Spacing Vs Massing

The Spaced Repetition System or SRS is a method of learning that is based on renewing your recollection of something before you have the chance to forget it. It consists of learning a piece of material (something for school, new vocabulary, etc.) and then relearning it, first a couple of hours later, then a couple of days later, a couple of weeks, months, years….

The main benefit of this technique is the way it commits the information learned to your long-term memory. Other methods, such as cramming, do not have this advantage. I’ve often felt the need to cram in last minute information before an exam, as I’m sure many of you have too – the problem with this is that the information you’ve crammed in to help you through that test won’t stick around for long, and so doesn’t help you at all in future classes and in your future career.

Spacing Repetition

The general opinion among experiment participants, after one study session, is that cramming (or massing) had been more effective than spacing, because cramming gives the illusion of a thorough comprehension. But it’s only that – an illusion! You may think that just because you can recite a bit of information from memory that you’ve learnt it for life, but the truth of the matter is that 24 hours later that information will be lost to you. Those same test subjects after a few weeks of study sessions, could easily recall information learnt via the spacing method, whereas information learnt through cramming had been long forgotten!

Now seeing as the education system is based on building on top of knowledge already learnt, it’s blatantly obvious that the spacing method is more effective for a student. Cramming might help you pass exams, but when you go up to the next year and a teacher or lecturer asks you to explain something learnt in a previous subject, you’re going to find yourself in a bit of a tricky situation.

The spacing method is also very time effective. The same as with cramming you start with an initial study session designed to “learn” the material, and then any previous study sessions are just to refresh your memory, so it doesn’t have to take too long. A page from a textbook, that maybe took you 10 minutes to study the first time round, would only take you 2 minutes to skim over and recap.

So no excuses! Take the time to reviseĀ  and you can be sure that the spacing method won’t let you down!


Psychological Science – University of California