Hi guys! Today I’ll be sharing an app that’s drastically improved my active studying process, increased the rate of my learning, and saved my butt before countless vocabulary quizzes— Anki. Anki is essentially a flashcard app, but what really separates it from others such as Quizlet and StudyBlue is that it takes advantage of the concept of spaced repetition to maximize the effectiveness of each review session.
WHAT IS SPACED REPETITION?
The graph above shows how your retention of learned material declines over time when you don’t review it again. The more you review something you’ve learned, the slower you’ll forget it, and the more likely it is to become permanently ingrained in your memory.
Each time you answer a flashcard on Anki, you rate how difficult it was to come up with the answer: Easy, Good, or Again. If you answered correctly and quickly, choose Easy. If you were incorrect, unsure, and/or took a long time answering, choose Again.
The key is that rather than going through all of the cards in the deck in order, Anki will have you review each card at the specific point in the forgetting curve you’re most likely to forget it. So the more challenging a particular card, the more frequently you’ll review it. If you labeled a card as Easy, you won’t see it again for a while, because the curve of forgetting will be less steep for that card. Focusing on the cards you struggle with most, instead of devoting equal time to all of them, allows you to spend less time studying and/or to learn more things.
For more information about the science behind spaced repetition and instructions for the app itself, click here.
- Extremely efficient: Thanks to the spaced repetition algorithm, I’ve noticed a definite improvement in my vocabulary test scores, as well as a reduction in study time.
- A form of active learning: Great for long-term retention!
- Highly customizable: Anki can be as simple or advanced as you need it to be. It can handle decks of 100,000+ cards. There are lots of add-ons available to extend its capabilities. You can add pictures, audio, different colors, and scientific markup via LaTeX within your cards. You can adjust the algorithm to change the frequencies of cards. If you know how to code, you can even change the cards completely to suit your needs. For example, with some basic code, I changed the default “see answer” to a field for text where I can actually type in my answer and check my spelling, which is super important while learning foreign languages. (see picture below) But it also works great immediately upon downloading with the default settings, so don’t be intimidated by all the customization options if you don’t need them.
- Tons of decks of cards already made by other users that you can download
- Very easy to search, edit, replace, and delete cards
- Save time + paper with digital cards
- Syncs between all platforms for easy on-the-go access
- Not ideal for cramming: Spaced repetition works best when you’re consistently reviewing a few cards every day over a long period of time. While Anki does have a “cram” setting if you’re in a rush, the app in general is not made for last-minute studiers.
- There’s no social component with fun games like the type Quizlet has. However, you can make your cards in Quizlet and use an add-on to easily import them into Anki if you want the best of both worlds!
Note that the Anki software is open-source, so there are many versions made by different developers. The above links are to the ankisrs.net apps I personally use, which I’ve found to have the best spacing algorithm and the least bugs. But a huge drawback is that their iOS app costs a whopping $25. If you want a free iOS app, consider ankiapp.com, but keep in mind that Ankisrs and AnkiApp will not sync between each other, and AnkiWeb is only available for Ankisrs!