Setting up your Spaced Repetition Reminder System

You might have noticed that for each goal in the training plan there is a repeated task, “Review of Previous Flashcards.” This is so we can build on concepts each week, and have a ‘rolling knowledge base’.

Since we are constantly adding new information each week, the review of the previous material becomes essential. This is because:

  • You need to test yourself periodically on older material to ensure it stays in memory.
  • As you review your flashcards, you may realise that you’ve since learned some points that you can add to the cards.
  • Likewise, you may realise that you’ve misunderstood a point now that you know more. This incorrect information can be removed or amended.
  • Just the act of reviewing keeps you reshaping and re-contextualising the information. You’re ‘slicing and dicing’ new recipes for this information.

Some flashcard systems like Anki aparenty set up reminders for you automatically. I’ll investigate that and write about it another time. But since you may use a system, that doesn’t do it for you (I started out with Cram when I first learned about spaced repetition), I’ll show you a technique for doing this by hand.

Here I’ve shamelessly copied an example from another article I wrote. Wherever you read “Learning Tests and Flashcards”, just assume we’re talking about Flashcards alone. It’s close enough to demonstrate the point of a week by week schedule. If you’re really interested in “Learning tests”, you can about that here.

Illustration of how we can set up our spaced reminders as we build out our flashcards.

So as we go through subjects day by day, we set up reminders on our content. The diagram shows chapters as if we were referring to a textbook, but we can just as easily talk about each of the tasks on our training plan. As we set up our flashcards for subjects, we can set up our reminders for the flashcards. My strategy was to set 1,3, 7, 10 day plans and then ‘top up’ once I was ready to take the practice tests.

I’ll use “Week 1” as an example and in my case, I’ll use “Todoist” as my reminder system. I am a big fan of GTD if you’d like to read about that, but all we need is an easy means of capturing spaced reminders.

So our training plan for “Week 1 has the following tasks:

TaskFlashcards
Read AWS Overview to understand what AWS isAWS Overview Flashcards
Create flashcards to cover what core services there areAWS Overview Flashcards
Create flashcards to cover architectural patternsBest Practice Flashcards
Read Architecting for the Cloud AWS Best Practices whitepaper, February, 2016Cloud Best Practice Flashcards
Flashcards for regions and Availability ZonesRegion and Availability Flashcards

And an empty project set up in Todoist:

Assuming we’ve created our flashcards, it’s quite a simple task to convert them to tasks and get on with our day. As we build our flashcards set day by day (the vertical lanes in the spaced reminder diagram above) we can just add and duplicate them in todoist.

Starting with the URL of the flashcard set:

 We add a task in Todoist. The URL of the flashcards becomes a comment.

Then we select the duplicate option – apologies for quality of my editing!

Be sure to include comments to get the URL. We’ll set for 3, 7, and 10 days from now.

We repeat the process for each set of flashcards in the week. As the spaced diagram suggests, since we are likely to study different topics on different days, we’ll have different offsets in our plan.

So just 3 sets of flashcards in this example have yielded 12 tasks to follow up on. You can add more reminders (for say 3 weeks out) if you want to top up your memory a little more often. I didn’t bother personally ,because I just had another review once I had finished my study and was ready to do the practice papers . I’ll cover that another time.

Conclusion

I hope you found this guide to setting up your study plan useful. It’s really important to map your commitment out in advance and have strong methods in place to not waste any of your effort. That’s why flashcards, whilst slowing your down a little to start with, offer such a great return on investment.

And now something to ask you…

If you have any feedback in my guide, or any questions about the exam, please feel free to contact me. It’s really helpful to know what people are interested in, and what you like and don’t like about the guide.