New in Firecracker: Question Scheduling Options & Other Improvements

Posted by on Jan 8, 2013 9:16:37 PM

Happy New Year everyone!

Besides making merry with friends and family last week, we also released a few new features and improvements. This blog post will highlight one of these new features and list some of the other improvements we’ve made.

Research shows that if you want to learn and remember something, the best way to do so is by answering a variety of related questions spaced out over time. But how long should you wait before you review something again?

The most important factor is how well you know something. In other words, you should review things you’re having trouble with more often than things you know really well. Another important factor is your history with what you are studying. How many times you reviewed something and how well you remembered what you had learned at each review.

Our Adaptive Spacing algorithm takes both your last recall score and score history into account. We regularly verify that our algorithm works by analyzing millions of data points that thousands of medical students have generated over the past 3 years. As you can see from the chart below, Firecracker’s Adaptive Spacing algorithm works. This chart shows the % of recall scores that we consider “mastery” (score of 4 or 5) after each review.

We think the Adaptive Spacing algorithm is the best way to schedule your review questions, but if you want to choose exactly when you will be quizzed on a particular concept again, simply select the new “Fixed Spacing” option on your new Settings page and choose the number of days (between 0 and 90) you want associated with each level of recall (1-5). We don’t recommend choosing the new fixed spacing option but we wanted to let you guys decide. :)

The main difference between the two options is that Adaptive Spacing takes your recall score history into consideration whereas Fixed Spacing does not. If you select the Adaptive Spacing option, for example, and give yourself a score of "5" the first time you answer a question on a related concept and a "5" the second time, the time between your second and third review will be longer than the time between your first and second review. We increase the spacing between reviews because your performance shows evidence of sustained mastery. But if you choose Fixed Spacing, the time between your second and third review will be identical to the time between your first and second review because your history with that concept will not be considered. In the future, we hope to combine both options and let you tap into the power of our adaptive algorithm while still being able to make adjustments as you see fit.

Remember, there are many concepts within a Topic and we will only quiz you on concepts related to Topics you have flagged.

To choose or modify these settings, click here. Alternatively, you can click on “Settings” in your account dropdown menu. If you change your settings, your current review schedule will stay the same; changes to your settings will only apply to the scheduling of new questions in the future.

In addition to the new question scheduling options above, we’ve also made a host of other improvements:

  • The order of quiz questions is now randomized so you will rarely see questions on the same Topic one after another
  • Search results now show category (e.g. Basic Sciences), subject (e.g. Biochemistry), and sub-subject (e.g. Genetics) when you hover over the Topic name
  • Correct answers are now highlighted in green when showing answers to quiz questions
  • Concepts are now ordered correctly on all Topics
  • All answer choices for multiple choice questions are now displayed correctly
  • You can now change your profile picture

We hope you enjoy these improvements! A big thank you to everyone who recommended we make these changes; we are hard at work on other improvements and look forward to an awesome 2013 with you guys! As always, let us know if you have any questions and please keep the ideas coming!

And, don’t forget that our holiday special (25% off any subscription plan you choose!) ends in 7 days on January 15th.


Ben Williams

CEO, Firecracker

Topics: Medical Education, Learning & Memory Science, New Features, Spaced Learning

Welcome to Firecracker

Firecracker is an adaptive learning platform that uses amazing content coupled with spaced repetition to help medical students crush their exams. We offer programs for both individual students, and entire medical schools. If you'd like to learn more contact us at

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