Learning & Development

Mar 17, 2022 10 min read

The Forgetting Curve - The best ways of Memorising & Learning

Author is a Chemical engineering graduate from IIT BHU, Varanasi and Diploma in French Language from BHU. Armed with more than 10 year of Work-experience. He has worked in Refinery Operations, Technical Services and has been handling the current portfolio at L&D since the past 1.5 years.

ABSTRACT — Have you ever cursed yourself of having a bad memory or for not remembering an obvious detail, a name or a song which you know and is at the tip of your tongue, but you cannot recall it. Is good memory the only reason of remembering. Is there a way to memorize and learn better? This article talks about forgetting, the forgetting curve and the best ways of learning and remembering.


Forgetting is the loss or change in information that was previously stored in short-term or long-term memory. It can occur suddenly, or it can occur gradually as old memories are lost. While it is usually normal, excessive, or unusual forgetting might be a sign of a more serious problem.

Why do we Forget?

Schacter’s Seven Sins of Memory

Daniel Schacter, former chair of Harvard University's Psychology Department and a leading memory researcher.







Accessibility of memory decreases over time

Forget events that occurred long ago



Forgetting caused by lapses in attention

Forget where your phone is



Accessibility of information is temporarily blocked

Tip of the tongue



Source of memory is confused

Recalling a dream memory as a waking memory



False memories

Result from leading questions



Memories distorted by current belief system

Align memories to current beliefs



Inability to forget undesirable memories

Traumatic events

Hermann Ebbinghaus & the Forgetting Curve

  • From 1880 to 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist ran a limited, study on himself and published his hypothesis translated in English as Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology.

  • Ebbinghaus studied the memorisation of nonsense syllables, by repeatedly testing himself after various time periods and recording the results.

  • He plotted these results on a graph creating what is now known as the "forgetting curve".

  • Ebbinghaus investigated the rate of forgetting, but not the effect of spaced repetition on the increase in retrievability of memories.

Key Learnings from the Ebbinghaus findings

Best ways of Learning

Spaced Learning

This method involves reviewing the material during various timed sessions while making sure to take timed breaks in between. By spacing the review sessions out over time, learners get the chance to revisit the material regularly, increasing their chances of retaining it.

Spaced learning helps learners manage what learned information is retained, enabling them to reshape the forgetting curve. In turn, spaced learning benefits organizations as it supports the retention of skills and increased productivity in the long-term.

Retrieval practice

  • Write what you know from memory on a blank sheet: a plain sheet of paper is a very under-rated study tool! Put your books away, then scribble down everything you can remember about a topic. After you’ve squeezed out as much as you can from memory, you might like to go back and add in any missing details in a different coloured pen. Next time you train yourself on this topic, aim to have fewer missing details – until you have none at all come the week before the exam!

  • Draw concept maps from memory: a slightly more sophisticated variant on the “blank sheet” method is drawing concept maps based on what you know of a topic. A concept map links ideas together visually, putting ideas in boxes, and linking them together with arrows to show how they relate.

Make it Accessible

  • If you want your training content to stick, making access to courses convenient for your learners is crucial. They should have the ability to complete training wherever they are, at any time of the day.

  • This is where mobile learning, or m-Learning, comes into play. Ensuring your LMS is mobile responsive makes learning and retaining information easier for your learners. They’ll have a much better chance of recollecting and refreshing their knowledge if they can access their courses when and where they like; on the bus to work, or while waiting on a client for a lunch meeting.

Make it Relevant

  • The human brain is selective and has a limited capacity. When it comes to deciding whether to store pieces of information permanently, the brain can be quite choosy. And this naturally accelerates the forgetting curve. That’s why, when planning training, you should make it as relevant to the learner as possible. The more relevant the training, the easier it will be for them to absorb and remember the information they need. 

Memory Enhancing Food


1. Wikipedia
2. https://www.learnupon.com/blog/ebbinghaus-forgetting-curve/
3. https://examstudyexpert.com/memorisation-techniques-for-exams/
4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/foods-linked-to-better-brainpower


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