How to memorize flashcards (and remember them later)

How to memorize flashcards (and remember them later)

Published: Feb 22, 2024 | By: Lucas Weaver

What I’m about to tell you about how to memorize flashcards is backed by science and tons of experience.

Memorizing flashcards comes down to three things: 

  1. How many repetitions you do

  2. How many parts of the brain you recruit while studying them

  3. The quality of your own flashcards

Let’s start by looking at the importance of repetitions.

Importance of repetitions in memorizing flashcards

Repetition is known as “the father of learning”, and for good reason. It’s one of the most important factors when it comes to the neuroscience behind how we learn new skills.

To keep it simple, the more times you study a flashcard, the faster you’ll memorize it. And the more times you study a flashcard, the longer you’ll remember it, up to a certain point.

So the easiest factor under your control for managing the speed of memorization of your flashcard is your number of repetitions. Study more, learn faster. Study less, learn slower.

It really is that simple.

Now let’s move on to the part dealing with the parts of your brain you’re engaging.

Activating more brain areas for more effective flashcard memorization

Memorization in the brain is a two-part process: information encoding, and information storing.

Encoding is the process of your brain putting the information on your flashcards into a format that can be stored in long-term memory. In the beginning of your study activities, this is what you’re brain is focused on.

The next part is the storage of that information into your long term memory one it’s been fully encoded. 

Both of these processes are integral in memorization, and both processes require separate parts of the brain.

That’s why the more parts of your brain you can recruit during the learning process, the better your brain can complete these processes.

How to activate more areas of the brain when studying flashcards

The way you can activate more areas of your brain is by engaging more senses simultaneously.

For instance, seeing and reading a flashcard is one sense. But hearing it spoken out loud is another. We also use different parts of our brains reading text than we do interpreting images. So adding images to your flashcards is another way to activate more areas.

Lastly, we can make sure we add context to the key terms or words that we’re trying to memorize. 

By adding context, like with example sentences, or also learning the antonyms (opposite meanings) of words, we give our brains more information to connect the new information with. 

This allows us to also activate the part of the brain that has already stored the information.

Now, the last thing we need to cover is the quality of your flashcards.

Studying high-quality flashcards that don’t slow you down

The other two techniques I’ve given you above won’t help you much if you have poor-quality flashcards.

For example, if you have way too much content on either side of your flashcards, that’s going to slow you down, and it’ll be much harder to memorize the content on the cards.

If you don’t have enough information on the flashcards, and they’re confusing or vague, then you’ll get mixed up between terms and won’t memorize them that way either.

No matter how much study time you put in, making sure you have the right information presented in the right way will go a long way to making sure that the flashcard sets you’re studying are actually helping you in your goal of memorizing the content.

A superhack to memorizing flashcards faster

Now if you’re looking for some kind of magic-bullet to help you memorize flashcards quicker, lucky for you, there actually is one.

I built the Weaver School’s flashcard app myself using all the knowledge I’ve gained from teaching language students over the years. 

After seeing their struggles, and my own struggles as well, I wanted to create the best flashcard maker on the market to help people cover all 3 of the points I’ve covered above.

My flashcard app covers the creation of the flashcards with high-quality information, beautiful and engaging AI images, as well as realistic human-sounding audio reading the terms to you.

Combine this with the “example” section that gives you an example of the word you’re learning used in a sentence, and I’ve covered 100% of the things that are not in your control. 

Now all you have to do is take care of the repetitions part. Just do enough repetitions and you’ll have your content memorized in no time.

Oh and by the way, they have spaced repetition reminders as well so you’ll get reminders to help keep you on track and make sure you spend enough time reviewing your sets too.

Go try it for free now. You’ll be happy you did.

Now, if you still don’t feel like you know how to memorize flashcards, or make them effectively, feel free to continue reading the rest of the guide.

how to learn flashcards

Flashcards: Your Ultimate Learning Companion

Have you ever found yourself struggling to remember information for exams or presentations? You're not alone. 

