Alejandro Merino

Dec 15, 2023

Improve the Way You Learn with these 2 Proven Methods Using Anki

Alejandro Merino

Dec 15, 2023

Improve the Way You Learn with these 2 Proven Methods Using Anki

Alejandro Merino

Dec 15, 2023

Improve the Way You Learn with these 2 Proven Methods Using Anki

Alejandro Merino

Dec 15, 2023

Improve the Way You Learn with these 2 Proven Methods Using Anki

Alejandro Merino

Dec 15, 2023

Improve the Way You Learn with these 2 Proven Methods Using Anki

Improve the Way You Learn with these 2 Proven Methods Using Anki

Back in school, most of us used to study by opening the book and rereading a chapter, revising our notes taken in lectures or highlighting big chunks of text. However, a 2013 study has proven these techniques to be ineffective, and instead supports learning by testing yourself as an effective solution.

Two of the most rewarding methods to achieve this are spaced repetition and active recall. In this post, I will be covering how they work and how you can apply them to enhance your learning.

What is Spaced Repetition?

In the late 19th century, a German scientist called Hermann Ebbinghaus conducted the experiment of memorizing thousands of nonsense words, and found out that we forget most of what we learn in the first 24 hours.

The way to slow down this process of memory decay is to revisit the information frequently after we first come across it. We can do this at increasing intervals, since memory decay starts becoming less pronounced as time passes and we recall the material (as shown in the graph). Being persistent is key to store information in our brain with 100% accuracy.

We already know this intuitively, since repeating stuff will only aid our memory. Trying to memorize this article with a single reading, for example, is not going to yield any results.

What is Active Recall?

In some sort of weird twist, forgetting and learning are inextricably linked: Just as we are about to pass that threshold of forgetting something is the best point at which we can review information to reinforce our memory.

To put it another way, our brain is like a muscle in this sense. When we go to the gym, we don’t lift weights that don’t require us any effort, nor do we try lifting an overwhelming amount of weight. There is a sweet spot that’s just right in-between. The same goes for our memory. There is no learning without pain, achieved here through mental labor.

This means that the very act of straining to remember a word, fact or name is the way our brain stores this information in our brain. So don’t worry if you struggle to recall stuff while doing this—this is part of our learning process.

Now, let’s look at how we can put all of this principles into practice. Flashcards and spaced repetition software are the most common options.

Anki

Although there are many alternatives out there, like Quizlet or SuperMemo, we will focus here on one: Anki.

The main reasons for this are:

  • It is free

  • It has an inbuilt system that schedules repetition for you

  • It is very easy to create flashcards in it

  • It has a very active community of people sharing their decks

  • You can use it on your phone or your computer, regardless of platform

You can use it to learn a language, music chords, capital cities, study for an exam, and pretty much anything else you want!

How Does Anki Work?

First off, you have to download Anki on your computer or smartphone, like any other app.

For iOS, the AnkiMobile Flashcards is the only official app, which does come at a price, however, you can always use AnkiWeb on any browser for free. For Android, AnkiDroid is a free option.

After it is installed, you will be asked to create an account. Once that’s done, you’ll see a blank screen—which will soon be full of content!

Creating Your Flashcards

To create flashcards, you need to create a deck to organize them in first. Decks order flashcards by subject, such as “Capital Cities”.

You can do this by clicking on the “Create Deck” button and adding a name.

An “Add” button allows you to create a new flashcard, which will bring up a new window. It will provide some formatting buttons and other options, but for now, you can just type “Capital city of France” to the Front field and “Paris” to the Back.

Click the “Add” button again. It might seem as if nothing happened, but if you close the newest window, you will see that your deck has a new card. Congratulations, you’ve created your first flashcard!

Studying with Your Flashcards

You’ll see two columns right next to your new deck. The number of “New” will show the amount of new flashcards that have been added to your deck—in this case, 1. “Due” flashcards are the ones that you’ve studied before and are due to study today.

Clicking on the deck’s name will show a “Study Now” button. This button reveals the first flashcard. Guess your answer and you can click on “Show Answer”.

If you guessed wrong, don’t worry! In fact, this is part of the learning process where Active Recall comes in, and the fact that you struggled to come up with the answer will store this information eventually in your brain.

