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  • Prem Sundaram

How to Study with Flashcards and Index Cards

Updated: Oct 18



Using flashcards to learn is a fantastic way to revise content. However, the first step is learning the material well. It can be time-consuming to sum up content and create a flashcard. That's why making flashcards is best done as you go. For example, you might make revision cards for large topics early on. This way, you won't have to spend time creating them close to the exams.


There are several ways to improve your learning experience with flashcards. While the most obvious one is to create clear and structured flashcards, you can also use images and spaced repetition. This method will help you make your flashcards more interesting and interactive. It is also recommended to review flashcards multiple times throughout the day.


Making your own flashcards

If you've got a subject you'd like to learn more about but don't know where to start, making your own flashcards can be an excellent way to learn the material. Flashcards can be an effective way to practice vocabulary or review a grammar rule. If you're a beginner, there are plenty of apps available that can help you create your own.


You can use programs like NoteDex, Word or even Canva to create attractive and effective flashcards. These programs offer drag-and-drop simplicity, as well as many features. You can even add photos and other visuals to your flashcards.


Focus on 1 topic at a time

Studying with flashcards is easy if you focus on one topic at a time. However, if you are studying for several classes or tests at once, it may not be effective to use flashcards to study all topics. Instead, focus on one topic at a time and devote a certain amount of time to each topic. For example, if you are studying for an exam, you may spend an hour studying for each question and then move on to the next question.

When studying with flashcards, you must be aware of what you are thinking and how you are thinking. This process is called metacognition. It involves active recall and is beneficial for memory improvement. It also promotes self-correction. This can help you master the subject matter.


To learn faster, you should only use flashcards for certain subjects. This will help you learn quickly and retain the information better. Generally, topics that contain small bits of information are best studied with flashcards. Also, avoid overloading your flashcards by studying too many topics at once. You should never try to fit an entire answer on one side of a card.


Create clear and structured flashcards

One of the best strategies for studying is creating clear and structured flashcards. Flashcards should be simple and contain only one fact or question. The idea is to break complex ideas down into smaller chunks and test each student on each one. For example, if you're studying the periodic table, create flashcards that focus on specific groups of elements and group them together in order to test student understanding.


Another great benefit of using flashcards is their ability to help you review information frequently. Regular review improves your memory and reinforces new information. Whether you're studying for an exam or simply for fun, flashcards allow you to review the material multiple times and reinforce the information with the repetition.


You should create flashcards with a clear structure and make sure they're easy to read. Once you've created your flashcards, you'll want to organize them into a card box. You can use a shoe box, or you can use a box specifically made for flashcards. Just make sure there are enough dividers for each type of flashcard. A helpful trick is to use the Leitner-algorithm to ensure you're using flashcards effectively. Use a grouping system to keep the information separate so that you don't mix up the cards and memorize them all at once.


Use spaced repetition

Spaced repetition is an effective way to study with flashcards. The principle is simple: you repeat the same information at optimal intervals so that you don't overload your memory. It requires trust and time, but can yield impressive results. This technique is effective for both learning and review purposes.


There are many benefits of using spaced repetition when studying with flashcards. It can increase the chances of memorizing information by 80% or more. The process is proven to improve learning and memory retention by enabling the brain to make better connections. It also prevents the brain from being overwhelmed with new information.


People who use this method of learning typically take a break before reviewing the same flashcards a second time. The time between reviews increases with each successful review, but decreases when a person forgets a card. The optimal algorithm requires that users forget about 10 to 15 percent of the cards they study.


Review flashcards multiple times in a day

Reviewing flashcards multiple times in a day is essential for better retention. Studies have shown that students who review information more often are more likely to retain it. This can be done by creating flashcards from notes and then examining the contents several times a day. Whether you study in a classroom or a library, you'll benefit from spaced repetition.


Spaced repetition is the most effective method of reviewing flashcards. By reviewing the same cards several times a day, you eliminate the need for cramming or rewriting notes. You can also eliminate the need to lug heavy books or papers around with you. You can also make use of flashcard apps that allow you to review them anywhere.


It's easy to forget a card if you don't review it multiple times a day. The reason behind this is that your attention span isn't as focused as it would be in the morning. You may misinterpret a question or skip it altogether. You may also become irritated, making it more difficult to concentrate.


Active and Passive Recall

Active recall is an important aspect of learning. It helps students remember a concept more quickly because they use active memory rather than passive memory, it is more interactive method. Passive memory takes longer and is less effective. It may be the best way to learn something new. However, passive memory is not always the best option.


Passive learning involves repeating a subject or idea over again without actually gaining knowledge. However, when you learn using flashcards, your brain will be actively retrieving information that you've memorized. It is not a good idea to just memorize information for exam preparation, because this will simply result in you knowing the facts rather than remembering them. Instead, you need to make your flashcards engaging and motivating for active recall.


When using active recall, you should review your notes and practice questions in a way that helps you retain the material. You can do this by making a list of short questions based on the material you're learning. When revising, go back to your notes if you don't understand a question, and use color-coding to monitor your progress.



Picture superiority effect

The picture superiority effect is based on the dual-process model of memory. The dual-process model states that both verbal and visual information are stored in the same system, but the pictures are easier to recall. The difference between the two is mainly due to the fact that pictures access different features of the semantic code.


When learning with flashcards, it is important to keep the picture superiority effect in mind. This is a theory that explains that humans remember pictures better than words. The picture superiority effect has been observed in numerous experiments. Researchers have suggested that the image superiority effect is due to the fact that the symbolic modality of presentation affects human memory. The exact mechanisms behind the effect are still being studied, but it is worth mentioning that images are better remembered than words.




Studying with a study partner or in groups

While working on flashcards can be beneficial, studying with a study partner or in a group can provide support, motivation, and a sense of community. These groups are often more productive than studying alone, and you can choose your study partners according to their strengths and weaknesses. If possible, try to choose study partners with similar strengths to your own. This will allow you to help weaker members of the group catch up. It's best to avoid inviting friends who aren't dedicated to studying.


Ideally, your study partner or group should have about two to five people. Having more than five people can become complex and time-consuming. If you're in a study group with several members, consider making flashcard games with your study partners. Divide your study partners into teams and keep a score.




Using mnemonic devices

Using mnemonic devices to learn is a great way to create neural associations that will help you remember information. This method can be used by anyone, from preschoolers to university students, as it bridges the gap between what you already know and what you want to learn. It's not a magic formula, but it will help you improve your retention.


There are many kinds of mnemonic devices that can help you learn. Some examples include short phrases, acronyms, rhymes, and pictures that can help your memory remember important information. Mnemonics have been used to help people remember important information for centuries. This can be particularly helpful for learning foreign languages like Spanish, Mandarin, German, Korean, Japanese, Italian and so on.



Good luck in your studies!

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