Most of us have been there, trying to cram information at the last minute, only to find it slipping away when we need it most. 

Traditional memorization techniques such as repetitive reading or just watching lectures often fall short. They can be time-consuming and, let's be honest, pretty boring. 

That's where flashcards come in, ready to revamp your study sessions and help you memorize information faster.

Unveiling the struggles of common memorization techniques

Common memorization techniques often miss the mark because they're not engaging our brains the way they should. 

Reading the same information over and over feels like hitting a brick wall. Not only is it frustrating, but it can also lead to burnout and a lack of motivation. 

Moreover, these methods lack a system for self-assessment. Meaning, you don't really know what you've learned until it's time to use that information.

How to memorize flashcards: A Blueprint

Getting the hang of how to memorize flashcards can transform your learning journey. Here's a simple yet effective approach to get you started:

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Start Simple: Begin with a few cards. Overloading yourself from the get-go can be overwhelming.
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Be Consistent: Make it a habit. Even just 5-10 minutes a day can make a huge difference over time.
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Mix It Up: Shuffle your flashcards regularly. This prevents your brain from getting cozy with the sequence rather than the content.
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Group by Theme: Organize your flashcards into themes or categories. It's easier to remember information when it's connected to similar concepts.
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Test Yourself: Regularly quiz yourself. Try to recall both the question and the answer. This not only helps with memorization but also with understanding the material.

Flashcards offer a hands-on, interactive way to engage with your study material. They’re not just about memorization; they're about understanding. 

By challenging your recall abilities, you're not just remembering information; you're learning it on a deeper level. Plus, let's not forget the satisfaction of flipping a card and realizing you know the answer. 

It's these small victories that keep you motivated and make your learning journey not just effective, but enjoyable.

How to memorize Flashcards: The Basics

Flashcards are such a killer memorization tactic because they involve so many neurological learning processes at the same time. This is great for memorization because you’re recruiting more parts of the brain to work at the same time.

This helps speed up the memory encoding and storage, but it can also be exhausting. That’s why you can’t study flashcards for 8 hours a day, and shouldn’t rely only on them in your study routine.

Let’s look at some of the concepts underlying why flashcards work so well for memorization.

Understanding the concept of active recall

Ever tried reading something over and over, but it just doesn't stick? That's because reading passively is like trying to catch water with a sieve – not very effective. 

Enter active recall, the superhero of memory strategies. It's all about pulling information out of your brain without peeking at the answers. 

When you look at the question side of a flashcard and try to recall the answer, you're doing active recall. 

It's like testing yourself, and guess what? It actually strengthens your memory. The brain loves a good challenge!

Creating effective flashcards: Dos and Don'ts

Now, making flashcards is easy, but whipping up effective ones? That requires a bit of finesse. Let's break it down:

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Do keep it simple: One question, one answer. Don't try to cram an entire textbook onto a tiny rectangle. If you're tackling something complex, break it down into bite-sized pieces.
 
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Do use your own words: When you put things in your own lingo, it sticks better. It's like translating it into your own personal dialect.

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Don't forget about visuals: Who said flashcards can only have words? A picture is worth a thousand words, after all. Scribble a diagram or paste a picture if it helps.

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Don't skip the shuffle: Mix those cards up! If you always review them in the same order, you might just end up memorizing the sequence, not the content.

how to study flashcards

The Science Behind Learning and Recall

Ever wondered how our brains manage to store, remember, and recall the tons of information we shove into them, especially during those late-night cramming sessions? 

Well, it's all about understanding the awesome power of our cognitive functions and how we can make them work in our favor. 

So, grab a seat, and let's dive into the fascinating world of learning and recall.