You can rate how easy or difficult it was to answer with four buttons. This is where the spaced repetition intervals come in!

  • Again: If you couldn’t remember, this will show the flashcard again in a few minutes.

  • Hard: If you had a hard time remembering the answer.

  • Good: Otherwise, you can click on “Good”. Since “Easy” would mean you already know the answer, there is no point in using it and you can just remove the card from taking up space in your deck.

The Art of Making Flashcards

The biggest challenge to study flashcards comes at the stage of creating them. How quickly you learn depends on the way you formulate the material. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is to cram a bunch of information into one flashcard in the spirit of wanting to provide the most context and learn as much things as possible in one go.

Following Supermemo’s Twenty Rules of Formulating Knowledge, we can sum up the most important guidelines:

  1. Stick to the minimum information principle - most importantly, formulate knowledge as simple as you can. A verbose flashcard can be split up into many smaller ones containing a single piece of information that are much easier in the longer run to learn. Trust me, you’ll start forgetting big flashcards and see no benefit the more stuff you add into them. Analysis shows that the human mind can at most only cope with 4 items at a time before confusion sets in.

  2. Understand before memorizing - it is important to build an overall picture of what it is we are trying to learn before memorizing a bunch of unconnected facts.

  3. Prioritize the most important details - even memorizing obvious basic things is not a waste of time. Don’t include secondary details that will not add up to the essential understanding.

Add context - images (maps, anatomy), sounds (pronunciation) and personal details (funny facts or mnemonics) make information stick so much better because you are providing memorable aids and extra stimuli so that the brain engages all of its functions (visual, auditory, etc.)

Example of an ill-formulated flashcard.

The same flashcard could be split into multiple smaller items, each one asking for an individual fact per card. Note the added context with the map.

Unlock the Full Power of Anki

Anki is a very powerful software, yet it comes with a steep learning curve. There are more advanced features that weren’t covered here for the sake of brevity, but you can still improve upon your flashcards by editing them, using other types of flashcards, downloading add-ons, and more!

One add-on that will help you track your progress and stay motivated is the Review Heatmap which visualizes your learning activity throughout the year.

Review Heatmap add-on for Anki

You can always keep all of the platforms you use Anki in synchronized by pressing the “Sync” button on top.

Furthermore, clicking on the button “Get Shared” on bottom of the homepage will open up a website where you can search through tons of decks shared by other people! You can also contribute by sharing your own to the world.

Lastly, if you want to dive deep into Anki, I recommend the following resources:

Conclusion

Taking advantage of how your mind works by using evidence-based techniques can make your learning much more effective. All you need is forming a habit of studying flashcards. Software like Anki will help you make a schedule. You will then be able to apply what you’ve learned.

Further reading

Improve the Way You Learn with these 2 Proven Methods Using Anki

Back in school, most of us used to study by opening the book and rereading a chapter, revising our notes taken in lectures or highlighting big chunks of text. However, a 2013 study has proven these techniques to be ineffective, and instead supports learning by testing yourself as an effective solution.

Two of the most rewarding methods to achieve this are spaced repetition and active recall. In this post, I will be covering how they work and how you can apply them to enhance your learning.

What is Spaced Repetition?

In the late 19th century, a German scientist called Hermann Ebbinghaus conducted the experiment of memorizing thousands of nonsense words, and found out that we forget most of what we learn in the first 24 hours.

The way to slow down this process of memory decay is to revisit the information frequently after we first come across it. We can do this at increasing intervals, since memory decay starts becoming less pronounced as time passes and we recall the material (as shown in the graph). Being persistent is key to store information in our brain with 100% accuracy.

We already know this intuitively, since repeating stuff will only aid our memory. Trying to memorize this article with a single reading, for example, is not going to yield any results.

What is Active Recall?

In some sort of weird twist, forgetting and learning are inextricably linked: Just as we are about to pass that threshold of forgetting something is the best point at which we can review information to reinforce our memory.

To put it another way, our brain is like a muscle in this sense. When we go to the gym, we don’t lift weights that don’t require us any effort, nor do we try lifting an overwhelming amount of weight. There is a sweet spot that’s just right in-between. The same goes for our memory. There is no learning without pain, achieved here through mental labor.

