The most important part of learning is the ability to retain the data that was consumed. But do we really remember what we consumed? What was the last thing that you learned or read in the last 24 hours? Are you able to retain 100% of the information? The answer is no!

Humans tend to forget information over a period of time. The amount of information retained to the amount of time is simply depicted through the forgetting curve. The curve shows how much a human brain can recollect the amount of information over a period of time.

Now, why did I really write this article? Recently when I was learning a new concept which I was unfamiliar with it. While the main idea was to learn and then go for a test to see what I really understood. But during the time of the test, I was not able to recollect 100% of the information that I consumed.  

This gave rise to the curiosity of why I was not able to recollect the information or what was the reason for my failure to remember it. This research of mine led to the studies done by Hermann Ebbinghaus. 

So the next thing that came to my mind is, if humans really forget the information over a period of time, how to retain more information? The question was quite simple and so was the answer. 

With the quest to learn new things, let’s first understand how to really learn. If the information we consume is not retained, what is the point of consuming it in the first place? (not entertainment data)

Here we will first understand what really the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve is? What are the factors responsible for the decline in memory and how to retain the most information over a long period of time?

What is the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve?

In the late 19th century, the German psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus in an experiment tested his memory over various periods of time. Once he’d gathered all the data from his spaced learning studies, he plotted it on a graph.

forgetting curve garph

The idea was to check how much of the original data was retained over a period of time. The above graph shows this theory in the picture. The graph depicts, while first learning something the information declines in an exponential manner over a period of time.

However, the rate at which humans forget the information depends on multiple factors like stress, sleep, the method of data consumption, etc. Ebbinghaus along with the hypothesis of the forgetting curve also mentioned the two factors which were responsible for the exponential loss of memory over a period of time.

Also Check: Marginal Gains: The 1% Rule for constant growth and improvement

Factors responsible for decline of memory.

Once Eddinghaus discovered the forgetting curve he went on to identify factors that are responsible for the decrease in humans’ memory retention rate. There are two important factors responsible for the retention of memory.

forgetting curve factors

The Strength of the Memory

What are some of the memories that you can recollect? Those are the ones which are some really big movements, good, bad or something which is a very important movement. People can recall stronger memories as compared to weaker ones.

So if the memory does not belong to these types, then it will more likely fade away. So for humans to have this memory retainable they should be a strong memory. Something which is very relevant to that particular person.

The time that has passed since the information was learned

In a learning context, the amount of memory retention also depends on the period of time passed from the time of data consumption. You are less likely to remember a concept after a week if you are not in touch with it.

Some researchers suggest that people forget 90% of the content after one week of consuming the information. If you were wondering earlier why you need to revise content. Well, it’s been a long time since your memory tried to recollect that information.

Overcoming the forgetting curve: How to Remember more

Along with the Hypothesis of the forgetting curve, Ebbinghaus suggested two methods to improve memory retention. The two methods suggested were a Better representation of memory(using Mnemonic) and using Active recall(also known as spaced repetition). 

Below are some of the common techniques which come under either of the two mentioned methods to improve memory retention. Using these below techniques you can overcome the forgetting curve.

Reinforce the Recall regularly

This is a simple method to increase the amount of information retained. For instance, if you listen to a song you might somewhat remember the lyrics. Maybe one catchy line. But what if you listen to it the next day again? And then again after a few days. After some repetition, you will be able to sing 70-80% of the song.

Similarly, if you recall the information more often, you are likely to retain more data. These days people use the spaced repetition technique to recall information. Here they use flashcards to write down information and with 24 hours of consumption of data, they try to recall it using flashcards.

I will write a completely different article on spaced learning and using flashcards for learning.

Improve clarity

You are more likely to remember information if you can associate it with something. This method focuses on better memory representation. It’s like trying to represent data with an item. Then recalling that item you remember that data. 

On being asked about memory retention to professional learners, the ones who are able to retain an insane amount of information, they said it’s much easier to assign this information to an idea or image than to recall that image and indirectly recall that information. This better representation method is also done via Mnemonic.

Mnemonics makes use of elaborative encoding, retrieval cues, and imagery as specific tools to encode information in a way that allows for efficient storage and retrieval. Mnemonics aid original information in becoming associated with something more accessible or meaningful—which, in turn, provides better retention of the information.

Make it More Relevant

For the memory to be easily retainable, it is of utmost importance to be relevant. If any memory is not relevant or does not make any sense to you. You are most likely to forget it within hours of consuming the information.

It will be much easier to restore information that stands out. If you can relate to the concept or idea you are trying to retain it will be much easier to do so. But it is important that the information makes sense to you. 

But how can you make the content relevant? If you can link the concept to the idea that you adhere to it will be much easier to remember. You are likely to remember information like a pop culture reference or things that are famous with your generation. Now try to contain the new information with this reference.

The brain is selective and limited in capacity. So it will choose to only retain that information that makes more sense in your brain and can connect the dots.

Make it More Interactive

Making it more attractive is one of the most common ideas floating around today. This is currently used in teaching kids and also used in many online learning courses. By making it interactive means gamification of learning. 

People are very interactive with games and it makes learning fun. And your brain is more likely able to connect with a fun idea rather than a boring interaction. Even interacting with the information can significantly increase information retention. 

You can also make it interactive by sharing content in the form of media. Like video, audio, or infographics. You can also ask for a quick task to be done to improve the content absorption amount.

Other Factors of Forgetting Curves.

Apart from the above-mentioned ideas and methods, there are other factors that are responsible for the forgetting curve. These factors include the environment, stress, and sleep. Research has shown that these factors also have a significant impact on learning ability.

 If you want to make the most of the amount of information consumed. Make sure you are well-rested, relaxed, and in an environment where you are comfortable to consume and retain information. 

The forgetting Curve Study Schedule Template.

forgetting curve template

It is important that you maintain a schedule to track your memory retention of the concept. This will ensure the highest information retention. Here I have created a simple free notion forgetting curve study schedule. You can track your concept retention period here.

Here I have included two templates. One is a Notion template for forgetting curves and another one is a simple pdf template for forgetting curves. Currently, the Notion forgetting curve study schedule template is free to download and use, You need to use the template in notion.

Buy my product

The second is a pdf template that you can use to track your retention schedule. This forgetting curve study schedule pdf template is a paid template. You can buy the template from the link below.

This forgetting curve template is an amazing resource for college students to manage studies. The point of this template is to help you retain the most amount of information that you consume.

The more thoroughly you follow the forgetting curve schedule the more amount of memory you will be able to retain. You can either use the Notion forgetting curve template or the forgetting curve pdf file.

Final Thoughts

If you are a student and trying to make the most of your learnings or just a learner, then this method will help you retain the most amount of information. The forgetting curve is one of the tools to make learning more effective. 

I have been using the forgetting curve method for my online learning. I use it along with the flashcards and make it more fun to remember things. Since this might be new to you so start small like make be use it remember one concept. And then gradually increase the usage.

If this method does not have much impact on you then it’s better to drop it. Since everyone is different and not everyone will consume and retain information at the same level.

These were my two cents on the forgetting curve learning method to retain more information that is consumed. I hope this article helped you to learn new things.


Hey, I am Chetan Poojari the founder of Geeksla. I work as a Product Manager and also an Online Content Creator. A travel and tech junkie who writes articles to simplify complex things.

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