There is much to be said on the topic of how to create strong and efficient flashcards. After all, that is the whole point of this website. But we need to start somewhere, and what better way to begin than by giving you the ultimate guide to creating something truly useful and valuable. So without further ado, here are 5 golden rules to help you get the most out of your flashcards.
Rule No. 1: Short and simple is the key.
Your aim should be to find the smallest amount of information possible to put on the card, yet make sure that it still contains the most important facts – and only those. If you are quizzing yourself about US history, a question might be “Name all reigning US presidents”. The answer card may then contain the names of all twelve men in question, perhaps the years they were in office. If you also need to know what party they belonged to and who was vice president during their reign, you should create separate flashcards.
Rule No. 2: Stick to what is truly relevant.
Not all simple facts – like the above mentioned party affiliation or terms of office – are relevant. While it may be important to know when a president was in office, do you really need to know when he was born? The political context during those times – and during the years of his presidency – may be much more relevant than the exact year(s).
Rule No. 3: Break down content into units.
No matter how short all individual facts may be, if you try to cram too much onto one card it defeats the purpose of quick revision. Not to mention the fact that you may not be able to simply rattle off the answer to “Name all reigning US presidents”. Why not find smaller units to break you content down? Start off with the most recent presidents, from 1945 until today.
Rule No. 4: Increase readability with bullets.
The question “What was the context of Harry S. Truman’s presidency?” may lend itself to an answer phrased as a lengthy paragraph. But when you are revising, are you really going to read through of all it? Make a list of keywords (post-WWII, atomic bomb, Marshall Plan, Cold War, etc.), which you are much more likely to recall and can then put into context.
Rule No. 5: Choose variety in posing questions.
Not all subjects come in an already-made Q&A format. That does not mean that you cannot use flashcards to study. Sometimes it will be necessary to become creative when you create your cards. Find different ways to ask the same question: Instead of simply asking “How did Truman become president in 1945?”, choose to “Describe the circumstances that led to Harry S. Truman’s presidency”. Or take a completely different approach: “Describe the circumstances surrounding Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death and the resulting effects on the office of president.”
If you follow these basic steps, your learning experience will be smooth and efficient, just the way it is supposed to be.