This means that the very act of straining to remember a word, fact or name is the way our brain stores this information in our brain. So don’t worry if you struggle to recall stuff while doing this—this is part of our learning process.

Now, let’s look at how we can put all of this principles into practice. Flashcards and spaced repetition software are the most common options.

Anki

Although there are many alternatives out there, like Quizlet or SuperMemo, we will focus here on one: Anki.

The main reasons for this are:

  • It is free

  • It has an inbuilt system that schedules repetition for you

  • It is very easy to create flashcards in it

  • It has a very active community of people sharing their decks

  • You can use it on your phone or your computer, regardless of platform

You can use it to learn a language, music chords, capital cities, study for an exam, and pretty much anything else you want!

How Does Anki Work?

First off, you have to download Anki on your computer or smartphone, like any other app.

For iOS, the AnkiMobile Flashcards is the only official app, which does come at a price, however, you can always use AnkiWeb on any browser for free. For Android, AnkiDroid is a free option.

After it is installed, you will be asked to create an account. Once that’s done, you’ll see a blank screen—which will soon be full of content!

Creating Your Flashcards

To create flashcards, you need to create a deck to organize them in first. Decks order flashcards by subject, such as “Capital Cities”.

You can do this by clicking on the “Create Deck” button and adding a name.

An “Add” button allows you to create a new flashcard, which will bring up a new window. It will provide some formatting buttons and other options, but for now, you can just type “Capital city of France” to the Front field and “Paris” to the Back.

Click the “Add” button again. It might seem as if nothing happened, but if you close the newest window, you will see that your deck has a new card. Congratulations, you’ve created your first flashcard!

Studying with Your Flashcards

You’ll see two columns right next to your new deck. The number of “New” will show the amount of new flashcards that have been added to your deck—in this case, 1. “Due” flashcards are the ones that you’ve studied before and are due to study today.

Clicking on the deck’s name will show a “Study Now” button. This button reveals the first flashcard. Guess your answer and you can click on “Show Answer”.

If you guessed wrong, don’t worry! In fact, this is part of the learning process where Active Recall comes in, and the fact that you struggled to come up with the answer will store this information eventually in your brain.

You can rate how easy or difficult it was to answer with four buttons. This is where the spaced repetition intervals come in!

  • Again: If you couldn’t remember, this will show the flashcard again in a few minutes.

  • Hard: If you had a hard time remembering the answer.

  • Good: Otherwise, you can click on “Good”. Since “Easy” would mean you already know the answer, there is no point in using it and you can just remove the card from taking up space in your deck.

The Art of Making Flashcards

The biggest challenge to study flashcards comes at the stage of creating them. How quickly you learn depends on the way you formulate the material. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is to cram a bunch of information into one flashcard in the spirit of wanting to provide the most context and learn as much things as possible in one go.

Following Supermemo’s Twenty Rules of Formulating Knowledge, we can sum up the most important guidelines:

  1. Stick to the minimum information principle - most importantly, formulate knowledge as simple as you can. A verbose flashcard can be split up into many smaller ones containing a single piece of information that are much easier in the longer run to learn. Trust me, you’ll start forgetting big flashcards and see no benefit the more stuff you add into them. Analysis shows that the human mind can at most only cope with 4 items at a time before confusion sets in.

  2. Understand before memorizing - it is important to build an overall picture of what it is we are trying to learn before memorizing a bunch of unconnected facts.

  3. Prioritize the most important details - even memorizing obvious basic things is not a waste of time. Don’t include secondary details that will not add up to the essential understanding.

Add context - images (maps, anatomy), sounds (pronunciation) and personal details (funny facts or mnemonics) make information stick so much better because you are providing memorable aids and extra stimuli so that the brain engages all of its functions (visual, auditory, etc.)

Example of an ill-formulated flashcard.

The same flashcard could be split into multiple smaller items, each one asking for an individual fact per card. Note the added context with the map.

Unlock the Full Power of Anki

Anki is a very powerful software, yet it comes with a steep learning curve. There are more advanced features that weren’t covered here for the sake of brevity, but you can still improve upon your flashcards by editing them, using other types of flashcards, downloading add-ons, and more!

