Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 109-128

First online:

Long-term retention of basic science knowledge: a review study

  • Eugène J. F. M. CustersAffiliated withUniversity Medical Center Utrecht, School of Medical Sciences, Center of Research and Development of EducationUniversiteitsweg 98 Email author 

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In this paper, a review of long-term retention of basic science knowledge is presented. First, it is argued that retention of this knowledge has been a long-standing problem in medical education. Next, three types of studies are described that are employed in the literature to investigate long-term retention of knowledge in general. Subsequently, first the results of retention studies in general education are presented, followed by those of studies of basic science knowledge in medical education. The results of the review, in the general educational domain as well as in medical education, suggest that approximately two-third to three-fourth of knowledge will be retained after one year, with a further decrease to slightly below fifty percent in the next year. Finally, some recommendations are made for instructional strategies in curricula to improve long term retention of the subject matter dealt with.


Basic science knowledge Long term retention Review study