review at these times

After you’ve memorised your sabaq, new lesson, or portion, do you find yourself forgetting between 20-80% of it or even all of it within the same day?!

A number of factors affect our ability to remember it, but by reviewing it at certain times, you can potentially avoid this from happening. Think of it as a set of times where you put yourself to account and test yourself. This can be daily, weekly, monthly and annually. You need a system.

Spaced repetition for Qur’ān memorisation

The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve is one of the best-known results in learning theory.

The Curve demonstrates what we remember after a learning event and how it drops steeply soon after the completion of the event. Using this, many memory methods have been developed based on the intervals where you need a reminder before you forget something (spaced repetition). The idea being to forget in order to remember, through giving yourself regular reminders, rather than constantly revising.

I’m yet to share my research on this concept but at the time of writing I do believe it to be an incomplete theory. It’s dated and doesn’t factor in the variables that lead to different retention rates. Today, as human beings, we’re using our memories in completely different ways. We rely on technology in most cases. We’ve stopped memorising so many things. Attention spans are low from increased dopamine and fast-paced screen time. Retention rates can differ for many reasons including these and more:

  1. Individual differences. Some people are just better at remembering than others.
  2. Prior knowledge/exposure. Having prior related knowledge will affect our ability to remember.
  3. Importance. If someone is told that his or her job depends on knowing something and that person uses that knowledge frequently on the job then he or she will retain the new knowledge much more effectively.
  4. Prior learning schema. We learn best when we can situate new knowledge into prior knowledge (schemas). 
  5. Repetition. How often and how?
  6. Retrieval and use of the knowledge.
  7. Motivation levels.
  8. Method of memorisation.
  9. Belief system.
  10. Health and condition physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually etc.

All of these factors contribute to learning retention. Depending on which factors are active we actually have a series of forgetting curves, not a single, absolute curve. We all start to forget if we don’t review but everyone does so at a different rate depending on the circumstances.

Having said this, however, spaced repetition as a concept absolutely has a valid case use for Hifz. My post today is mainly about ensuring you think about this and find a way to strengthen your newly memorised portion but also consider how you review constantly for long-term retention.

When do we start to forget what we’ve memorised?

Typically we gradually forget things after:

  • an hour
  • a day
  • a week
  • a month
  • three months

But you need more as a Qur’ān student.

Having 7 intervals is key

  • an hour after having memorised (eg when going to work) 
  • recite it in dhuhr & asr prayers
  • when coming back from work
  • recite in nawāfil and qiyām al-layl 
  • recite during pockets of time (e g waiting times) 
  • recite before sleep
  • when waking up

But these times are most important 

  • an hour after having memorised 
  • before sleeping 
  • when you wake up 
  • weekly
  • monthly
  • annually (Ramadan)

Have a go.

Memorise your portion and then recall it during these times afterwards.

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