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The Forgetting Curve

    Can you remember what you had for lunch last week Tuesday? Probably not. Our brains are masters at forgetting information we don’t repeat regularly. But what can we do about it? I, like many others, had to painstakingly learn the art of learning as I went through college. Here are some of my tips for successful learning.
    Only what we repeat regularly stays in our long-term memory. The seemingly unimportant things our memory, the brain, deletes because they are not activated. In 1885, the Berlin professor Ebbinghaus tried to learn meaningless letter combinations. It turned out that he forgot more than half of the combinations within hours. Less than 20 percent of the unrelated information was stored long-term. So our brains tend to forget rather than remember what we have learned. He summarized the fact that we lose our knowledge exponentially in the forgetting curve.
    However, Ebbinghaus also found that a new learning stimulus stops the learning curve from dropping and also the speed at which we forget something. The interval needed to reactivate the information therefore becomes longer and longer. If we have to repeat the combination after one day at the beginning, several days, then one week up to several months are sufficient afterwards. The learned information is transferred to the long-term memory and consolidated there step by step.
    The curve of Ebbinghaus was often criticized for the fact that it is valid only for meaningless word syllables. For connected facts, a better curve is obtained and this is exactly what we can take advantage of. Learning facts as connections significantly increases learning performance. In addition, the rate at which we forget something depends on factors such as stress and sleep. These factors should be in balance, especially during exam times.