Category Archives: Anki Basics

How To Add The Same Image To Every Card

In some cases you might want to add the same image to every card you’re creating for a note type. For example, you could want your logo on each card. Or you might need the same image as reference in your whole deck. Obviously, you could manually add that same image to every note you create. But when you’re doing the same thing over and over, I can’t help but feel there should be an easier way. And there is!

Why You’d Want Identical Images

First, let’s take an example from my own experience. I was working with a deck to learn all the states in the USA. I had created a note type with the following fields:

  • StateName: the name of the state
  • StateMap: an image with a map of the USA, and the state in colour
  • CapitalName: the name of the capital city of that state

Based on these fields I told Anki to create the following cards. (notice the repetition in my repetition?)

  • What is the capital city of {{Name}}
  • What is the state name of which {{Capital}} the capital of
  • What is the name of this state {{Map}}
  • What is the capital of this state {{Map}}

But I also want to have a map of the USA, and ask myself where {{Name}} was. I had a perfect image for just this purpose, but if I wanted to use it in all my notes I would have to manually add it  to each single note. That’s 50 notes. Yeahno.

The Media Folder

To add images to you collection that can be used in every note, you’ll first need to find your Media Folder.

On Windows, the latest Anki versions store your Anki files in your appdata folder. You can access it by opening the file manager, and typing%APPDATA%\Anki2 in the location field. Older versions of Anki stored your Anki files in a folder called Anki in your Documents folder. Anki Manual

Please be careful with your media folder. Close Anki before you open the media folder. I recommend making a backup of your collection before you start messing around, just in case you corrupt it. The folder will be called ‘’, so go ahead and click on it.

If you want to use your image in a template you’ll need to rename it so it starts with an underscore. For example: _emptyMap.png. Place the image in the media folder and close it. You can now open Anki again.

Using The Image In Anki

Finally, your image is now ready to be used in your card templates. If you want to place the image in your template, use basic HTML:  <<img src=”._filename.png”> For example, I added the empty map to the card template for my USA States deck.

Anki: Have Some Repetition With Your Repetition

Learning is context-sensitive, even if you use repetition. This means that if you try to remember a fact in a different context than the one you memorised it in, recall can be difficult. For example, I always remembered the names of the famous sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson as “Masters and Johnson”. One day a person asked me “what was the name of the woman in that famous sex researcher couple?” and I could not come up with her name! I had to mentally recall an image of the two of them first. Then I needed to have “Masters and Johnson” pop up in my head. And finally I could answer “Johnson….. Virginia Johnson!”. Painful.

Repetition With Your Repetition

Anki is a spaced-repetition program. This means it will provide you with facts you want to memorise at specific intervals to make memorisation possible. However, Anki will not provide you with different contexts unless you program these yourself. Obviously, you’ll probably do some of your reviews in different settings (at home, in the train, at your local coffee place). But if you only have one card for the fact you want to remember, you’ll memorise it only in the format of your card.

The answer to this problem is to make various cards for one bit of information.

An example. I needed to remember that the occipital lobe is involved in visual perception. So I created multiple cards, some with cloze deletions, some with pictures, some with information about other areas of the brain, to create as many connections and contexts as possible.


7 Common Flashcard Mistakes to Avoid

Flashcards are amazing at decreasing your study time or increasing the amount of information you can memorise. But if you’re not careful, you might end up making flashcards that are ineffective and useless. Bad flashcards eat up your time and create frustration, the last things you need when you’re studying for a test! So learn from our experience and avoid these 7 common mistakes.


1. Using Flashcards As Teeny Tiny Notes

Ever notice how most flashcards you see online are basically just really tiny study notes? I’ve never understood why people do this. The whole reason we want to use flashcards is because reading summaries is such an ineffective way of studying! Because nothing good comes from scribbling your notes in your tiniest handwriting on small pieces of paper.

Primarily, your flashcard should do one thing: ask a unequivocal question that has a clear, correct answer.

I think the reason many people try to cram all of the relevant information onto the flashcard is because they want to know that information is ‘somewhere’. But simply writing the information down or re-reading it does nothing for your recall. So if having pretty study notes soothes you, feel free to make all the teeny tiny notes you want. Just don’t tell yourself you’re studying.


2. Making the Questions Too Small

When you’re studying a certain topic and making flashcards, many of your cards will make sense to you. For example, when I started learning French, I made flashcards that asked for the gender of a certain word.

