Using Anki flashcards as an IB DP Diploma student

Anki is a free to install (Windows and Mac) application that is used to make and review flashcards. The application, which is popular with university medical and law students, is based upon enabling spaced repetition. As a user reviews a deck they indicate how easy or hard they found the content. This will then determine how soon after the user sees that card again.

Watch this video to familiarize yourself with the concept behind spaced repetition.

Anki is a free from apps.ankiweb.net for Windows and Mac devices. The universal (buy it once – download it for iPhone and iPad) iOS app is expensive although you could use AnkiWeb, the online version, via a browser. The purchase of the iOS app does support Anki’s future development. The Android app is free. The generation of cards and decks is much easier on the Windows/Mac version than on mobile.

A daily routine of reviewing your cards/decks is key to maintaining the ‘spaced repetition’ approach. As you see the ‘front’ of a card you can click on ‘Show Answer’ or press spacebar or enter to reveal the ‘back’ of the card. You should try and design your cards so that they actively require you to recall the information – they make you think and not just passively sit there.

The front of an Anki card.
‘Front’ of the card with an ‘active’ question.
The back of an Anki card.
‘Back’ of the card they presents the answer – or in this case an image with the answer within it.

You review how easy it was for you to recall the ‘answer’ and then either click ‘Again’, ‘Hard’, ‘Good’ or ‘Easy’ or press 1, 2, 3 or 4. Which option you choose will determine how soon you will see that card again – less than 10 minutes, 2 days, 3 days or 4 days. These intervals can be changed in the app settings.

Flashcard production is part of the revision process. Decks are available online but the process of producing your own materials has cognitive benefits. Using the ‘active recall’ approach the ‘front’ of the cards should be written as a question. The alternative to this is using the Cloze card type which basically produces a more ‘fill in the missing gaps’ style card.

Watch this video to (re-)familiarize yourself with the concept behind active recall.

Effective card design is important as to not waste your valuable revision time. Take the following into consideration as you generate your cards →

  1. Make sure you understand the content you are adding to any flashcards. There is no point trying to remember the content until you have got your head around it.
  2. Aim for a single deck of flashcards per exam, rather than one deck per sub-unit or the like.
  3. Tag the cards with the units, if they include a detailed example or case study, if they are just a definition and with their general style. You can review cards in batches by the tags they have.
  4. Keep your flashcards simple – rather than having subitems – just have more cards – this helps with the spaced repetition.
  5. Make use of Cloze car style which allows to quickly generate missing word style cards.

The process for using Anki for DP Geography students

  1. Download and install Anki from apps.ankiweb.net.
  2. Before creating your own cards you are going to download a set of cards produced for Unit 3.1 – just to get a feel of what is possible. Download this Anki file and save it somewhere sensible on your device. Click on the ‘Import File’ button at the bottom of the Anki window, find the Anki file that your just downloaded and there you go.
  3. Have a review of the Unit 3.1 flashcards – clicking on either ‘Again’, ‘Hard’, ‘Good’ or ‘Easy’ or pressing 1, 2, 3 or 4.
  4. Choose a section/subunit of the DP Geography course and have a go at adding a basic card → Add → check the card type is set to Basic → add the text for the front of the card (it should be phrased as a question) → add the answer on the back.
  5. Have a go at creating a card with an image as the back. Find/screenshot a suitable image and have it on your desktop → click, drag and drop it into the Back box.
  6. Have a go at creating a Cloze card → change the card type to Cloze → add the sentence (or similar) to the ‘Text’ box → highlight the content to ‘hide’ and then use the […] button on the toolbar.

Sometimes you may want to ‘reset’ part of your collection so that the cards become new again and the scheduling algorithm starts from the beginning. For instance, you might have completely changed a card or updated it so that you need to start learning it again, or you may have flipped through some cards without really studying if you were just trying to take a look at the cards or figure out how Anki works.

  1. Find the cards you want to reset under the ‘Browse’ tab.
  2. Select all the cards and right click → Reschedule, then Place at end of new card queue. Click OK.

The videos in the ‘sources’ section are useful to further develop your understanding of how Anki works. The Anki manual can be found here.


Sources

  1. How to Use Anki Effectively – Flash Card Basics for Pre-Med and Med Students [Part 1] – Med School Insiders – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7K2StK7e3ww&list=PL2ADAFpTg5aYuGojjD_O0mU1uml7Plw2Q
  2. 13 Steps to Better ANKI Flashcards | Part 1/2 – Med School Insiders – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbvaITy3oeQ&feature=youtu.be