Cognitive Functions Involved in Studying

First off, let's talk about the main players in our brain when it comes to studying:

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Attention: This is your brain’s spotlight. It focuses on what's important right now. When you're studying, paying attention means you're zooming in on the information that matters, filtering out distractions.
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Memory: Imagine your memory as a giant, sprawling library, with books (information) stashed everywhere. There are two main sections here - short-term and long-term memory. Short-term memory is like the library's drop-off section, where information stays temporarily before it’s either forgotten or moved to long-term memory.
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Encoding: This is the process of taking new information and converting it into a format that can be stored in the brain - kind of like translating a foreign language into your native tongue.
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Retrieval: Think of this as your brain’s search engine. When you try to remember something, your brain goes through its files to find the information you're looking for.

How Flashcards Leverage These Functions

Here's where it gets really cool. Flashcards, those little cards with questions on one side and answers on the other, are like a secret weapon for your brain. 

Here’s how they tap into our cognitive functions:

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Boosting Attention: When you flip a flashcard, you immediately focus your attention on the question. This spotlight helps your brain to process and understand the information more effectively.
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Enhancing Memory: By repeatedly exposing yourself to the same piece of information (thanks to the flashcards), you’re essentially pushing that info from your short-term memory into your long-term memory. It's like moving a book from the drop-off section into the main vault of your brain’s library.
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Improving Encoding: Flashcards help with encoding by making the information more digestible. Since they break down complex concepts into bite-sized pieces, your brain can translate and store the information more efficiently.
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Facilitating Retrieval: Each time you test yourself with a flashcard, you’re practicing the act of retrieval. This strengthens your brain’s search engine, making it faster and more accurate in pulling up the information when you need it.

So there you have it! By understanding how our cognitive functions work in the realm of studying and leveraging tools like flashcards, we can supercharge our learning and recall abilities. 

It's like giving our brains a turbo-boost for handling all that information more effectively. And the best part? This knowledge isn’t just for hitting the books. 

It’s a game-changer for how we process, remember, and use information in all areas of life.

Anatomy of an Effective Flashcard

The Front: Clues and Prompts

Imagine the front of a flashcard like the cover of a mystery novel. It's there to lure you in, get those cogs turning, and make you wanna flip to the end to solve the mystery. Here's the scoop:

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Less is More: You don't wanna cram a whole textbook on one side. Just a word, question, or image that's enough to jog your memory or pique your curiosity.
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Visual Cues: A picture's worth a thousand words, right? A related doodle or symbol can not only make recall easier but also break the monotony of text.
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Question Format: Phrasing your cue as a question can be a game-changer. It sets your brain on a mission—find the answer!

The Back: Answers and Explanations

Alright, flipped the card? Now you're staring at the answer. But it's not just about getting it right or wrong. The back of the card is your personal tutor.

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Clear, Concise Answers: Long-winded explanations? No, thank you. Keep it short and sweet but informative enough to clarify the concept.
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Break it Down: Complex ideas? Chop them into bite-sized pieces. Maybe add a step-by-step solution or a simple analogy to make things click.
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Why it Matters: Sometimes linking the answer to a bigger picture or giving it context can make it stick. A quick "This formula helps predict weather patterns" can add that "aha!" moment.

Design Tips for Clarity and Focus

Alright, we've covered what goes on the card. But how about making sure it's as clear as a sunny day and as focused as a laser beam? Check these out:

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Font and Size Matter: Ever tried reading tiny, scribbled letters? Not fun. Go for clear, reasonably sized fonts. Maybe even throw in a bold or italic for emphasis.
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Color Coding: Use colors to your advantage. Different hues for different categories or subjects can turn a jumbled mess into a rainbow of organized knowledge.
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Whitespace is Your Friend: Don't fear the blank spaces. They're like breaths of fresh air for your brain, giving it room to process and not feel overwhelmed.

Crafting an effective flashcard isn't rocket science, but more like art mingled with a bit of psychology. Stick to these principles, and you'll transform mundane memorization into a vibrant, brain-building adventure. Keep it simple, make it engaging, and watch those facts stick like glue.

tips for memorizing flashcards

Strategic Learning Techniques

Have you ever felt like no matter how much you study, the information just doesn't stick? Well, you're not alone. The trick isn't just to work harder, but smarter. 

