Which is the appropriate repetition pattern to aid long term memory, in terms of time between study sessions?

I have been reading about Ebbinghaus and doing some related research, but I can't find a recent study on the effectiveness it may have if a certain pattern is used for distribuiting the learning sessions on a subject.

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    $\begingroup$ Also relevant to the question and Jeromy's answer is my answer here the Forgetting Function is definitely something you'll want to look into $\endgroup$
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 1:35

2 Answers 2


It sounds like you are interested in the Spacing Effect. A search on Google Scholar for "spacing effect" for articles published since the year 2000 yields over 2500 articles some of which might be worth pursuing.

Perhaps you might want to start by having a read through the meta-analysis in Psychological Bulletin by Cepeda et al (2006). To quote the abstract:

The authors performed a meta-analysis of the distributed practice effect to illuminate the effects of temporal variables that have been neglected in previous reviews. This review found 839 assessments of distributed practice in 317 experiments located in 184 articles. Effects of spacing (consecutive massed presentations vs. spaced learning episodes) and lag (less spaced vs. more spaced learning episodes) were examined, as were expanding interstudy interval (ISI) effects. Analyses suggest that ISI and retention interval operate jointly to affect final-test retention; specifically, the ISI producing maximal retention increased as retention interval increased.

You may also want to read Pavlik and Anderson (2008). They used a computational model of known spacing and practice effects in order to try to develop an optimal practice schedule for maximising learning and retention.


  • Cepeda, N.J. and Pashler, H. and Vul, E. and Wixted, J.T. and Rohrer, D. (2006). Distributed practice in verbal recall tasks: A review and quantitative synthesis. Psychological bulletin, 132, 354. PDF
  • Pavlik, P. I and Anderson, J. R. (2008). Using a model to compute the optimal schedule of practice. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 14, 101. PDF

The search terms "gradual-interval recall" may give you another area to research. I found that in a blog posting about SRS


"In a paper on gradual-interval recall published by Paul Pimsleur in 1967, he hypothesizes the following intervals: 5 seconds, 25 seconds, 2 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 hour, 5 hours, 1 day, 5 days, 25 days, 4 months, and 2 years. Although the exact intervals varied by subject, Pimsleur’s intervals give you an idea about the exponential nature of memory retention."



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