It may be quite useful to realize from the very beginning the stages passed by a typical student during the evolution of his understanding and attitude towards SuperMemo. The observations presented below were compiled from hundreds of letters and questionnaires sent to SuperMemo World, as well as from personal contacts of the author with dozens of students at both basic and advanced levels.
90% of students start their affair with SuperMemo because of good opinions they heard about the program from their colleagues or from press. In other words, the initial attitude is positive and full of expectation. After studying the basics of SuperMemo, reactions of students vary greatly, and are highly correlated with the general level of intelligence and education, especially with respect to exact sciences. A substantial group of students become discouraged because of mechanical and repetitive nature of SuperMemo workouts. In this group, individuals with no university education, or university education in humanities strongly prevail. On the other end of the spectrum are individuals with strong background in mathematics, physics or computing sciences, who seem to have fewer problems with grasping the basics of SuperMemo, and whose first contact with the method is likely to enhance their positive attitude. From this group, SuperMemo has recruited the greatest number of enthusiastic supporters. Only 75% of individuals continue their repetitions beyond one month! The drop-outs provide the following reasons for cessation of repetitions: (1) they do not believe in SuperMemo (10%, no university education or education in humanities), (2) they do not believe in their own learning powers (5%, mostly individuals over 45 years of age, and women - housewife type), (3) they do not have time for repetitions (25%, mostly private entrepreneurs, physicians, lawyers, etc.), and (4) they intend to return to repetitions in the future (60%, students). Only those students who pass the first month of repetitions can truly testify to the usefulness of the method. Among those the approval rate is 95%! Most of them consider SuperMemo an excellent aid in learning (50%) or a useful product (45%); only 5% of those polled did not have a specified opinion or rated SuperMemo as nothing special. SuperMemo World has not received a single questionnaire from a student who had tried out SuperMemo for at least one month, and was generally dissatisfied with the method or the program. However, the attrition rate after the first month remains still high. Having passed a month of repetitions, almost all students wish they had used SuperMemo on a permanent basis, but for hundreds of reasons they cannot cope with busy repetition schedules. The most widespread attitude is to hope to resume repetitions in some unspecified future. Here, the major drawback of SuperMemo becomes visible: it does not produce amazing results for free! It does produce amazing results, but only through hard and systematic work. In busy times of our dynamically growing civilization, we all too often stick to the principle that better an egg today than a hen tomorrow. 10 minutes spent on a business call, reading a scientific paper, or writing a report seem to bring immediate result. The same 10 minutes spent on reasonable repetitions with SuperMemo, can save several hours or even days in the lifetime, but the saving is hard to sense, even for an experienced student. Moreover, after a longer period of repetitions, the student may easily come to the false conclusion that the knowledge has already been mastered, and requires no further repetitions. Thus even the most enthusiastic students often drop weeks of repetitions; the more so, that abusing Tools : Mercy can easily produce the impression that all is OK with the learning process. For an average user, breaks in repetitions regularly make up 20% of the learning time.
You should not forget that you are not the only one who says I will do it tomorrow, or next week, or I think I still remember it all right. Forgetting is like radiation: you cannot smell it, you cannot taste it, and when you finally notice its power, the damage is already irreversible.