That's where strategic learning techniques come into play. These methods are your secret weapon to mastering any subject. Let's dive into three powerful techniques that can transform the way you learn.

The Leitner System: Harnessing the Power of Spaced Repetition

Imagine your study materials are like seeds. Just as seeds need the right amount of water and sunlight over time to grow, your brain needs information in well-timed intervals to truly absorb it. This is where the Leitner System shines.

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So what is it exactly? Picture a set of boxes. Each box represents a level of your knowledge. You put flashcards with information you need to learn in the first box. When you get a card right, it moves to the next box. Get it wrong, and it goes back to the first box.
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Why does this work? It's all about spaced repetition

Seeing the information again and again over longer periods helps lock it into your memory. Plus, it focuses your energy on the tougher nuts to crack, since easier material moves aside.

The Feynman Technique: Simplifying Complex Information

Ever tried explaining something and realized you don't understand it as well as you thought? That's where the Feynman Technique comes in handy. 

Named after the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, this method is all about breaking down complex ideas into simple parts.

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The process is straightforward: Pick a concept you want to learn and try to explain it in plain language, as if you were teaching it to a friend who has never heard of it before.
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Why it's effective: This technique forces you to see gaps in your understanding. If you can't explain something simply, you probably need a better grip on it. Plus, it's a great way to review and solidify your knowledge.

Dual Coding: Using Images and Words Together

Have you ever heard the saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words?" Well, when it comes to learning, combining pictures with words can be like a superpower. This is the essence of dual coding.

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How does it work? It's about pairing images with information. When you study, don't just read or write. Draw diagrams, timelines, or doodles that relate to the material. Or, use images that already exist.
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The benefits are clear: Our brains are wired to remember visuals. By linking images and words, you're giving yourself two paths to recall information. It makes learning more enjoyable and effective.

Adopting these strategic learning techniques can dramatically change how well you learn and retain information. 

Maximizing Retention with Mnemonics

When it comes to learning, we all want to lock in that information tight, right? Like, not just have it floating around for a hot minute and then poof, it's gone. 

That's where mnemonics swoop in to save the day. Now, before you scratch your head wondering what on earth mnemonics are, let's break it down in simple terms. 

Mnemonics are basically these cool, creative ways to remember stuff. It's like your brain's secret weapon for holding onto the tricky bits.

Crafting Memorable Associations

Ever heard of "My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas"? If you grew up learning about planets, this probably rings a bell. 

It's a mnemonic for remembering the order of the planets in our solar system. The trick here is crafting associations that stick. Here's how you can make anything stick like superglue:

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Keep it wacky: The weirder, the better! Our brains love quirky stuff. Trying to remember the Great Lakes? How about "HOMES" (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior)? It's like picturing each lake chilling in its own cozy home.
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Use vivid imagery: Imagine turning the things you need to remember into the most outlandish images. Need to recall the process of photosynthesis? Picture a leaf hosting a sunshine party for water and carbon dioxide.
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Create a story: Link facts or terms by weaving them into a wild, unforgettable tale. It's like directing your own mini-movie where the main characters are the info you need to remember.

Integrating Mnemonics with Flashcard Design

Flashcards and mnemonics? Talk about a dream team. Flashcards are fab for drilling those facts into your brain, and when you mix in mnemonics, you're basically turning your study session into a retention party. 

Here's how to make flashcards that really stick:

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On the front: Pop your question or the term you need to remember. Let's say you're trying to memorize the bones in the human body. You could write "Femur" up front.
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On the back: This is where the mnemonic magic happens. For "Femur," you might put "Feeling Every Movement Under Rainbows." Okay, it's a bit out there, but picture it: your femur dancing under a sky filled with rainbows. Bet you won't forget it now!
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Add some color: Use different colors for different topics or types of information. Not only does it make your flashcards more fun to look at, but colors also help your brain compartmentalize info better.

Putting these methods to the test requires a sprinkle of creativity, a dash of imagination, and a willingness to experiment with what makes those facts stick for you. 

