Should You Use Anki or Flashcards For MCAT Prep?

I’ve received a bunch of questions about Anki, the popular flashcard app that a lot of students use for studying for exams and for the MCAT.

Last weekend, I actually had a long discussion with one of my students about flashcards and the merits of Anki for MCAT prep. I covered this in my email newsletter last weekend, but I’ll recap it for you here on the blog:

For those of you who are in my course The 5 Pillars of Studying Less & Getting Better Grades, you know how I feel about Anki. For those of you not enrolled, let me fill you in real quick:
  • Anki is an online flashcard software that has some nice little features
  • However, I DO NOT recommend you use them, ESPECIALLY for the MCAT because the temptation to use someone else’s flashcard deck is way too strong
  • 99% of people do not know how to effectively flashcard and think that having 5 million flashcards is something to brag about

In our discussion last weekend, my student and I were laughing as he showed me the ULTIMATE MCAT FC deck some bozo on SDN created.

We laughed at the composition of the cards, but also how there were literally ~5900 FCs. Who wants to go through 6,000 flashcards?

What happens when you make thousands of flashcards is that you overwhelm yourself unintentionally.

It can even be demoralizing when you are staring at thousands of flashcards for MCAT prep – and then it leads to anxiety, procrastination, and all of the other mental obstacles that keep students from their peak potential on the MCAT.

Flashcards can be a very effective learning tool with the right strategy, but the reality is that the vast majority of people simply don’t know how to use them effectively.

Most use flashcards willy nilly, creating huge quantities of them without a clearly defined role, a high yield focus, and time when they’ll be used. As a result, flashcards often become a burden rather than a study aid.

Make Your Flashcards Personally Meaningful and Keep Their Numbers Low

Your flashcards need to be personally meaningful to you, and you should strive to have as few of them as possible.

This forces you to conceptualize the material and prevents you from creating a monster flashcard deck that is stressful and doesn’t allow you to do lots of repetition.
You should ALWAYS make your own flashcards (no exceptions).

For the MCAT, you should be very selective in making flashcards (and notes for that matter) because you may not have time to review it all. Our goal is to learn, not to make notes or flashcards.

What do you think about Anki and flashcarding in general?

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