Q: Maison
A: Female (La maison)

This was a great way of memorising the gender of some of the most common words in French. All was well and I answered correctly during reviews, so before long these cards were scheduled for months later. And that’s when the trouble began.

Q: Maison
(Me: “House. Hmm, what a bad flashcard, left out the article when I made it. I should fix that”)
A: Female (La maison)
(Me: “Crap!”)

Take the time to actually write out your question, so you’ll know what’s being asked even if you see this card years from now. It’s important that you’ll understand the question even when it’s out of context, because you’ll probably end up combining most of your decks and mixing up your topics.

For my own card, I first changed it to this:

Q: In French, words have a gender. What is the correct article for ‘Maison’?
A: La

But then I realised I’ll never actually need that specific piece of information. Instead, I want to give the correct article in relevant contexts, so I scrapped the card and added these instead:

Q: Le chat est dans {{the}} maison
A: La

Q: J’aime {{that}} maison
A: Cette

Q: {{My}} maison est verte
A: Ma


3. Making the Answers Too Long

A good flashcards needs a simple and clear answer. You need to be able to judge if your answer was correct, and it should be either “yup, correct” or “nope, incorrect”. There should be no maybes.

Of course, there are a lot of situations in which you need to test your understanding of a more complex topic. You cannot always avoid longer answers. I’ve found using cloze deletions can really help tackle those more complex flashcards.

Let’s take an example of my own studies.

It might be tempting to create flashcards like “what happens in the sexual development of people with androgen insensitivity syndrome”, but obviously this card would ask for a question that is too complex.

Instead, I made about twenty cards. For example:

Q: What gonads do people with AIS develop?
A: Testes

Q: Because people with AIS have testes, their Sertoli cells and Leydig cells produce MIS and testosterone. However, people with AIS are insensitive to which substance?
A: Testosterone

Q: Why do the Mullerian ducts of people with AIS degenerate?
A: Because their Sertoli cells produce MIS (and they are not insensitive to that)

I also used image occlusion to cloze delete parts of my own study notes.

Making good flashcards takes time. It takes effort. Once you’ve made a good flashcard, the majority of your work is done, really. Reviews are just the icing on your flashcard-cake.


4. Using the Front-Side as Study Notes

There might be some information you don’t believe is important enough for a flashcard, but that you still kind of want to remember. But not really. But maybe a bit. It might be on the test. You would not be the first to try and cheat the system by putting information on the front-side of your flashcard, hoping that the repetition of re-reading it will help you remember.

I’ve seen flashcards like “Dude Whatshisname, who was involved in the study I think is boring but I might be quizzed on it, was the inventor of what software?”.

You should not do this, because it makes reviews so much harder and longer. You end up only half-reading your own questions because you know they’re full of irrelevant stuff.

Re-reading does not work.

Repeat this to yourself: re-reading does not work.

So make up your mind, do you want to remember this fact? If you do, then turn it into a flashcard. If you don’t, that’s fine. Just don’t clutter up your flashcards with those study notes you don’t really want to learn.


5. Using Correct/Incorrect Questions

Many tests consist of statements that you need to determine are correct or incorrect. These types of questions are an acceptable way of testing the knowledge of students, but they are a terrible way to study.

The problem is that you remember the fact, and then you remember whether it’s true or not separately. The flashcard “Q: Le maison. Correct or incorrect” is terrible because it repeats “le maison” in your head, causing you to remember “le maison” when it really should be “la maison”.


6. Not Asking for What You Want

Another thing to watch out for is making sure you’re actually telling yourself what answer you want. Say your flashcard asks “What is the mean height in the Netherlands?” and your answer is “1.81 for men, 1.69 for women”. This is a bad flashcard, because you’re asking two questions: the mean height for men, and for women. On top of that, you’ve now burdened yourself with another thing to memorise: the fact that your mean height card needs two answers. If you forget one of these three bits of information, you’ll answer incorrectly! So you’re setting yourself up to fail.

Make sure you don’t have to memorise anything about how your flashcard works. Instead, allow yourself to put your effort into remembering the important facts.


7. Not Using Your Senses

There’s nothing more boring than a long, monotunous procession of identical looking flashcards. Because memory is about linking new information to existing ones, make full use of any ‘hooks’ you can find to attach your new info to. Use mnemonics, use humor, use images, use your senses.  Bring the information to life and you’ll see how easy it becomes to remember. Don’t be afraid to go crazy, because your brain remembers weird things better than anything else.