One add-on that will help you track your progress and stay motivated is the Review Heatmap which visualizes your learning activity throughout the year.

Review Heatmap add-on for Anki

You can always keep all of the platforms you use Anki in synchronized by pressing the “Sync” button on top.

Furthermore, clicking on the button “Get Shared” on bottom of the homepage will open up a website where you can search through tons of decks shared by other people! You can also contribute by sharing your own to the world.

Lastly, if you want to dive deep into Anki, I recommend the following resources:

Conclusion

Taking advantage of how your mind works by using evidence-based techniques can make your learning much more effective. All you need is forming a habit of studying flashcards. Software like Anki will help you make a schedule. You will then be able to apply what you’ve learned.

Further reading

Improve the Way You Learn with these 2 Proven Methods Using Anki

Back in school, most of us used to study by opening the book and rereading a chapter, revising our notes taken in lectures or highlighting big chunks of text. However, a 2013 study has proven these techniques to be ineffective, and instead supports learning by testing yourself as an effective solution.

Two of the most rewarding methods to achieve this are spaced repetition and active recall. In this post, I will be covering how they work and how you can apply them to enhance your learning.

What is Spaced Repetition?

In the late 19th century, a German scientist called Hermann Ebbinghaus conducted the experiment of memorizing thousands of nonsense words, and found out that we forget most of what we learn in the first 24 hours.

The way to slow down this process of memory decay is to revisit the information frequently after we first come across it. We can do this at increasing intervals, since memory decay starts becoming less pronounced as time passes and we recall the material (as shown in the graph). Being persistent is key to store information in our brain with 100% accuracy.

We already know this intuitively, since repeating stuff will only aid our memory. Trying to memorize this article with a single reading, for example, is not going to yield any results.

What is Active Recall?

In some sort of weird twist, forgetting and learning are inextricably linked: Just as we are about to pass that threshold of forgetting something is the best point at which we can review information to reinforce our memory.

To put it another way, our brain is like a muscle in this sense. When we go to the gym, we don’t lift weights that don’t require us any effort, nor do we try lifting an overwhelming amount of weight. There is a sweet spot that’s just right in-between. The same goes for our memory. There is no learning without pain, achieved here through mental labor.

This means that the very act of straining to remember a word, fact or name is the way our brain stores this information in our brain. So don’t worry if you struggle to recall stuff while doing this—this is part of our learning process.

Now, let’s look at how we can put all of this principles into practice. Flashcards and spaced repetition software are the most common options.

Anki

Although there are many alternatives out there, like Quizlet or SuperMemo, we will focus here on one: Anki.

The main reasons for this are:

  • It is free

  • It has an inbuilt system that schedules repetition for you

  • It is very easy to create flashcards in it

  • It has a very active community of people sharing their decks

  • You can use it on your phone or your computer, regardless of platform

You can use it to learn a language, music chords, capital cities, study for an exam, and pretty much anything else you want!

How Does Anki Work?

First off, you have to download Anki on your computer or smartphone, like any other app.

For iOS, the AnkiMobile Flashcards is the only official app, which does come at a price, however, you can always use AnkiWeb on any browser for free. For Android, AnkiDroid is a free option.

After it is installed, you will be asked to create an account. Once that’s done, you’ll see a blank screen—which will soon be full of content!

Creating Your Flashcards

To create flashcards, you need to create a deck to organize them in first. Decks order flashcards by subject, such as “Capital Cities”.

You can do this by clicking on the “Create Deck” button and adding a name.

An “Add” button allows you to create a new flashcard, which will bring up a new window. It will provide some formatting buttons and other options, but for now, you can just type “Capital city of France” to the Front field and “Paris” to the Back.

Click the “Add” button again. It might seem as if nothing happened, but if you close the newest window, you will see that your deck has a new card. Congratulations, you’ve created your first flashcard!

Studying with Your Flashcards

You’ll see two columns right next to your new deck. The number of “New” will show the amount of new flashcards that have been added to your deck—in this case, 1. “Due” flashcards are the ones that you’ve studied before and are due to study today.

