Optimising learning using flashcards: Spacing is more effective than cramming
Version of Record online: 19 JAN 2009
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Applied Cognitive Psychology
Special Issue: Themed issue: Using Eye Tracking in Applied Research to Study and Stimulate the Processing of Information from Multi-representational Sources
Volume 23, Issue 9, pages 1297–1317, December 2009
How to Cite
Kornell, N. (2009), Optimising learning using flashcards: Spacing is more effective than cramming. Appl. Cognit. Psychol., 23: 1297–1317. doi: 10.1002/acp.1537
- Issue online: 12 OCT 2009
- Version of Record online: 19 JAN 2009
The spacing effect—that is, the benefit of spacing learning events apart rather than massing them together—has been demonstrated in hundreds of experiments, but is not well known to educators or learners. I investigated the spacing effect in the realistic context of flashcard use. Learners often divide flashcards into relatively small stacks, but compared to a large stack, small stacks decrease the spacing between study trials. In three experiments, participants used a web-based study programme to learn GRE-type word pairs. Studying one large stack of flashcards (i.e. spacing) was more effective than studying four smaller stacks of flashcards separately (i.e. massing). Spacing was also more effective than cramming—that is, massing study on the last day before the test. Across experiments, spacing was more effective than massing for 90% of the participants, yet after the first study session, 72% of the participants believed that massing had been more effective than spacing. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.