I’m admittedly a very poor student. I was never any good at actually sitting down and studying for long periods of time. I was “smart” enough to get through high school without developing any effective habits at processing and committing large sums of complex data to memory. This inevitably led to me getting to college and having a bit of a meltdown as I seemed completely incapable of keeping up with even the most mediocre of my fellow classmates. To be fair, I didn’t do myself any favors. I put off any and all studying until about 3/4ths of the way through the semester and then crammed as much information into my panicked brain as I could a few hours before the tests. Needless to say, this didn’t bode so well for my GPA.
I really wish I had found this little gem when I was in college. Anki is a a program available for download on your phone, desktop, or even through your web browser. Only the mobile version will cost you any money, but the $25 is well spent and helps support the developer of this amazing little app. At face value, Anki is a flashcard app. However, it’s what is under the hood that makes Anki so special.
Anki utilizes algorithms built upon two very important concepts; Active Recall and Spaced Repetition. Active recall is the process by which you try to recollect a specific answer to a specific question. This method has proven to be far more effective than the general passive methods of studying (aka just reading something over and over again). On top of this, spaced repetition is used. Spaced repetition is the process of spacing out information over a period of time instead of having a major cram session every so often with the flash cards. Anecdotally, this has helped me process information in less time and far more quickly that any other study method I’ve tried.
But rather than try to explain it in words, let me give you some examples of how the magic works. Lets say you’re studying for a test. As you’re reading, you come across a bit of information that sounds like it will be on the test. Great. In Anki you would make a flash card with both the answer and the question.
Keep this process up until you have finished reading the material you’re working on. Once done, immediately begin the studying phase.
You may have noticed that when we first began studying, it showed 3 options. New, Learning, and To Review. New is obviously new flashcards you have created that have not been studied before. Learning are cards that works in progress. To Review are cards that you have remembered well in the past that are now due up for review again. This is where Anki truly shines, and which is why you should support them by downloading the Anki mobile app. You may have noticed when I clicked on “Show Answer” it gave me a few options.
If you had trouble remembering the answer to this flashcard you would want to select “Again”. It shows that if you select this option, the card will appear again in less than a minute. If you answer “Good” it will come up again in less than 10 minutes, and if this particular flash card was easy peasy, it will appear again for review in 4 days. This algorithm changes over time as you continue studying and adding cards. Eventually you will have a week or two in between times you have to study cards you’ve gotten committed to memory, but if you ever fumble on them, the space in between reviews will shrink and have you seeing it again and again until you have committed again.
That’s all folks
There is a lot that you can do with Anki. You can add images, audio, video, and pretty much anything you can think of. This makes it great for studying/learning just about any subject your pretty little mind can think of. Just check out this page for a manual of Anki and how to get the most of it. Try out the web or desktop version to see if it’s worth it to you and then I highly recommend investing in the mobile app. Until next time internet fam!