Clicking on the deck’s name will show a “Study Now” button. This button reveals the first flashcard. Guess your answer and you can click on “Show Answer”.

If you guessed wrong, don’t worry! In fact, this is part of the learning process where Active Recall comes in, and the fact that you struggled to come up with the answer will store this information eventually in your brain.

You can rate how easy or difficult it was to answer with four buttons. This is where the spaced repetition intervals come in!

  • Again: If you couldn’t remember, this will show the flashcard again in a few minutes.

  • Hard: If you had a hard time remembering the answer.

  • Good: Otherwise, you can click on “Good”. Since “Easy” would mean you already know the answer, there is no point in using it and you can just remove the card from taking up space in your deck.

The Art of Making Flashcards

The biggest challenge to study flashcards comes at the stage of creating them. How quickly you learn depends on the way you formulate the material. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is to cram a bunch of information into one flashcard in the spirit of wanting to provide the most context and learn as much things as possible in one go.

Following Supermemo’s Twenty Rules of Formulating Knowledge, we can sum up the most important guidelines:

  1. Stick to the minimum information principle - most importantly, formulate knowledge as simple as you can. A verbose flashcard can be split up into many smaller ones containing a single piece of information that are much easier in the longer run to learn. Trust me, you’ll start forgetting big flashcards and see no benefit the more stuff you add into them. Analysis shows that the human mind can at most only cope with 4 items at a time before confusion sets in.

  2. Understand before memorizing - it is important to build an overall picture of what it is we are trying to learn before memorizing a bunch of unconnected facts.

  3. Prioritize the most important details - even memorizing obvious basic things is not a waste of time. Don’t include secondary details that will not add up to the essential understanding.

Add context - images (maps, anatomy), sounds (pronunciation) and personal details (funny facts or mnemonics) make information stick so much better because you are providing memorable aids and extra stimuli so that the brain engages all of its functions (visual, auditory, etc.)

Example of an ill-formulated flashcard.

The same flashcard could be split into multiple smaller items, each one asking for an individual fact per card. Note the added context with the map.

Unlock the Full Power of Anki

Anki is a very powerful software, yet it comes with a steep learning curve. There are more advanced features that weren’t covered here for the sake of brevity, but you can still improve upon your flashcards by editing them, using other types of flashcards, downloading add-ons, and more!

One add-on that will help you track your progress and stay motivated is the Review Heatmap which visualizes your learning activity throughout the year.

Review Heatmap add-on for Anki

You can always keep all of the platforms you use Anki in synchronized by pressing the “Sync” button on top.

Furthermore, clicking on the button “Get Shared” on bottom of the homepage will open up a website where you can search through tons of decks shared by other people! You can also contribute by sharing your own to the world.

Lastly, if you want to dive deep into Anki, I recommend the following resources:

Conclusion

Taking advantage of how your mind works by using evidence-based techniques can make your learning much more effective. All you need is forming a habit of studying flashcards. Software like Anki will help you make a schedule. You will then be able to apply what you’ve learned.

Further reading

Improve the Way You Learn with these 2 Proven Methods Using Anki

Back in school, most of us used to study by opening the book and rereading a chapter, revising our notes taken in lectures or highlighting big chunks of text. However, a 2013 study has proven these techniques to be ineffective, and instead supports learning by testing yourself as an effective solution.

Two of the most rewarding methods to achieve this are spaced repetition and active recall. In this post, I will be covering how they work and how you can apply them to enhance your learning.

What is Spaced Repetition?

In the late 19th century, a German scientist called Hermann Ebbinghaus conducted the experiment of memorizing thousands of nonsense words, and found out that we forget most of what we learn in the first 24 hours.

The way to slow down this process of memory decay is to revisit the information frequently after we first come across it. We can do this at increasing intervals, since memory decay starts becoming less pronounced as time passes and we recall the material (as shown in the graph). Being persistent is key to store information in our brain with 100% accuracy.

We already know this intuitively, since repeating stuff will only aid our memory. Trying to memorize this article with a single reading, for example, is not going to yield any results.

What is Active Recall?

In some sort of weird twist, forgetting and learning are inextricably linked: Just as we are about to pass that threshold of forgetting something is the best point at which we can review information to reinforce our memory.

