How to Study with Flashcards Effectively: 7 Tips for Better Memorization

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While we witness the world of learning shifting, one technique has remained a timeless favorite: flashcards. While you might think they are boring and rudimentary in a time filled with digital tools, flashcards remain a staple for many students worldwide.

They’re loved for their simplicity, portability, and adaptability. However, the efficacy of flashcards is not just about their existence but in how they are utilized. Hence, this article will discuss the top seven means to help you learn how to study with flashcards, making you memorize information better and faster.

Are Flashcards the Best Way to Study?Are Flashcards the Best Way to Study?

Flashcards are small cards with questions on one side and answers on the other side. They have been a favorite study tool for generations. In fact, 50% of college students state that they use flashcards to study.

Hence, many students swear by them and have been praised for their ability to boost retention and test performance. But does that mean that they are the best means of studying? Well, a breakdown of advantages and disadvantages will help you find out.

Advantages of Flashcards

What are flashcards used for studying? They involve writing questions, terms, or concepts on one side of a card and the corresponding answers on the other. There are many pros to utilizing them, including:

  • Active recall: Flashcards force you to recall information from scratch, strengthening memory circuits. Remembering an answer without the context of a hint or multiple-choice option.
  • Spaced repetition: When used systematically, like with the Leitner system, flashcards can be used spaced repetition. This method involves reviewing information at increasing intervals, which improves long-term retention.
  • Portability: The best thing about flashcards is that they can be carried around anywhere. This flexibility means that you can push in study sessions during moments you usually couldn’t.
  • Instant feedback: The immediate feedback you get by checking the answer side of the card can reinforce correct information and immediately correct any wrong answers you have in mind.

Disadvantages of Flashcards

Are flashcards the best way to study? Well, it is often debatable, and it widely depends on the subject you are studying. For instance, they might not be the best method to explore complex topics that require lengthy explanations and deep learning. Some cons of flashcards include:

  • Surface learning: Flashcards promote rote memorization, which can lead to surface learning only.
  • Time-consuming: To create flashcards, you need the time to write things down or type them out.
  • Limited context: Some subjects, especially interconnected topics, might not be suited to the fragmented approach of flashcards.
  • Over-reliance: Getting too used to flashcards can give learners a flash sense of security. You might be able to recognize a term on a flashcard but fail to apply the concept in a broader context.

How Do You Make Flashcards: 5 Ways

How Do You Make Flashcards: 5 Ways

The flashcard method for studying is handy when preparing for an exam, learning a new language, or exploring a new subject. However, how do you create them in the first place? This section will explore a few methods and strategies to develop effective flashcards.

Choose Your Medium

There are two main mediums you can choose between. First, there are traditional ones, usually rectangular, easy to write on and flip over. The second is through digital means. You can use platforms like Anki, Quizlet, and Cram to create and view the flashcards on your computer or mobile device.

Be Concise and Don’t Elaborate

Limit the amount of information that you put down on each card. The more concise the information, the easier it will be to commit it to memory. The best go-to choice should be writing down one concept, term, or idea per card.

Use Your Own Words

The whole point of flashcards is making them on your own from scratch. Hence, avoid copy-pasting from online resources when writing down the explanation or the answer. Your studying begins as you customize the cards, so paraphrase complex information in your own words.

Categorize and Color-Code

Group related flashcards together using different colored cards, colored markers, or digital tags. For instance, if you’re studying biology, you might use one color for genetics and another for ecology.

Add Mnemonics or Memory Aids

Mnemonic devices, rhymes, and associations can make tricky pieces of information easier to digest. For instance, to remember the order of taxonomic ranks, you might use the phrase “Dear King Philip Came Over For Good Soup,” which stands for Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species. This is one of the best tips for better memorization.

How to Use Flashcards Effectively for Studying: 7 Flashcard Study Tips

How to Use Flashcards Effectively for Studying: 7 Flashcard Study Tips

Flashcards, if used correctly, can be instrumental in active learning and long-term retention. Hence, this section will discuss the seven tips to ensure you get the most out of your flashcards during your study sessions. Read on to learn how to study flashcards effectively.

Active Recall

Active recall is one of the most effective, highest-yielding methods of studying. The concept involves trying to remember an idea from scratch rather than passively reading it.

Hence, when you face a flashcard, look at the question or statement side of the flashcard. Then, recall the answer or concept without flipping the card immediately. This process strengthens the neural pathways associated with the information you know.

Spaced Repetition

Putting some time between your study sessions or revision sessions is proven to strengthen memory. Hence, we will likely remember the information better if we study the same things a few times over a more extended period rather than cramming them in one session.

Use systems like the Leitner method, where cards are reviewed at increasing intervals. Wondering how to use Anki effectively for this purpose? It has built-in algorithms that can automatically schedule cards based on this.

Mix It Up: Interleaved Learning

Mix multiple subjects or topics in one go instead of focusing on only one topic per session. This approach can improve the ability to differentiate between different concepts. Hence, to achieve this, simultaneously shuffle your flashcards or study cards from other decks. For example, if you have separate decks for grammar and vocabulary, consider mixing them up.

Use Mnemonics and Memory Aids

Mnemonic devices are techniques or tools used to help remember information. Research shows that it has potent and enduring effects on your memory. Hence, consider incorporating rhymes, stories, or associations in your flashcards. For instance, create a silly sentence that allows you to remember a challenging term.

Group Study and Peer Testing

Working with a group allows you to explain concepts to others to reinforce understanding. Moreover, testing your peers can introduce variability in the learning process. Hence, get together with people from your class and mix things up.

Speak It Out Loud

Instead of simply looking at the cards, read them out loud. Engaging more than one sense can reinforce memory. Hence, read flashcards aloud or even try explaining the concept to yourself in your own words.

Stay On the Move While Studying

This might be an odd study tip, but physical activity stimulates brain function. Hence, while reviewing your flashcards, consider walking around the room. Alternatively, take short physical breaks like stretching between sets of cards.

What Can Flashcards Can and Can’t Do?

What Can Flashcards Can and Can’t Do?

Understanding the flashcard study tips listed above requires knowing what flashcards can and cannot do. This allows you to remain in check and keep your expectations realistic.

So, what can flashcards do? They can:

  • Facilitate active recall: It encourages you to dig deep and retrieve the answer from memory.
  • Offer flexibility: It can be used for virtually any subject and adapted to fit various learning styles.
  • Boost memorization: Flashcards are particularly effective for rote memorization.
  • Enhance engagement: Creating flashcards from scratch can be a valuable part of the learning process.
  • Allow for self-assessment: They allow you to gauge your understanding of a topic quickly.

What about the things flashcards cannot do? They can’t:

  • Replace comprehensive understanding: They can only simplify intricate topics but not dive deep into them.
  • Teach skills. They’re ineffective when it comes to lab techniques or musical instruments.
  • Encourage connection between ideas: They don’t show the relationship between those ideas.
  • Automatically ensure retention: Just going through the motions does not guarantee retention.
  • Replace diverse study methods: Relying only on flashcards can lead to a narrow study approach.

Wrapping Things Up: How to Study with Flashcards?

So, we explored how to study with flashcards effectively throughout this article. We dived into everything you need to know, from how to create the ultimate flashcards to the study methods you should utilize. Having flashcards does not guarantee the retention of information. Instead, how you utilize it makes all the difference.

In conclusion, while flashcards remain a formidable tool in the learning toolbox, their true power is unlocked when used adequately, tailored to one’s unique learning needs, and complemented by other study methods. As with many things in life, it’s not just about the tool but how you wield it.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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