Author Topic: Using Anki for spaced repetition flashcards  (Read 1849 times)

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Offline brennaw

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Using Anki for spaced repetition flashcards
« on: May 04, 2020, 04:31:35 PM »
Flashcards are a classic tool, but I know when I was studying language, after a couple years I reached a certain point where the pile of flashcards I had became overwhelming - I simply had too many to store! Even using virtual tools like Quizlet, it doesn't escape the issue of not knowing what to review - you can have 30 different vocabulary lists, but when should you go over them, and how can you remember?

Spaced repetition apps attempt to manage that for you, and have become very popular over recent years, but they all have different degrees of usability. I'm here to sing the praises of a system called Anki:

They have a web client, desktop app, and an Android version available for free; iOS users unfortunately have to pay. It's also, admittedly, not the most user-friendly software of all time. However, Anki has a degree of flexibility that isn't matched by anything else out there. 

You can create flashcards with multiple fields and completely customize how they display - if you want to include sample sentences, collocations, whatever is needed for deeper vocabulary learning, you can do so with Anki.

Anki will also manage your review schedule for you. Every day, it will present you with a set of vocabulary cards to review - you can answer whether you got the card wrong, correct but it was hard to remember, correct but easy to remember, etc. Each time you answer for an individual card, Anki will adjust the amount of time it will wait before presenting you with that card again. The continuous exposure to vocabulary and managed reviews make it a great tool in my opinion.

However, I have a few tips for making the best use of Anki, based on my own experience:
  • If you want to use Anki in a classroom setting, I'd only recommend it for older students, it takes some training, and you'll want to create the decks of cards yourself for the students.
  • It's absolutely worth including information like synonyms, example sentences, and collocations on your flashcards - it helps prevent the issue where you only remember the word in the context of the app!
  • Be very careful about how many new vocabulary words you add per day. Any more than ~10 words per day can quickly snowball into a very large amount of words per day to review, and that can become very daunting and time consuming, making people less likely to continue with the app.
  • Anki isn't meant as a drill tool to cram before a test! If you want to use it that way, you can tag vocabulary cards with information like the textbook chapter it came from, and create custom study sessions outside the normal review schedule to practice more.

Anki has a bit of a learning curve, but I genuinely think it's worth it. It also has excellent documentation, available here: