As students, we always look for new ways to improve our studying. Whether that’s taking Cornell notes, digital tools, or using flashcards, there are options when it comes to supporting our studying and learning. While flashcards are simple and traditional, they’re also one of the most effective tools for learning.
Here, we’ll emphasize why flashcards are so useful and show you how to make flashcards. You’ll find ways to make them by hand and through apps and other online tools. Plus, you’ll discover other ways to support your learning, including working with a tutor.
Why Flashcards Are Useful
Flashcards require you to use active recall. Instead of just reviewing your notes or watching a YouTube video on the subject, you have to guess or recall the right answer. Active recall tests your memory, giving you a chance to remember the answer rather than relying on notes or someone else to provide the answer. When your brain and memory work actively, you learn and retain the information longer than if you just passively encountered it.
Flashcards also involve metacognition — an awareness of your own thoughts and processes. This happens when you guess the answer and turn the card over to see if you’re right. When you look at the answer, you’re self-assessing your skills and self-correcting if you got the answer wrong. This process helps you improve your learning capabilities and can also help you master the subject matter at hand.
Additionally, flashcards involve spaced repetition — a learning technique where you repeat learning material. The constant interaction with the same topics makes it easier for your brain to recall the information. Spaced repetition works best when flashcards are organized into groups of information and difficulty levels. In this practice, new or more difficult topics are reviewed more often than simple topics, helping to reinforce spaced learning.
How to Make Flashcards
When it comes to flashcards, you can make paper flashcards by hand or use digital tools to make virtual ones. Making cards by hand takes longer than making them online, but some students prefer physical cards. Both methods are equally effective, so you’ll just have to decide what medium you prefer better. If you're looking for how to make flashcards, check out the handy tips and apps below.
To make your own flashcards by hand, start with index cards. If you don’t have index cards, you can cut a regular sheet of paper into equal pieces. Then, you can choose to write the information by hand or type it into Microsoft Word or Google Docs and print. Writing flashcards by hand may also help to improve recall. By writing the information, you’re learning and processing it more efficiently than typing it into a form.
Another benefit of paper flashcards is you can take them to class with you. As many schools and teachers have bans or restrictions on phone usage, you may not be able to access flashcards stored on a mobile app during class.
Flashcard apps make it quick and easy to make cards. For students who are used to being on their computers or workbooks all the time, online flashcards may feel more comfortable.
There are many websites and apps you can use as a flashcard maker. Some of the most popular include Canva, Quizlet, and Cram.
Quizlet and Cram.com enable you to make flashcards on the website or using their app. You can use flashcard sets made by other students, saving you studying time. Canva is great for visual learners, as you can easily add graphics, designs, diagrams, and visuals — like the periodic table — to help improve your studying. Flashcard Machine is great for auditory learners, as you can add sound to your flashcards. You can also work on a flashcard set with other students if you prefer group study sessions.
Tips for Studying With Flashcards
Flashcards are a great way to supplement the learning process and get the most out of your study time. They’re particularly useful for learning facts, dates, and vocabulary, including history, vocabulary, and foreign languages. Whatever you’re studying, here are some tips to make flashcards and study flashcards more effective.
Keep It Simple
Flashcards should only have one topic or answer per card. This makes it easier to study and review, and it also prevents study sessions from getting overwhelming. Avoid using bullet point answers for questions with more than one answer. Instead, make separate flashcards for each answer to help with memorization.
If you need help memorizing more complex topics, it’s a good idea to break them into simpler subsections. You can create a larger flashcard that connects the ideas or lays them out in a way that helps you understand how the smaller parts relate and form a larger concept.
Say the Answer Out Loud
Repetition is a key tool for learning new content. The more senses you involve in the learning process, the more likely you are to retain the information. If you write down the answer and say it out loud when studying, you’re more likely to remember it. That’s because you’re building on active study methods.
Like saying the answer out loud, associating the topics with visuals incorporates another sense, making it easier to recall the information. You can draw silly pictures that help you remember complex topics or use images on the side of the card to depict vocabulary words. You can also use highlighters to identify important information, drawing your focus to the right answer.
Mix It up
Make sure to study your flashcards in a different order as often as possible. This prevents you from memorizing the order of the correct answers rather than the actual information. Try going through your flashcards in one direction and reversing the order the next time. Shuffle the cards and go through the flashcard deck a few times each study session. You can also read the answers and try to remember the corresponding question. This helps build neurological pathways that support memory recall.
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. A set of flashcards or note cards won’t do you much good if you don’t use them very often. Whether you’re studying for advanced exams in high school or college or your child is in elementary or middle school and still getting a grasp on the learning process, regularly studying is essential for success. Plan a flashcard study session at least a few times per week, and brush up on concepts before an exam for the best results.
Support Your Learning With TutorMe
While flashcards are a great way to increase repetition and improve our skills, sometimes we need a little more help. That’s where a tutor can help. At TutorMe, we connect you to the highest quality tutors so you can get help studying for an exam or mastering concepts in a difficult class. Whether you’re gearing up for the SAT or want help in subjects such as math, science, and social sciences, you’ll find a tutor that can help.