To put it another way, our brain is like a muscle in this sense. When we go to the gym, we don’t lift weights that don’t require us any effort, nor do we try lifting an overwhelming amount of weight. There is a sweet spot that’s just right in-between. The same goes for our memory. There is no learning without pain, achieved here through mental labor.

This means that the very act of straining to remember a word, fact or name is the way our brain stores this information in our brain. So don’t worry if you struggle to recall stuff while doing this—this is part of our learning process.

Now, let’s look at how we can put all of this principles into practice. Flashcards and spaced repetition software are the most common options.

Anki

Although there are many alternatives out there, like Quizlet or SuperMemo, we will focus here on one: Anki.

The main reasons for this are:

  • It is free

  • It has an inbuilt system that schedules repetition for you

  • It is very easy to create flashcards in it

  • It has a very active community of people sharing their decks

  • You can use it on your phone or your computer, regardless of platform

You can use it to learn a language, music chords, capital cities, study for an exam, and pretty much anything else you want!

How Does Anki Work?

First off, you have to download Anki on your computer or smartphone, like any other app.

For iOS, the AnkiMobile Flashcards is the only official app, which does come at a price, however, you can always use AnkiWeb on any browser for free. For Android, AnkiDroid is a free option.

After it is installed, you will be asked to create an account. Once that’s done, you’ll see a blank screen—which will soon be full of content!

Creating Your Flashcards

To create flashcards, you need to create a deck to organize them in first. Decks order flashcards by subject, such as “Capital Cities”.

You can do this by clicking on the “Create Deck” button and adding a name.

An “Add” button allows you to create a new flashcard, which will bring up a new window. It will provide some formatting buttons and other options, but for now, you can just type “Capital city of France” to the Front field and “Paris” to the Back.

Click the “Add” button again. It might seem as if nothing happened, but if you close the newest window, you will see that your deck has a new card. Congratulations, you’ve created your first flashcard!

Studying with Your Flashcards

You’ll see two columns right next to your new deck. The number of “New” will show the amount of new flashcards that have been added to your deck—in this case, 1. “Due” flashcards are the ones that you’ve studied before and are due to study today.

Clicking on the deck’s name will show a “Study Now” button. This button reveals the first flashcard. Guess your answer and you can click on “Show Answer”.

If you guessed wrong, don’t worry! In fact, this is part of the learning process where Active Recall comes in, and the fact that you struggled to come up with the answer will store this information eventually in your brain.

You can rate how easy or difficult it was to answer with four buttons. This is where the spaced repetition intervals come in!

  • Again: If you couldn’t remember, this will show the flashcard again in a few minutes.

  • Hard: If you had a hard time remembering the answer.

  • Good: Otherwise, you can click on “Good”. Since “Easy” would mean you already know the answer, there is no point in using it and you can just remove the card from taking up space in your deck.

The Art of Making Flashcards

The biggest challenge to study flashcards comes at the stage of creating them. How quickly you learn depends on the way you formulate the material. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is to cram a bunch of information into one flashcard in the spirit of wanting to provide the most context and learn as much things as possible in one go.

Following Supermemo’s Twenty Rules of Formulating Knowledge, we can sum up the most important guidelines:

  1. Stick to the minimum information principle - most importantly, formulate knowledge as simple as you can. A verbose flashcard can be split up into many smaller ones containing a single piece of information that are much easier in the longer run to learn. Trust me, you’ll start forgetting big flashcards and see no benefit the more stuff you add into them. Analysis shows that the human mind can at most only cope with 4 items at a time before confusion sets in.

  2. Understand before memorizing - it is important to build an overall picture of what it is we are trying to learn before memorizing a bunch of unconnected facts.

  3. Prioritize the most important details - even memorizing obvious basic things is not a waste of time. Don’t include secondary details that will not add up to the essential understanding.

Add context - images (maps, anatomy), sounds (pronunciation) and personal details (funny facts or mnemonics) make information stick so much better because you are providing memorable aids and extra stimuli so that the brain engages all of its functions (visual, auditory, etc.)

Example of an ill-formulated flashcard.

The same flashcard could be split into multiple smaller items, each one asking for an individual fact per card. Note the added context with the map.

