Intro to Anki
Everyone learns differently, but I wanted to share why I feel Anki is an amazing tool for studying, and provide some quick tips and resources for you to start learning to use Anki on your own. I started the MAMS program using master notes to review for all of the courses but quickly realized that it was nearly impossible to keep up with the pace of the courses. While master notes are beneficial in the sense that they make you scour over every detail of the material, they are pretty low yield when it comes to recalling or applying the material. I felt like I had seen all of the material, but then would struggle to recall it when it was quiz or test time. I needed a way to routinely quiz myself and test if I had retained the information I was studying, so I mixed things up and started using Anki as a way to review and memorize material.
While I used to hate flash cards, and it should be noted that Anki is no substitute for applying the information, I do feel it is the best method to memorize and retain a large volume of course material. For those in MAMS: after the first exam I’m sure you noticed that simply knowing the structure/equation was not sufficient to answer the complex questions that require critical thinking (thats where the practice problems come in).
Overview of My Workflow
- Pre-read before class. Helped me have some clue of what was going on in lecture, and exposed me to the material so that it could possibly “click” during lecture, rather than sitting there wondering wtf was going on.
- Attend class and ACTIVELY take notes (not 50% notes 50% facebook, but obviously we all have bad days)
- Go through notes treating Anki cards as my master notes, making cards as I go through the lecture/discussion, with particular emphasis on high yield concepts or exceptions to the rule.
- Put OneNote (or your note app of choice) on one side of the screen and Anki insert cards screen on the other and get to work! It may seem tedious and a waste of time making cards at first, but you are reviewing and ranking the material in order of importance/yield, which allows you to prioritize your studying, and you will get way faster at making cards!
- **Caution** Remember that every flash card you make is one that you will have to review. Don’t go overboard on making cards (this was my mistake early on), and don’t be afraid to delete or suspend a card as you review if you feel it’s extremely repetitive, stupid, etc.
- Try to review every day, even if you don’t finish all of your due cards. This gets difficult as your deck grows, and by test day you will have 100+ cards just for this exam so expect so be doing Anki for 2 hours. At least this time is spent with active review versus passively rereading the syllabus or master notes (waste of time). Also this is where doing cards daily will space them out rather than having a few days with a large volume of cards due.
- I made a new deck for every exam as there was little crossover between topics, and I didn’t want to review old material. (Although if you do need to reuse cards you can just copy them into the new exam’s deck. Efficiency!)
- Try to add images or explanations in the extra category, not just having the answer on the back side of the card. This helps you remember why it’s important as well as having the review material readily available if you need it, rather than hunting back through your notes or syllabus (waste of time). On a Mac: command+control+shift+4 (copies the screenshot and then paste it into the card) is your best friend and will prevent clogging your laptop with a million screenshots.
- Change the daily due card limit to 99999 so you will see all of your due cards. The default value is laughably low.
- Learn to use image occlusion (see Glutanimate video below), it is amazing especially for anything structure or pathway related
- Write/draw out the pathways as you are doing the cards rather than “talking it out”. Studies show, and I 100% agree, that you retain information better if you hand write it vs typing etc. In order to save paper/the planet I would open up and blank note on my iPad and go to town scribbling with my Apple Pencil.
- Tagging – I didn’t tag at first, but then I started to in the spring semester. Saved me time by giving me the ability to quickly review a particular topic if I wanted. I wouldn’t go too crazy just something like Physiology::Exam 2::CVS::compliance