Forget the forgetting curve



The problem

In 1885 Hermann Ebbinghaus hypothesised that memory of facts is lost over time. He plotted his own memory retention and discovered what has become known as the forgetting curve. He concluded that the best methods for increasing memory retention included spaced repetition based on active recall. In 2015 his study was replicated with similar results.

In our own classrooms we noticed this too. You’d teach a topic with simple knowledge such as the purpose of the program counter in computer science. After a week the students began to forget some of the key facts and months later it was almost completely forgotten. That meant revision was essential at the end of the course often requiring some concepts to be retaught. We thought there must be a better way to help students remember facts across the whole course and that must surely raise attainment too.

Smart Quiz is built directly to address the forgetting curve and solve this problem. It has had an outstanding effect on the confidence of our learners and their results.


Smart Quiz is different

Unlike the other revision and assessment tools available, Smart Quiz learns as each student answers questions. It creates a unique, dynamic, ever-changing playlist of questions personalised for each student. It focusses primarily on retention of knowledge, but also prioritises questions that were not answered correctly. However, it never forgets about the questions students also answered correctly. As new topics are unlocked new questions are prioritised first. Smart Quiz also works towards “mastery” where a student answers the same question correctly three times in a row.

The penalty in the algorithm for answering a question incorrectly after it has been mastered is quite severe. These questions are prioritised because if the one time you answer incorrectly is in an exam, the learning was for nothing!

Getting the most out of Smart Quiz

Spending time each day to remember information greatly decreases the effects of the forgetting curve. We strongly suggest:

  • Start using Quiz after the first topic has been taught.
  • Use Quiz for seven minutes at the start of every lesson as students arrive before the main part of the lesson begins.
  • Control the topic filtering and unlock topics after they have been taught.
  • The number of topics available to students should increase over time, and therefore the number of questions too.
  • Students will see the same questions and may even ask why they are seeing so much old material, including the questions they have already mastered from time to time. That’s how it works!
  • Continue using Quiz until the very last lesson of the course.
  • If students are not engaging at the beginning of the lesson, set twenty questions using Smart Tasks for homework regularly instead.
  • Use the analytic reports to identify questions students are getting wrong and focus on those in short recap teaching episodes.