Unlock the Full Power of Anki

Anki is a very powerful software, yet it comes with a steep learning curve. There are more advanced features that weren’t covered here for the sake of brevity, but you can still improve upon your flashcards by editing them, using other types of flashcards, downloading add-ons, and more!

One add-on that will help you track your progress and stay motivated is the Review Heatmap which visualizes your learning activity throughout the year.

Review Heatmap add-on for Anki

You can always keep all of the platforms you use Anki in synchronized by pressing the “Sync” button on top.

Furthermore, clicking on the button “Get Shared” on bottom of the homepage will open up a website where you can search through tons of decks shared by other people! You can also contribute by sharing your own to the world.

Lastly, if you want to dive deep into Anki, I recommend the following resources:

Conclusion

Taking advantage of how your mind works by using evidence-based techniques can make your learning much more effective. All you need is forming a habit of studying flashcards. Software like Anki will help you make a schedule. You will then be able to apply what you’ve learned.

Further reading

Improve the Way You Learn with these 2 Proven Methods Using Anki

Back in school, most of us used to study by opening the book and rereading a chapter, revising our notes taken in lectures or highlighting big chunks of text. However, a 2013 study has proven these techniques to be ineffective, and instead supports learning by testing yourself as an effective solution.

Two of the most rewarding methods to achieve this are spaced repetition and active recall. In this post, I will be covering how they work and how you can apply them to enhance your learning.

What is Spaced Repetition?

In the late 19th century, a German scientist called Hermann Ebbinghaus conducted the experiment of memorizing thousands of nonsense words, and found out that we forget most of what we learn in the first 24 hours.

The way to slow down this process of memory decay is to revisit the information frequently after we first come across it. We can do this at increasing intervals, since memory decay starts becoming less pronounced as time passes and we recall the material (as shown in the graph). Being persistent is key to store information in our brain with 100% accuracy.

We already know this intuitively, since repeating stuff will only aid our memory. Trying to memorize this article with a single reading, for example, is not going to yield any results.

What is Active Recall?

In some sort of weird twist, forgetting and learning are inextricably linked: Just as we are about to pass that threshold of forgetting something is the best point at which we can review information to reinforce our memory.

To put it another way, our brain is like a muscle in this sense. When we go to the gym, we don’t lift weights that don’t require us any effort, nor do we try lifting an overwhelming amount of weight. There is a sweet spot that’s just right in-between. The same goes for our memory. There is no learning without pain, achieved here through mental labor.

This means that the very act of straining to remember a word, fact or name is the way our brain stores this information in our brain. So don’t worry if you struggle to recall stuff while doing this—this is part of our learning process.

Now, let’s look at how we can put all of this principles into practice. Flashcards and spaced repetition software are the most common options.

Anki

Although there are many alternatives out there, like Quizlet or SuperMemo, we will focus here on one: Anki.

The main reasons for this are:

  • It is free

  • It has an inbuilt system that schedules repetition for you

  • It is very easy to create flashcards in it

  • It has a very active community of people sharing their decks

  • You can use it on your phone or your computer, regardless of platform

You can use it to learn a language, music chords, capital cities, study for an exam, and pretty much anything else you want!

How Does Anki Work?

First off, you have to download Anki on your computer or smartphone, like any other app.

For iOS, the AnkiMobile Flashcards is the only official app, which does come at a price, however, you can always use AnkiWeb on any browser for free. For Android, AnkiDroid is a free option.

After it is installed, you will be asked to create an account. Once that’s done, you’ll see a blank screen—which will soon be full of content!

Creating Your Flashcards

To create flashcards, you need to create a deck to organize them in first. Decks order flashcards by subject, such as “Capital Cities”.

You can do this by clicking on the “Create Deck” button and adding a name.

An “Add” button allows you to create a new flashcard, which will bring up a new window. It will provide some formatting buttons and other options, but for now, you can just type “Capital city of France” to the Front field and “Paris” to the Back.

Click the “Add” button again. It might seem as if nothing happened, but if you close the newest window, you will see that your deck has a new card. Congratulations, you’ve created your first flashcard!