Go on and create some kick-ass Anki cards!

Notes and Cards: The Difference in Anki


anki note typesLet’s say you want to remember the capital city and the language of all European countries. This is easy in Anki. You just creating cards in Anki with every fact you’d like to remember. For example, like so:

Q: What is the capital of the Netherlands?
A: Amsterdam

Q: What language is spoken in the Netherlands?
A: Dutch

Q: What country is Amsterdam the capital of?
A: The Netherlands

Q: What language is spoken in Amsterdam?
A: Dutch

Q: What is the country where people speak Dutch?
A: The Netherlands

So far, so good. But when you want to create the exact same type of questions for France, you can see this is becoming repetitive. Instead of creating a crapload of cards, you can decide to use notes instead. Because it will save you a ton of work.

Notes and Fields

In Anki a card is a question+answer pair. It’s based on the paper flashcard with a question on the one side and the answer on the other. Obviously, because Anki is software it’s not restricted to the two sides of a paper flashcard, so in theory you could create as many sides as you want.

Getting Started With Anki

A note is all the different pieces of information about one ‘thing’. A field is a specific bit of information. So we’d have a note for ‘countries’, while ‘language’ would be one of the fields. And based on the information in the notes, Anki creates cards. You are then shown these cards. For example, we can make a note about The Netherlands that contains fields with the country name, the capital city and the language.

Country: The Netherlands
Capital: Amsterdam
Language: Dutch

And we can do the exact same thing for France, Germany and so forth. Now you can tell Anki to create cards with pieces of information from these notes. If you update your notes in the future, Anki will update your cards automatically. Flashcards are the cards that are presented to you. The notes are the underling pieces of information.

In conclusion:

Country: The Netherlands
Capital: Amsterdam
Language: Dutch

Card templates:
Q: What is the capital of {{country}}?
A: {{capital}}

      Q: What language do they speak in {{country}}
A: {{language}}

Cards you’ll be shown:
Q: What is the capital of The Netherlands?
A: Amsterdam

     Q: What language do they speak in The Netherlands?
A: Dutch

Standard Note Types in Anki

There are four stardard note types that come with Anki: Basic, Basic (and reversed card), Basic (optional reversed card) and Cloze.

Basic: This note type has two fields, one Front and One back. The text you place on the Front will appear on the front of the card, and the text you enter in Back will appear on the back of the card. This note type will create one card.

Basic (and reversed card): This note type works like Basic, and also has two fields (Front and Back). But when you select this note type, Anki will create two cards. One card will put the text you enter in Front at the front, and Back at the back. But then it will create a second card with Back at the front and Front at the back.

Basic (optional reversed card): This note type is just like the previous one. But the second card (the Back-Front card) is optional. There is a third field in this note type, “Add Reverse”. Anki will only create a reverse card if you enter text in this field.

Cloze: You can select text and choose cloze deletion when you use this note type. It will turn any piece of text into a cloze. You just select the text you want to hide when the card is shown, press the little […] at the top and click add. For example, “The colour of the sky is {{c1::blue}}” wil create the following card: “The colour of the sky is [..]”. The correct full sentence shows up when you press ‘answer’. You can delete different parts of the text, Anki will create a separate card for each cloze deletion.

Adding a New Note Type

First of all, start up Anki on your desktop and click on add. You’ll see the note type at the top, the default will be ‘Basic’. Click on that and choose manage.

You’ll now get a new menu with all the different note types you have at this moment.

So let’s create our own note type, specifically for our geography cards. Click on ‘add’, then on the note type, click on manage and then on ‘add’ again.

adding new note to anki

We’ll start with a basic note type and add fields to that. Click on ‘add: Basic’ and OK. Next, you’ll get a window asking you to name your new note type. Maybe we can call it “LearnTheWorld”, because why not. Just type in the name and click on OK.

It will now be in your note type list.

Learn the World note type

Great! You’ve created a new note type. Let’s edit it.

Go back to the window where you were adding a new card, and click on the note types again. Your new note type, LearnTheWorld, is now one of the options. Since we want to edit this note type, select this one. You next step is to click on ‘fields’ and manage the fields for this note type. Remember, fields are the bits of information in a note.

I used ‘rename’ and ‘add’ to set up my new note type.

Managing fields in Anki

Because we want Anki to create cards based on these fields, we need to edit our card templates as well. Close the ‘Fields’ window, and then click on ‘Cards’.

