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How to Practice a Recall
How to Practice a Recall

What to do once you have entered a practice session

David Handel, MD avatar
Written by David Handel, MD
Updated over a week ago

For the latest demo of the practice section, watch this.

Memory retrieval practice is the single most powerful tool for developing robust recallability of the things that we learn. That is why apps like iDoRecall (iDR) are such effective tools for developing strong recallability. We previously reviewed how to trigger a recall practice session. Here we will discuss what to do when you are practicing a recall.

The complete flow of practicing a recall can be summarized as follows

  1. Read the question on the front of the recall and do your best to retrieve the answer before you turn it over.

  2. Turn it over and check your answer.

  3. If there is a source link and you struggled with recalling the answer, click the source link and review the source material.

  4. Give yourself a star rating, grading yourself for how well you were able to recall the answer.

The biggest mistake is to simply read the question and then immediately check the answer. You are bound to say "Yeah, I knew that." But because you didn't actually retrieve the answer from memory, before turning over the recall, you will have accomplished almost nothing towards building recallability for that piece of knowledge.

When you practice a recall, just like in the physical world with paper flashcards, the front of the recall is initially presented to you. You are then charged with the task of doing your very best to retrieve the answer from memory. After you have done your very best to retrieve the answer of failing to do so, you have consciously admitted that you don't recall, it is time to "turn over" the recall and see the "back of the recall."

Here is the "front" of a recall.

the front of arecall during practice

Now let's zoom in on the details. First, we'll look at the top.

The top of the front of a recall as seen in practice.

The red arrow points to an X that you can click to exit the practice session. Click it and you will be taken to the RECALLS section of the app. You can also hit the ESC key on your keyboard to exit practice.

The R field (response field) of the UI is where you can electively type in your answer to the question posed in the Q field. This field is totally optional. Many users like to record their recalled answers before they turn over the recall. They feel that this helps make the memory more cemented. If you decide to make an entry into the R field, when you turn over the recall we will show an R field with your entry. If you omit to make an entry into the R field, then no R field will be presented on the back of the recall. You can check your response log in the recall edit form to see recall-level stats of all prior practices of the recall, including your previous R field entries. This is a good way to see how your responses evolve (or not!) over time.

Now, let's zoom in on the bottom of the front of a recall. You can skip the recall or flag it to edit later.

the bottom of the front of a recall as seen in practice

Be sure to check out the helpful tips under the ? tooltip launcher including keyboard shortcuts.

help popup

When you are ready, click SEE THE ANSWER or click the return key on your keyboard.

Here is the back of a recall.

Let's zoom in on the upper region of the back of a recall as seen in practice.

Starting at the very top from left to right: There is a progress bar showing the number of recalls in this session and which number recall you are on. Here we are on recall #1 of a 1 recall practice session, 1/1. On the right side of the practice progress bar is an X that you can click (or click your ESC key) to end the session.

Now let's focus on the bottom of the back of the recall.

the bottom of the back of a recall

Starting from the left you will see the date you last practiced the recall. In the center is the star rating widget. To go to the next recall in the session, click a star to rate how well you were able to retrieve the answer from memory. Five stars equal perfect, easy recall. One star means that you totally forgot.

Some tips about rating yourself

Make sure to be objective about your performance assessment and consistent in your objectivity from one recall to the next and one practice session to the next. Use the entire five-star range. Life has many shades of gray and so does your memory retrieval performance. The more you use the full range of stars, rather than a black and white pass/fail, one-star or five-star rating approach, the better the spaced-repetition algorithm will do its job. Note that we show you under each star how days until you will see that recall again.

If you would like to issue your star ratings by keyboard shortcuts, typing 1 through 5 will issue those star respective ratings.

On the right, there is a SKIP button. If your current practice session was scheduled by the spaced repetition algorithm and you got there by clicking the PRACTICE tab in the app, the skipped recall will reappear after you get through the current set of recalls in the session. If you still want to skip it you will have to exit the session. Since that recall is still due, it will remain in the PRACTICE tab until you give it a star rating. If you skip a recall during an ad hoc practice session, and it isn't currently due, it will be skipped out of the session altogether and it won't appear in the PRACTICE tab until its next scheduled due date.

Some people like to use the SKIP button for training purposes with new recalls. After they have tested themselves a few times and they feel ready to let the spaced-repetition algorithm take over and then they give themselves the first star rating for that recall.

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