I read everything but I don't remember anything: A student's common statement

''Hey, feels like I can do nothing in study'',

''What to write in exam, I don't remember anything'',

''How hard I study, it's not working.It would have been better if I have used that time for something else'', that is the some sayings  we often complain and hear a lot about.

Forgetting after all the  learning and time commitment, especially during the last hour before exam is quite frustrating to  any student.Forgetting however is a normal mental process.Only an abnormal person remembers everything or forgets everything. Ebbinghaus was the first person who investigated the rate of forgetting -using himself as his only subject.In his various experiment,he memorized over 200 nonsense syllables.  For example,YIH, XEY etc.He recited certain lists twenty minutes after he memorized them.He tried to recite other lists after much long intervals.Altogether he found that 50% of the material he learned was forgotten in 20 minutes,66% in one day,69% in 2 days,75% in 6 days and 80% in 31 days(Ebbinghaus-1985).THhus the rate of forgetting was rapid at first and then slow.Thus revision and recalling lessons will be less if we frequently and regularly revise until the exam comes.

Why do we forget things?

  1. Weak impression
  2. Disuse
  3. Interference
  4. Repression

Let's discuss on these main causes of forgetting.

1.Weak impression

It happens when you do not attend to what you study and then the mind doesn't take clear picture.Attention is like the lens of camera,you can't get the clear picture if you don't focus so we forget.


When we don't repeat the learned materials to refresh the memory then it gets disused.A memory trace tends to decay with the passing of time.


Interference is blocking.Forgetting is due not so much to the passage of time but rather to what happens during the passage of time.There are 2 types of interference: 

a.Retroactive  inhibition:If new learning inhibits past learning

b.Proactive  inhibition:If past learning inhibits new learning

Both prevent the memory trace from consolidating in the brain properly so try to change to different materials after a period of time if you have to study continually.

4. Repression

Repression is unconscious forgetting of painful memories.This happens when the desire to recall is strongly resisted by the desire not to recall.

How to minimize forgetting things?

  1. Get a strong impression.
  2. Repeat where it is possible
  3. Avoid or reduce interference
  4. Openness to new ideas
  5. Recall and reuse