Practice Makes Perfect - Using Flashcards as a Study Tool

Katarina Mueller - July 1st 2022

With finals seasons, I am very sick of reviewing flashcards. But I also believe that they are one of the best study tools out there and can be optimized to remember all the important stuff! You’ve probably made a few flashcards in your school career. These are based on my own experiences – flashcards may not be for you! But if you want to give them a try, or want to improve your flashcards, then keep reading!

1) Write definitions or answers in your own words

It’s tempting to just copy definitions from the textbook or from class notes, but one of the best tricks is to write out concepts in your own words. That way, when you are making the flashcards, you are actively studying and engaging with the content. This also makes studying easier, since the concepts are already in words that you understand.

2) Try to limit the amount of content per card

Having only a few words makes studying flashcards much easier, and speedier. It’s better to have many flashcards breaking down concepts rather than trying to stuff it all on one card. This can also be paired with mnemonic devices, such as acronyms or rhymes.

3) Say the answers out loud or study with a friend

It’s fairly easy to disengage and be passive when studying flashcards unless you are speaking out loud. Having someone else go through the flashcards is a great way to study and can be a benefit for both of you if you are in the same class. If you are studying alone, then try to say the answers out loud. This way you are actively engaging in the content.

4) Formatting them as questions

This is personal preference, but I find that having the flashcards ask questions is a great way to use them. If possible, I try to base the questions on past exams or examples from the professor/teacher. That way I am used to the type of question that could be asked, and therefore better prepared when the exam comes around.

5) Pair flashcards with images and diagrams

It can be incredibly helpful to study flashcards with corresponding images. It can help for terms and concepts based on visuals (such as paintings/art or anatomical drawings). Visuals tend to be easier to remember than words and sounds, so pairing them with flashcards can greatly improve retention.

Adding these into my study routines has really improved my retention. With a lot of classes based on memorizing a bunch of terms and concepts, they work great as a study method. I have been using an online flashcard maker, which has greatly decreased the time it takes to make flashcards (and then I don’t have a bunch lying around at the end of the year). If you are short on time, or just don’t want to write by hand, then I would definitely recommend online flashcards. However, physical flashcards work just as well! Whatever works best for you. Happy studying!