How Long to Spend on Each Firecracker Question

Posted by Keith Frankel on Dec 9, 2015 7:37:10 PM
Find me on:

This is actually a question we hear quite frequently: How long should I be spending on each question? There seems to be a fair degree of difference from student to student, many of whom have settled into their number simply out of routine. So allow me to clarify a bit:

The highest performing Firecracker students answer 3-5 questions each minute.

Seem fast? Well that’s because it’s supposed to be… to a certain extent. You see, truly mastering all of the content necessary to score well on your board exams is a marathon, not a sprint. This is why we promote long-term studying versus cramming only during dedicated prep. However, because of the way in which spaced repetition works (one of the fundamental memory science principles on which Firecracker is built), moving briskly through your questions each day is actually preferable to spending minutes at a time on each individual question.

This is because investing 5 minutes on each question (hell, even 30 minutes) has been proven to be less effective at ensuring you’ve mastered the content than just spending a quick 20 seconds on each question, so long as you see each one of those questions several more times over the coming months. This is exactly what the Firecracker recommendation was designed to do, i.e. show you your highest priority questions each day, and based on your performance on those, reprioritize each individual question so that it is seen again at precisely the right moment.

To summarize: Although it feels correct to spend a good portion of time really scrutinizing each question, this is actually detrimental to both your long-term mastery and study efficiency over time. It is best to move through your daily questions at a brisk pace, rate the questions you’re unsure about as either 1 or 2, and just keep it moving. We provide you with access to the full topic summary associated with each question during your review session, but we caution against spending time reading all of that material. If you would like to commit time outside of your review sessions to re-reading those topic summaries, you absolutely should, but not at the risk of not completing your daily review tasks.

If you're a Firecracker member - do today's questions. If you're not a member, join for free.

Topics: Spaced Learning, How to Use Firecracker

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

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts