Initiating Active Recall Cram Study

Reading time: 2-3 min

Across my journey through studying pharmacy, I experimented with a range of study methods including active recall, spaced repetition, question-answer (Cornell?) notes and memory recall practice, typed notes, digital handwritten notes, mind-mapping, doing / analysing past papers, trying computer-generated multiple choice questions, and flash cards along with flashcard software, including Anki, Remnote, Quizlet.

For the two previous semesters, I religiously and persistently completed my Anki daily due cards or Remnote queue (daily due cards queue) every day, if not every other day if I missed it the previous day.

(Anki and Remnote schedules your flash cards for you, following an algorithm that supposedly allows you practice recalling a card from memory right around the time you would otherwise forget. The idea is that everything would be committed to and kept in your long-term memory across a long time frame.)

I stopped that practice this semester due heavy assignment, project and side-commitment workload as I could not consistently give myself 1-2 hours every day to complete the list of due flash cards. This means that a high majority of things learned (following the forgetting curve) will have been forgotten, as I have not been consistently studying across the semester.

I'm now in exam period and have to cram.

My cramming method consists of:

  1. First creating flashcards (this time on Quizlet due to a nicer UI and cramming being a reasonable use case) while rushing through the lecture slides, after understanding what is happening.
  2. Then, doing a first-round answering of the cards after doing this for a few lectures. This constitutes as active recall, recalling the answer from memory. This is highly effective at committing something to memory.
  3. I plan to do second-round answering of the cards in a few days after first going through each lecture. This constitutes as spaced repetition, adding space between each recall to maximise study efficiency (by preventing forgetting) and maximising memory-committing effectiveness (by ensuring I nearly forgot the answer before recalling it).

We'll see if this cramming method results in worse results that if I had put that much effort into consistent flash card studying across the semester.

(Now obviously there are many uncontrolled variables in my no-control, life-as-a-variable, cross-over experiment and hence my results may not be applicable to my future self let alone others, but it certainly helped me experience then nature and learning/memory-effectiveness/efficiency of each study method. I share this in hopes that others may find this useful.)

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