Cards in Anki

On the left you can edit the card, while at the right you can see a preview. Because we called our fields ‘CountryName’, ‘Capital’ and ‘Language’, you can add these fields to your card. Just write {{CountryName}} where you want the country’s name to show up.

There is a drop-down menu called ‘More’ at the bottom. If you click here there’s an option to rename your card.

Card Templates in Anki

Finally, let’s put some information into our notes! I added The Netherlands, Germany and Ireland with their capital cities and languages.

Time to Study

cards based on notes

Creating Kickass Cards in Anki

Creating cards in Anki is easy. But creating good quality cards is far more important than just adding cards without thought. Although the spaced-repetition software is amazing in helping you remember anything, simply trying to cram information into your brain is a pointless task.

Imagine trying to remember random word+number combinations:

Apple = 231
House = 8762
Tree = 119
Bike = 0991
Cake = 12

No matter how hard you Anki the life out of these pairings, it will take forever to remember. These would be bad cards.

This shows the two most important rules when it comes to creating cards in Anki:

  1. You need to care
  2. It needs to make sense to you

    creating cards in anki

    Creating cards in Anki is easy

Caring About Your Cards

Obviously, sometimes you just need to cram for a test and you don’t actually care that much what year Freud was born. But your brain is much better at remembering facts when you care about knowing them, so try to find those ‘giving a crap‘ hooks when you’re creating cards in Anki (even if it’s just imagining passing the test!).

Don’t add cards to Anki just to add cards into Anki. Remembering pointless facts is a waste of your time.

You can get better at caring about your cards by imagining situations in which you want to remember the information. Picture yourself in settings where knowing the answer to your card would actually matter to you. If you want to remember the French word for house (“la maison”), when do you think you’d use this word? In what setting would this knowledge be of any use to you? Don’t be afraid to go silly with this question, let your imagination run wild. I know I’ll never forget that garçon means boy!

Remembering =/= Understanding

Make sure you understand what you’re trying to learn before you try to memorise it. I could give you an Anki card that asks “What substance does Sertoli cells produce that effect the Müllerian ducts” and tell you the answer is “Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH)” but if you don’t have a clue what I’m even talking about, you won’t remember. There is no use in remembering it either, because it will be like the random word+number pairings before.

So study the material first, before you convert it into Anki cards. By studying and thoroughly understanding what you’re learning you’ll also acquire enough information on the subject to create good quality cards.

cornell notesRead more: Cornell Notes are an amazing method of notetaking that help you organise and summarise your notes.

Less Is More

A common beginner’s mistake is to cram too much information into one flashcard. Your goal is not to put everything you need to learn into one small block of text. A good quality card is a simple card.

If this is what you want to do, just buy a notebook.

If this is what you want to do, just buy a notebook.

Make sure each card only asks for one piece of information. Say you want to learn the days of the week in French, it might seem like it would make sense to ask:

Q: What are the first three days of the week in French?
A: lundi, mardi, mercredi

The problem is though, if you only forget ‘mardi’, you will have to click ‘again’ for all three words, even though you remembered lundi and mercredi correctly. Another problem is that learning is context sensitive. When I was studying French in secondary school I memorised “onze douze treize” in that order. For years after that I had to recite “onze douze treize” if I wanted to remember the French word for twelve. I memorised the sequence instead of the correct word!

beautiful anki card

A beautiful, simple and effective Anki card

Make sure the correct answer is answerable. “Who was Kinsey and what did he do” seems like a short and simple question. But if the correct answer is “He was an American biologist and sexologist, born in 1894, who researched human sexuality” you’re adding too much information to your card. Split it up as far as it can be split.

Q: Where was Kinsey from?
A: America

Q: When was Kinsey born?
A: 1894

Q: What was Kinsey’s profession?
A: Biologist and sexologist

Q: What did Kinsey research?
A: Human sexuality

Q: Who was the American biologist and sexologist, born in 1984, who researched human sexuality?
A: Kinsey

The best cards ask for simple and short answers that should never be longer than a few words.

Involve your senses

Think of the piece of information you’re trying to remember as something that needs to be tied and connected to existing pieces of knowledge that already exists in your brain. To remember the new fact you need to create as many connections as possible. Those connections don’t need to make sense to anyone but you. The more associations and images and stories you can connect to the fact, the better your chances of remembering. When you’re creating cards in Anki, try and see if you can incorporate some hooks and connections.

