.

Ideas about spaced repetition have been around for over 80 years, since they were first proposed by Professor CA Mace in 1932. Since then, cognitive scientists have been researching the principle, in the hope that they would be able to devise learning strategies which may help to improve overall academic performance, as well as being able to help those with learning disabilities. Over the past 80 years, spaced repetition has constantly been shown to improve recall rates, meaning that students are more likely to remember the information when they need to. In one recent memory study (Cepeda et al, 2008), 95% of students who revised using spaced repetition learning methods were able to outperform their peers who had not used these strategies in controlled testing.

Spaced repetition techniques are thought to work because they take into account the “forgetting curve”. If no attempt is made to recall a fact, the ability to recall that memory will decrease, until it is eventually forgotten. Reviewing the memory will help to “top up” your memory for a while. However, the timing of these reviews is also important for those who are aiming to build lasting memories. Topping up your memory by reviewing material during the correct window will reduce the decline in your memory recall rate. Review the material again at the right time and you will improve your memory recall ability and slow the decline further. Eventually, you will slow the decline in recall rate so much that it will be negligible, and you should be able to recall the memory indefinitely.

Image Link to forgetting curve: the_forgetting_curve_spaced_repetition.jpg

Taking into account this principle, online flashcard apps such as Cardkiwi are able to present students with information for review during the optimal window period, in order to ensure that they “top–up” their memory at just the right time. By using a complex algorithm to work out when it is best to show a student a flashcard, this system is able to give students a better chance at forming lasting memories. The advantage of this is that not only will they remember the material for the end of module exam, but they will also be well-equipped to recall this material again in time for the end of year or end of course exam. They will also find it easier to recall this information outside of an academic environment. Therefore, pointing your students in the direction of spaced repetition learning resources could be the best way to help them to achieve astounding grades in their tests.

Did you get the main points?

True False Not given answers

1. NG – you might guess this but we have no information in the text about what he specialised in. A classic NG answer.

In fact, Professor Mace was an expert in psychology and this idea did help educational psychology. His real field was industrial psychology and goal-setting, despite this contribution to educational psychology.

2. T – “In one recent memory study (Cepeda et al, 2008), 95% of students who revised using spaced repetition learning methods were able to outperform their peers who had not used these strategies in controlled testing.“. A classic True answer and a demonstration of why key word strategy doesn’t work here. you need to see that you are reading for meaning: you get the answer by reading and understanding the whole question and thinking about what words in the text mean – even though they are different forms odd in the question.

3. T – “If no attempt is made to recall a fact, the ability to recall that memory will decrease, until it is eventually forgotten.” Again a classic T answer. You do get motte help this time from word matching “forget” “forgotten”

4. T – “However, the timing of these reviews is also important for those who are aiming to build lasting memories. Topping up your memory by reviewing material during the correct window will reduce the decline in your memory recall rate.” You just want to see that “timing: is the equivalent to when and how often.

5. F – “They will also find it easier to recall this information outside of an academic environment.” A classic false answer. We have the information, it just says the opposite thing.

Home study works! And do check out Michael’s site Cardwiki – there is a free sign up button.

 

Let other people find out about spaced repetition

   

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