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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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 :).