Do you really need a guide to teach you how to study using flashcards? Well, I don’t know; do you? Yes, the concept is simple and I will not try to – or be able to – revolutionize it in this article: You read the question/prompt on one side, (try to) recall the answer on the second side and move on. Simple.
The steps I propose focus more on the overall study process than the singular act of reviewing one card. How, when and where do you use flashcards, or more importantly: how should you do it?
Take your flashcards with you wherever you go
This one may either elicit a “Duh, of course I do” or a “Duh, I won’t go running around carrying a stack of flashcards”. In case of answer one, good for you; should you have vehemently refused, please read on. First of all – this is the whole point of this argument and the reason this first and most important step exists – you never know when you’ll have time to study. Flashcards are a study tool that lends itself to quick revision. You might (but probably won’t) sit down somewhere for a couple of hours and go through an entire stack. Much more likely, you’ll be sitting/standing/waiting around somewhere with nothing to do or find yourself with a pocket of free time that you need to fill. Why not whip out your flashcards and do some quick revision?
Using flashcards this way is especially important considering you should…
Study in short sessions and take frequent breaks
Hour-long study sessions are not the best approach to learning. At some point your mind starts to wander or you become distracted – your body’s or your brain’s way of telling you that it’s time to take a break. Flashcards are ideal for short study sessions and those study sessions can be spaced out over the course of one or several days.
Worried that all those breaks and interruptions will throw you off and you’ll end up studying the same thing over and over again? Picking up where you left off will be much easier if you…
Evaluate your confidence and stack your flashcards accordingly
There is no reason to go through all cards in every single session. If you only have a few minutes in every session it is not the best idea to stoically start from the beginning every single time. You will end up reading and recalling the same things over and over again and may never get to the cards at the bottom of the stack. Have you read through a card a few times and have been able to recall the answer perfectly every single time? It’s time to move on. Don’t disregard these cards completely, but they should be assigned a much lower priority than concepts you are still struggling with.
If you use flashcards regularly, you may have already started following some of these steps intuitively in the process of optimizing your learning experience. If that is not the case, give it a try. The results will speak for themselves.