I Made Flashcards – Now What?

Learning with flashcards can be an effective strategy to memorise and review information. There is nothing new to making flashcards for learning. They are great for anything you need quick recall of
or for factual information. The challenge is that many students make the cards and then need help figuring out what to do with them!

Here are some strategies to enhance your flashcard learning experience:

1. Write your own flashcards: Creating your own flashcards is a powerful learning activity. Summarising
information on flashcards actually causes you to check your understanding and, many times, causes your brain to remember the information.

2. Use active recall: When using flashcards, actively try to recall the information on the front of the card
before flipping it over to check the answer. Take a moment to think before you check. Say the answer aloud or write the answer before you peek! This helps reinforce your memory and improves retention.


3. Space out your practice: Instead of cramming all your flashcard practice into one session, distribute it over multiple study sessions. This technique, known as spaced repetition, is more effective for long-term retention. A great strategy is to find three boxes or envelopes. On the first day, start with all the cards in box 1. Test yourself with the cards, or have someone else test you. If you answer it correctly place it in box 2. If not, leave it in box 1. Do this for all the cards. The next day, start with box 2. If you answer the card correctly, place in box 3. If not, add to box 1. Now do the same with box 1 cards. Correct goes to box 2, and incorrect stays in box 1. On the third day, start with box 2 and then box 1. Repeat the process. Once you have all the cards in box 3, you can leave them for a week and test yourself again with all the cards starting in box 1. Take the cards remaining in box 1 after a week and actively learn those using the tips below.

4. Focus on cards you DON’T know: Identify the flashcards that you struggle with the most and prioritise them during your study sessions. Spend extra time on the concepts or information that you find challenging or confusing. Consider explaining the concepts aloud, teaching them to someone else, or writing a summary of the information without looking at the flashcards. Make up a story or mnemonic to help you recall the information.

5. Mix up the order: Shuffle your flashcards regularly or study them in random order. This prevents you from relying on the order of the cards and helps you practice retrieval without relying on context cues.

6. Make connections: Look for connections and associations between different flashcards or concepts.
This can help you create a mental framework that aids in recalling information. You might create visual
associations, pictures or diagrams or relate the flashcard content to real-life examples.

7. Review regularly: Set aside dedicated time for flashcard review sessions. Consistency is key to reinforcing learning. Establish a routine and stick to it, whether it’s a daily, weekly or biweekly schedule.

8. Track progress: Gamify it! Keep track of your performance and progress with flashcards. Make a game out of it by keeping score and working to improve your score. Identify areas of improvement and celebrate milestones. This can motivate you and provide a sense of accomplishment.

Remember, flashcards are just one tool in your learningarsenal. It’s important to complement flashcard practice with other active learning strategies, such as summarising information in your own words, solving problems or teaching others.

Published on Thursday, June 22nd, 2023, under Study Skills

Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for Life Long Learning across nations, industries and organisations. Winner of the NZ Educator of the Year 2017 and 2014 and the NZ Speaker of the Year award in 2013 & 2019, Karen is a sought after speaker who continually gets rave reviews from audiences around the world. Her dynamic style and highly informative content—which turns the latest educational research into easy-to-implement strategies and techniques — sets her apart from others in her field.

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