The beauty of mnemonics is that there's no one-size-fits-all solution. What might seem like a bizarre association to one person is the golden ticket to memory lane for another. So, go ahead, pair those mnemonics with some snazzy flashcards, and watch as your recall game becomes stronger than ever. 

Remember, it's about making learning an adventure, one where you're always discovering new ways to make those pesky facts stay put.

techniques for memorizing flashcards

Innovative Approaches to Flashcard Reviews

When we dive into the world of learning, flashcards pop up as these tiny wizards of memory. They're simple yet powerful, and with a twist of creativity, can be transformed into something even more effective. 

Let's chat about a couple of innovative approaches that can really shake things up in your flashcard review sessions.

Engage Multiple Senses for Deeper Learning

Hey there! Ever wondered why some things stick in your brain like gum on a shoe, while others vanish like socks in a dryer? 

Well, it turns out that engaging more of our senses during learning can make a huge difference. 

Let’s break it down into bite-sized pieces and explore two powerful techniques: oral recitation and writing reinforcement. Trust me, it’s like unlocking a superpower for your brain.

Oral Recitation: Speak and Ye Shall Remember

Talking to yourself might make you the star of some curious glances, but when it comes to learning, it’s a total game-changer. 

Oral recitation is simply speaking out the answers or information you’re trying to learn. Here’s why it’s awesome:

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Makes it stick: When you say something out loud, you’re not just hearing the information, but you’re also engaging your speaking skills. This double-whammy approach makes the info stick better.
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Spot the gaps: Ever thought you knew something until you had to explain it? Yeah, we’ve all been there. Speaking out loud helps you identify the bits you’re not so clear on.
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Feel the rhythm: There’s a rhythm and flow to spoken language that can help make concepts easier to remember. Plus, you can add your own flair to make it even more memorable.

So, the next time you're flipping between key points on one side of the card and the other, take a break and practice reading the card out loud to yourself.

You can also try reading from your own notes that you made the flashcards from.

Writing Reinforcement: The Might of the Pen

Writing reinforcement sounds fancy, but it’s really just the physical act of rewriting the information you’re learning, and it's a very effective study tool.

It can help you with difficult-to-explain concepts, as well as any topics you where you face difficulty when you try to retrieve information later.

Here’s the scoop on why this technique is the bee’s knees:

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Muscle memory: There’s something magical about the connection between your hand and your brain. The act of writing helps ingrain the information in your memory.
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Customize it: As you rewrite, you can summarize, rephrase, or organize the information in a way that makes the most sense to you. It’s like creating a personalized brain map.
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Slow and steady: Writing forces you to slow down and really process the information, giving your brain more time to soak it all in.

Combine oral recitation and writing reinforcement, and you’ve got yourself a dynamic duo that’ll boost your learning into the stratosphere. And hey, you don’t have to take my word for it. Give it a try next time you’re studying or trying to learn something new. You might just find yourself learning faster, remembering more, and, who knows, maybe even having a bit of fun.

Digital Flashcards: High-Tech Study Aids

There are many great tool and methods out there for learning new information, things like word webs, mind maps, and Cornell method note-taking, among many others. But flashcards are certainly the most popular for a reason: they work.

Just one reminder since if you’ve made it to the end of this post, you’re certainly interested in a tool to help you memorize flashcards. 

I made my flashcard app here with love, and it’s truly awesome. I tell all my friends about it, and I never even give them a discount I because I know it’s worth paying for (sorry friends ;).

Make sure to check out the Weaver School flashcard tool here

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Lucas Weaver from the Weaver School

Lucas Weaver founded The Weaver School in 2016. He's passionate about using the latest learnings in neuroscience and education to create the best language learning experience possible for our students, so they can quickly build effective language learning habits that will last for years. Lucas is a graduate of Texas A&M University and after 7 years of living in the Netherlands, he is currently traveling through Southeast Asia while learning their languages along the way.

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