Studying with Your Flashcards

You’ll see two columns right next to your new deck. The number of “New” will show the amount of new flashcards that have been added to your deck—in this case, 1. “Due” flashcards are the ones that you’ve studied before and are due to study today.

Clicking on the deck’s name will show a “Study Now” button. This button reveals the first flashcard. Guess your answer and you can click on “Show Answer”.

If you guessed wrong, don’t worry! In fact, this is part of the learning process where Active Recall comes in, and the fact that you struggled to come up with the answer will store this information eventually in your brain.

You can rate how easy or difficult it was to answer with four buttons. This is where the spaced repetition intervals come in!

  • Again: If you couldn’t remember, this will show the flashcard again in a few minutes.

  • Hard: If you had a hard time remembering the answer.

  • Good: Otherwise, you can click on “Good”. Since “Easy” would mean you already know the answer, there is no point in using it and you can just remove the card from taking up space in your deck.

The Art of Making Flashcards

The biggest challenge to study flashcards comes at the stage of creating them. How quickly you learn depends on the way you formulate the material. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is to cram a bunch of information into one flashcard in the spirit of wanting to provide the most context and learn as much things as possible in one go.

Following Supermemo’s Twenty Rules of Formulating Knowledge, we can sum up the most important guidelines:

  1. Stick to the minimum information principle - most importantly, formulate knowledge as simple as you can. A verbose flashcard can be split up into many smaller ones containing a single piece of information that are much easier in the longer run to learn. Trust me, you’ll start forgetting big flashcards and see no benefit the more stuff you add into them. Analysis shows that the human mind can at most only cope with 4 items at a time before confusion sets in.

  2. Understand before memorizing - it is important to build an overall picture of what it is we are trying to learn before memorizing a bunch of unconnected facts.

  3. Prioritize the most important details - even memorizing obvious basic things is not a waste of time. Don’t include secondary details that will not add up to the essential understanding.

Add context - images (maps, anatomy), sounds (pronunciation) and personal details (funny facts or mnemonics) make information stick so much better because you are providing memorable aids and extra stimuli so that the brain engages all of its functions (visual, auditory, etc.)

Example of an ill-formulated flashcard.

The same flashcard could be split into multiple smaller items, each one asking for an individual fact per card. Note the added context with the map.

Unlock the Full Power of Anki

Anki is a very powerful software, yet it comes with a steep learning curve. There are more advanced features that weren’t covered here for the sake of brevity, but you can still improve upon your flashcards by editing them, using other types of flashcards, downloading add-ons, and more!

One add-on that will help you track your progress and stay motivated is the Review Heatmap which visualizes your learning activity throughout the year.

Review Heatmap add-on for Anki

You can always keep all of the platforms you use Anki in synchronized by pressing the “Sync” button on top.

Furthermore, clicking on the button “Get Shared” on bottom of the homepage will open up a website where you can search through tons of decks shared by other people! You can also contribute by sharing your own to the world.

Lastly, if you want to dive deep into Anki, I recommend the following resources:

Conclusion

Taking advantage of how your mind works by using evidence-based techniques can make your learning much more effective. All you need is forming a habit of studying flashcards. Software like Anki will help you make a schedule. You will then be able to apply what you’ve learned.

Further reading

Guadalajara

Werkshop - Av. Acueducto 6050, Lomas del bosque, Plaza Acueducto. 45116,

Zapopan, Jalisco. México.

Texas
17350 State Hwy 249, Ste 220 #20807,

Houston, Texas 77064 US.

© Density Labs. All Right reserved. Privacy policy and Terms of Use.

Guadalajara

Werkshop - Av. Acueducto 6050, Lomas del bosque, Plaza Acueducto. 45116,

Zapopan, Jalisco. México.

Texas
17350 State Hwy 249, Ste 220 #20807,

Houston, Texas 77064 US.

© Density Labs. All Right reserved. Privacy policy and Terms of Use.

Guadalajara

Werkshop - Av. Acueducto 6050, Lomas del bosque, Plaza Acueducto. 45116,

Zapopan, Jalisco. México.

Texas
17350 State Hwy 249, Ste 220 #20807,

Houston, Texas 77064 US.

© Density Labs. All Right reserved. Privacy policy and Terms of Use.