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How to learn everything without cramming: the flashcard method
How to learn everything without cramming: the flashcard method

A proven way to remember new information seriously and for a long time.

How to learn everything without cramming: the flashcard method
How to learn everything without cramming: the flashcard method

Dull cramming doesn't work. Even when you have to learn a lot of new information. Master the method of flash cards, and then you don't have to open a textbook for exams with the feeling that everything is forgotten.

What are flash cards

Flashcards are a way to memorize information. A system familiar to many from school, which is most often used to memorize words in a foreign language or dates in history.

A card is an ordinary piece of paper, cardboard or an electronic picture with two working sides. On one - a word, definition, term or some kind of phenomenon. On the other - an explanation to it, a translation or a brief essence.

Card method: two working sides
Card method: two working sides

Cards, especially when used on a regular basis, help to securely pack information into long-term memory.

Why it works

When we read a synopsis or listen to a lecture, we passively consume information: some part of the knowledge is stored in memory, and some fly out of the head. In order to better remember the information, and most importantly, to get it out of the "palaces of memory" in time, you need to connect active memorization, as when answering a question.

When we collect the answer ourselves and generate it, the brain works more actively. Therefore, everything that we said and presented is remembered better than what we just saw and heard.

This principle is at the heart of flashcard learning. We see a question - one side of the card with an unfamiliar word or definition. After that, we try to find the answer on our own and, if we didn't manage, we open the other side and check ourselves. In fact, each viewing of a stack of cards is a small personal exam, a test of knowledge. During this test, information is assimilated better than with simple reading.

Another argument in favor of cards: they are easy to repeat material with. No need to carry textbooks and synopses with you, no need to turn the pages for hours. The technique helps to organize information and refresh it in memory in small portions at a convenient time.

Even the preparation of the cards itself contributes to the assimilation of knowledge, especially if they are made not in electronic form, but by hand - this makes it easier to memorize.

How to make a good card

There are three options:

  • By hand, when everything is written and pasted on its own.
  • With the help of familiar text and graphic editors like MS Word or Power Point - then the cards will only have to be printed.
  • With the help of services and applications (we will talk about them below).

Not all learning flashcards are created equal. Simple white pieces of paper with monotonous black letters on both sides are boring and hard to remember. Therefore, create cards according to the rules.

Make short cards

One phenomenon - one element. It can be a single word or a dictionary definition. Making a card with a whole list of exclusion words is ineffective: it's like looking at the same list in a synopsis. It is better to do it separately for each word and combine them into a series of "Exceptions". And do not try to fit a chapter from a textbook on one piece of paper - choose the main thoughts.

Write clearly

Often the brain "stumbles" and cannot remember information, because it is too difficult to present: with abstruse words or furious speech turns. They should not be in the card - convey only the essence of the phenomenon. And if in the definition or description it is impossible to do without a complex word, make a separate card for it.

Use colors and highlights

For example, underline key words in definitions. Or mark the parts of speech in words with different colors, if necessary. Try to make the card visual and interesting.

Add context to definitions

Remembering the material is not enough - you still need to be able to correctly apply what has been stored in your memory. To learn not just to cram information, but to use it, add context to the defining side of the card. For example, a sentence that contains a word in a foreign language, or a topic that needs a definition. Just don't overdo it. Remember to keep the card simple first and foremost. If the context complicates things, throw it away.

Use images

It's just that words are remembered worse than those next to which there is an image. Add pictures to each card using the association method. It is more convenient to do this in special programs. But if you stick a picture with your own hands or draw a diagram, then remember the material much better.

The card method: use images
The card method: use images

How to work with cards

When the first block of cards is ready, it's time to start working with them, that is, to constant repetition.

Repeat before bed

Sleep is important for memorization: it is in the phase of slow sleep that everything we have learned during the day is built into long-term memory. Therefore, if you practice repetition before bed, the chances of success are higher.

Speak the answers out loud

This will help you remember the information better, as it uses your auditory memory. And for learning foreign words, this is absolutely necessary, otherwise you will read well in a foreign language, but you will never learn to speak.

Make a recurrence schedule

To avoid repeating over and over what you've already learned and focusing on flashcards that are difficult to remember, use the Leitman repetition system. To do this, all elements are divided into three groups (as many as possible):

  1. Those that the student knows poorly.
  2. Those that the student knows satisfactorily.
  3. Those that the student knows well.

Each group of cards needs its own box. Box # 1 (with unfamiliar cards) needs to be viewed every day, box # 2 twice a week, box # 3 once a week.

The cards will gradually move between the boxes. Learned something - put it in box number 3. Forgotten - returned it to box number 2.

The more often you use the cards, the better the data will be remembered. The most difficult thing in the method is to force yourself to fill up the card index on time.

The good news is that you don't have to print and cut everything - the electronic version will do as well. For this, there are special programs that also help to plan classes and track progress.

What services for working with flash cards exist


Card Method: Quizlet
Card Method: Quizlet

Platform:web, iOS, Android

Price:$ 19.99 / year, there is free access with a minimum of features.

Nice looking service in Russian, where you can create your own training modules and share them with other students. It is possible to design cards using pictures only in the paid version.

The mnemosyne project

Card Method: The Mnemosyne Project
Card Method: The Mnemosyne Project

Platforms:Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Android

Price: is free.

Free software for creating cards with a small library of ready-made options. Suitable for those who decided to take training seriously: grouping by sections and even calculating statistics are available. You have to dig into the controls and get used to the outdated design, but it's worth it.


Card Method: Anki
Card Method: Anki

One of the most famous card builders with great possibilities. The program is one of the first dedicated to this topic, and it looks accordingly. But on the other hand, you can add sound and video to the elements in it, and it sends reminders to different devices.

Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Android

Price: is free.


Card Method: Opencards
Card Method: Opencards

A service in which the construction algorithm is based on the information forgetting curve. It creates cards in the same way as Power Point slides, so it's easy to master.

Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Android

Price: is free.


Card Method: Supermemo
Card Method: Supermemo

A service that supports work on mobile devices. Creates simple cards with images and audio files. In the paid version, ready-made courses for learning foreign languages are available.

Platforms: web, Windows, iOS, Android

Price: free version to create your own courses, premium subscription for 9.90 euros per month to use all ready-made courses, subscription for one course - 19.00 euros.

SuperMemo - Effective Language Learning Courses SuperMemo World sp. z o.o.

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