The easiest way to do this is by adding images to everything. And yes I mean everything.

Mnemonics make use of elaborative encoding, retrieval cues, and imagery as specific tools to encode any given information in a way that allows for efficient storage and retrieval.

Wikipedia article on mnemonics

Don’t be afraid to get a little silly when you’re creating cards in Anki. For example, I wanted to memorise the different states in the USA. I was having some trouble remembering Minnesota. When I noticed the card had become a leech, I took some time to create hooks and connections that would help me remember.

Minnesota sounds a bit like mini-soda. Minnesota looks like a glass. A glass in which you could pour the contents of a can of soda. A really small can of soda, a mini-soda.

Looks like a perfect glass for my mini-soda!

Getting Started With Anki SRS

Remembering anything becomes easy when you’re using Anki. The flashcard software is totally free, open source and easy to use. Getting started with Anki is done in a flash: you just need to download the program, create some cards and start learning. Easy peasy.

Spaced Repetition

With spaced repetition you create flashcards that are reviewed in increasing time intervals. It’s active recall testing, which means being asked a question and trying to remember the answer. If you answer correctly, Anki will schedule the next review over a longer period of time, increasing that interval each time you give the correct answer. If you forget the answer, Anki will schedule the review for that card sooner.forgettingcurve

So Anki will make sure you wait the right amount of time between the reviews. Because this method of studying is so effective, you can greatly decrease the amount of time you need to study, or greatly increase the amount you learn. Every reason for getting started with Anki today!

Since it is content-agnostic and supports images, audio, videos and scientific markup (via LaTeX), the possibilities are endless.

Anki Manual

Downloading Anki

Anki is not the only software that uses spaced repetition, but it is by far the best. Download the desktop version of Anki by going to the website and clicking the big blue ‘download‘ button. I recommend you create an AnkiWeb account while you’re at it, since AnkiWeb will give you the option of synchronising your decks over multiple devices. Very handy if you want to use Anki on your desktop and mobile phone. It’s all free and they don’t spam you.

For Andriod users there is AnkiDroid, the free mobile app that works like a fricking charm. I’ve been using it for almost four years (january 2017) and never had any problems. For Apple users there sadly isn’t a free app, but AnkiMobile is available and definitely an option if you intend to use Anki a lot.

The basics

In Anki a card is a question+answer pair. It’s based on the paper flashcard with a question on the one side and the answer on the other. Obviously, because Anki is software it’s not restricted to the two sides of a paper flashcard, so in theory you could create as many sides as you want. But while you’re getting started with Anki, we’ll stick to the question on one side and answer on the other format. Just click on ‘add’ and start creating flashcards.

Anki Card Basic

When you’re done creating flashcards for now, go back to the main screen. Click on the default deck and hit the ‘study now‘ button. Anki will show you the front side of the card. You then tell Anki if you remembered the correct answer and how easy it was for you to remember, so that Anki can schedule the next review accordingly. I use ‘hard’ when I barely remembered it, ‘good’ when I knew the correct answer and ‘easy’ when I knew it so well I was bored even being asked. Obviously, use ‘again’ when you can’t come up with the correct answer.

Read more: How to create KICKASS cards in Anki!

Using decks

A deck is a collection of cards. They are meant to be used to divide up your content in broad categories, for example ‘French’ or ‘Geometry’. You might be tempted to create a lot of little decks to keep everything neatly organised, but it’s a terrible idea. Anki is not designed to handle lots of different decks. More importantly, it will cause you to learn the content in that specific context, which makes it harder to recall in real life. If you really need to organise your content, use tags. For example, you can use tags for specific chapters or tag content that is related to your next test.

When you need to recall the word or phrase outside Anki, you won’t have the luxury of being shown related content first!

Anki Manual

Tips for studying with Anki:

  • Review your cards every day, if it’s at all possible. I don’t review 100% of the time, but I know when I skip my reviews, the cards start piling up and I’m messing with the spaced repetition algorithm.
  • Be honest about your answer. You’re really not cheating anyone but yourself if you pretend to know an answer you couldn’t remember. If you really can’t be bothered to learn it, just kick it out of your deck.
  • Creating cards is actually one of the most important steps in learning. Put your time in creating good quality cards, because it means you’re already halfway into remembering the content for good. Avoid decks that are created by others, unless you have a really good reason to use them.
  • Congratulations on getting started with Anki! Let us know how you’re doing in the comments below :).