Studying Flashcards: 5 Tips That Will Make the Difference

Making and Studying Flashcards 5 Tips That Will Make the Difference
Picture of Athina Hansen

Athina Hansen

Content Writer at Gradehacker

Think back to the last time you used flashcards to study, were you left with top-notch memory for your exam, or did you instead find out the hard way that they didn’t help you in the slightest?

If this has happened to you, you may be wondering what all the hype is surrounding flashcards? You’ve heard all your friends talk about how flashcards are life-changing, but unfortunately, you can’t relate.

In theory, they sound like an excellent method to incorporate into your study routine. This is because they offer a quick way to refresh exam information and boost your memorization. But in practice, you’ve never had much luck with them.

We hear this problem from students very often. This is because here at Gradehacker, we help college students with their exams as well as coursework. In our years of experience, we have come into contact with many students who complain that popular study methods just don’t work for them. We know firsthand how frustrating it can be when common study methods aren’t successful for you.

Due to having no luck with flashcards, you might have been led to believe that you need a drastically different studying method. But in fact, this is the least probable case! If you are struggling with flashcards, it is probably because you are not making and/or effectively studying them.  

This article will give you five tips to make and study flashcards that will transform your experience with them. By following these simple tips, you will finally understand what exactly the hype surrounding flashcards is!

Tips That Will Make the Difference:

  • Include pictures to Support Your Words
  • Keep it to One idea per flashcard
  • Use a Mnemonic Memory device
  • Review The Flashcards with Structure and Purpose
  • Say Your answers out loud

Include Pictures to Support Your Words

Many students do not include pictures when making flashcards. However, by doing so, you are leaving money on the table!

You may be wondering why pictures will make a difference? Well, it all comes down to a phenomenon titled the picture superiority effect, or PSE. This phenomenon describes how we can recall information learned through pictures rather than written words a lot easier and faster.

In other words, we can memorize pictures a lot better than written information. You might be thinking, okay, well, let me just use pictures then. However, this is not a good tactic! The strategy is to blend both images and written information when possible.

By including pictures, you will increase the memorability of the information. So, try drawing pictures to represent a concept, or even including pre-made pictures, as it will be very helpful. Don’t worry about showing off your artistic ability; any image will make a concept easier to remember.

Making and Studying Flashcards 5 Tips That Will Make the Difference

Keep it to One Idea per Flashcard

It’s easy to want to jampack your flashcards with as much information as possible. You might do so since you want to cover as much information as possible. But the truth is, by packing a flashcard with a lot of information, you are doing yourself more harm than good.

When reviewing flashcards full of information, you may be mistaken into thinking you recall the information, when instead, you are only recognizing it.

Recognition occurs when you are reminded of information due to a familiar cue. An example of this would be reading the first sentence of a definition and remembering the remaining information. On the other hand, recalling information is when you can remember information without a familiar prompt.

You are doing yourself a disservice by not limiting each flashcard to one idea. This is because it is difficult for your brain to remember a lengthy answer. That is why you should split a large topic into smaller bite-sized ideas, as it is easier to process simpler information.

Let’s say you have a flashcard on the causes of the Great Depression. You might be tempted to put economic, social, and political causes all on the back of one card. But it is actually better to make separate cards for each type of cause.

Use Mnemonic Memory Device

Another great tip to incorporate into your flashcards is including mnemonic devices! A mnemonic device is a creative way to remember information. Mnemonic devices are used because they are easy to memorize, and they remind you of important information. A mnemonic device can range from a sentence, acronym, or even a short song.

The chances are, you probably have been taught at least one mnemonic device in your lifetime. An example of a famous mnemonic device, used for the order of colors in the visual light spectrum, is Roy G Biv. By remembering this simple acronym, you will be reminded of the order as each letter represents a color.  

Try to include mnemonic devices for the topics dealt in your flashcards. Well, what do you do if there are no well-known mnemonic devices out there for the topics? Come up with a silly mnemonic device by yourself!

In fact, the sillier a mnemonic device, the more beneficial it will be! This is because it will make the device more memorable. 

Review The Flashcards with Structure and Purpose

Part of the process of studying flashcards is reading through them repeatedly. However, a big mistake is not purposefully repeating these flashcards.

You cannot expect to successfully study flashcards by merely reading through them ten times. This is because your familiarity and knowledge level will not be the same for each flashcard. For certain flashcards, you might remember the term or definition right off the bat, but you may find it more challenging to remember for others. 

This is why it is necessary to study flashcards based on your familiarity level with each. How do you do that? Well, you should go through your flashcards and separate them into three piles, concepts that you: know well, don’t know too well, and don’t know at all. 

After having separated the flashcards, review them based on the piles. This means spending more time repeating the flashcards you don’t know at all, followed by those that you don’t know too well. Once you repeat the flashcards purposefully, you should become more familiar with the concepts you didn’t know.

Also, by repeating purposefully, more flashcards will begin moving into the pile that you know well.  

You can separate your flashcards by type, content, or give them a specific structure that better serve your study goals.

Say Your Answers Out Loud

When you study flashcards, is your technique simply to read them silently over and over? If so, you might want to start reading the terms and definitions out loud.

When you read flashcards silently, you are missing out on verbally reinforcing the information. The simple act of reading out loud increases the likelihood of the information being memorable.

Read your flashcards out loud! Better yet, try to explain the information presented on a flashcard, as if you were helping out another person. This will allow you to truly master the concepts presented!

Don’t Give Up On Flashcards

Flashcards are a great method to incorporate into your study routine! If you’re asking yourself if you should give them another chance, you definitely should. This is because they are a great review and study method, as they offer a quick way to reinforce the most important concepts. 

Your bad experience with flashcards may be mainly due to not making or consciously studying them. By making use of these five simple tips, you will make sure you are doing so.

We understand how easy it is to give up on a study method due to an unsuccessful experience. We hope that these tips for making and studying flashcards will transform your experience with them and motivate you to incorporate them into your study routine.

If you would like to learn more about effective study methods, be sure to check out our articles on the best ways to study as a visual, auditory, and tactile  learner.

Would you like to know how to create an ideal study environment? Check out our article on 6 Ways to Create an Ideal Study Environment.

Are you interested in how to take effective notes? Check out our article on How to Take Notes Like a Pro.

Picture of Athina Hansen

Athina Hansen

Athina has worked with Gradehacker both as a content writer and a study consultant, where she assisted college students with nursing courses. Athina has a background of educating others and producing content, having tutored college students and produced articles for her school magazine. She brings her experience to her current role, where she writes content to empower and assist the non-traditional college student who is often overlooked. You can find her on LinkedIn