Students: Avoid These Flashcard Mistakes for Long-Term Retention

Flashcards are a productive way to learn new information and actively test yourself. Studying with flashcards engages active recall. Active recall stimulates your brain by repeatedly asking it questions and retrieving answers. A study in 2013, concluded that engaging in active recall in the learning process has “high utility and can be implemented effectively with minimal training.”

As a study tool, flashcards are perfect for students at any educational level. In one study, about 70% of participants used flashcards to study for at least one exam.

In order to get the most out of your flashcard studying, it’s important to create flashcards that help you remember and retain new information. Here are four mistakes that people often make when creating flashcards:

1. Not Making Your Own Cards

The process of creating your own flashcards is powerful, and it sets you up for success early on in the learning process. As you make your own flashcards, you are encouraged to think critically about creating effective flashcards. This process allows you to actively engage with the content and retrieve information more easily. Most importantly, making your own flashcards will strengthen your understanding and comprehension of the information. Your added effort in making flashcards from scratch will enhance your overall learning process and mastery of the material.

2. Studying in One Session

Studying your flashcards in one session (aka cramming) will result in a lack of retention. To solve this problem, the learning technique of spaced repetition helps with the retention of new information at an efficient pace. Spaced repetition is the process of reviewing information at increasing intervals of time with the use of flashcards. A study by Dartmouth College found that spaced practice “enhances memory” and “produces superior long-term learning.”

New information must be repeated and reinforced frequently for long-term retention. Otherwise, you risk minimal improvement and dexterity in the learning process. Aristotle said it best when he observed: “it is frequent repetition that produces a natural tendency.”

Polar, Anki, and Quizlet have spaced repetition software that support flashcard learning.

3. Not Using a Software to Study Your Flashcards

Making flashcards out of notecards may seem like an efficient way to study, but using software like Polar or Anki will greatly improve your learning process!

In Polar, you can directly create annotations in your documents (pdf, textbook, web page). Additionally, you can create flashcards from your annotations with a click of a button. You don’t have to worry about losing your flashcards because all of your flashcards will be stored in one place.

Anki is a software that aims to make remembering easy through the use of flashcards and spaced repetition. More specifically, Anki allows you to study and create your flashcards. In fact, Anki and Polar can both be used through their integration for flashcards.

4. Overloading Your Flashcards With Too Much Information

Putting too much information on a flashcard causes unnecessary information overload. It can hinder your learning process in a major way by feeding your brain superfluous information. Instead, you should break up big concepts into multiple questions and flashcards. Limit content on each flashcard to one question. This will streamline your learning process and help you engage more effectively in the active recall process.

Posted on: 10 Jul 2020

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