Although the process of studying is not always easy, it shouldn’t be either boring or draining. Studying is not all about chanting lines from your textbook – there are many tools that can help you memorize new material effectively, and flashcards are one of the best out there. By promoting the practice called ‘active recall’, they make the studying process fast and enjoyable.
Craft Them Yourself – It’s Ultimately Helpful. And Fun
Many students like sharing their decks of flashcards, or use online apps for making cards; by downloading such pre-made materials, you can start studying instantly.
However, pre-made flashcards can only sometimes be useful – for example, in a situation when you have to memorize extremely many facts while being short on time. Remember though that creating your own study flashcards will benefit in the long run.
The process of effective learning includes certain integral parts. A student should:
- Intake new information.
- Juggle with it in their brain.
- Use it, to create new things – pictures, tables, schemes, methods of explaining this topic, etc.
The process of creating something new builds strong neural pathways in your brain; later this will help you retrieve the learned material easily. Yet another effective method of memorizing information is teaching what you’ve already learned. That is, you should be able to explain the material to someone else in your own words.
By using pre-made cards, you skip this process, and your knowledge may soon vanish or have gaps. Besides, making own cards lets you customize and improve them.
When making your own flashcards, you must avoid these most common mistakes:
- Making cards that work only for rote memorization.
- Creating complex cards that only make you recognize material, instead of actually memorizing it.
- Overusing flashcards and overlooking alternative tools that could work out better in particular situations.
Keep reading to learn 6 useful tips on making the best study flashcards.
Mix words and images
Pictures, added to your flashcards make the material memorable. According to a concept in cognitive psychology, our brain memorizes imagery way better than words. Such distinctive feature has developed in the course of human evolution: the written form of language has only been known for 5,000 years, while Homo Sapiens have been around for more than 200,000 years, and have developed exceptional sensitivity to visual information (for example, primitive people had to recognize dangerous animals, locations, etc.).
Thus, even today human brains consider images to be more important than abstract scrawls.
However, you shouldn’t replace the whole written part of your flashcards with doodles. Human brains also are very adaptive, and a mixture of words and pictures turns out to be the best combo for memorizing information.
Create effective mental connections with the help of mnemonic devices
Instead of cramming your brains with boring figures and facts, you can turn to mnemonic devices. These can be anything that helps your mind build associations between two or more pieces of information.
A good example of a mnemonic device is an acronym used to teach kids the order of seven colors of the rainbow – ROY G. BIV, which everyone knows. Rhymes also work well, but associations created by students themselves appear to be of the biggest help.
In your flashcard, you can combine an image and data, to develop an association that works personally for you. Our brains are adapted to remembering odd and unordinary things. Thus the weirder your mnemonic device is, the easier it’ll be to recall.
Break each complex concept into simpler multiple questions
Writing a list of multiple facts related to one subject altogether on one card is something you should avoid. It’s possible that you’ll only remember a few facts from the list. To find out what’s missing, you’ll probably check your card, and simply recognize a piece of information, instead of truly recalling it from your memory. Recognition gives you an illusion of knowledge; as a result, during your test, you may not be able to remember all material without a prompt.
Make sure that each of your flashcards only contains one question and one answer or a fact.
How to use flashcards to study effectively: Say the answers out loud
Many students are used to revising to themselves, silently. However, such an approach is not the best. To use flashcards effectively, you can ask a friend to help you go through the material in the form of a brainstorm or a quiz. If there’s no one to help you, you can say the answers out loud; narrating makes revision more deliberate.
Make sure to study both sides of your cards
It’s important to pay attention not only to an answer/fact on the reverse side of a card but also to a question on its front. During your test, tasks may come in any sequence, that’s why you should be ready to recognize topics easily, no matter the form.
Flashcards aren’t the only remedy for studying
Remember that flashcards are most helpful when you need to build neural pathways between two pieces of information (e.g., vocabulary, definitions, etc.) But for complex topics, using other tools, such as an explanation in one’s own words, a quiz, a practice test, mind maps, etc., appears to be far more effective.
We hope that these tips will make your studying with flashcards enjoyable.