Reader Query: Avoiding “Flashcard Hell” and Discovering Satisfying Finding out Methods

Reader Garrett writes:

I just lately obtained my acceptance letter for medical faculty. Your content material, concepts, and electronic mail exchanges helped me a lot on this journey. So, I needed to share that with you and thanks. Ultralearning formed a lot of my strategy to finding out throughout undergrad. 

I need to spell out an issue I’m pondering via and see what you assume attainable options is likely to be:

I HATE flashcards. I’m not in opposition to flashcards as a result of I don’t consider they are often useful for studying; I hate them as a result of I discover doing flashcards to be extremely boring, tedious, and energy-draining. I don’t understand how a lot about the best way most medical college students are finding out as of late (it looks like you may’t go on the web and search for finding out content material with out coming throughout med-tubers’ movies on the subject), however the majority of scholars are utilizing premade decks via Anki. The preferred accommodates round 30,000 playing cards. After speaking with medical college students who’re utilizing the deck, they report finishing 300-600 playing cards each single day, and this takes them round 1 to 1.5 hours. 

Do you may have some other concepts about the right way to take care of matters that are very time period heavy with out getting misplaced in flashcard hell?

I discovered Garrett’s query fascinating for 2 causes.

First, there’s the problem of flashcards particularly. On this regard, I discover myself a lukewarm fanatic for flashcards. In comparison with most individuals’s default finding out methods, they’re glorious. However, flashcards are straightforward to abuse—it’s straightforward to inadvertently make flashcard decks that gained’t switch nicely to the topic you’re making an attempt to grasp.

Second, there’s the broader problem of the right way to discover finding out methods that be just right for you. I are inclined to prioritize based mostly on effectiveness as a result of I feel one of the simplest ways to get pleasure from one thing is to do it nicely. A method that doesn’t work is never enjoyable. But, I sympathize with Garrett that typically the “optimum” strategy will be depressing.

My Combined Views on Flashcards

In my research, I’ve had initiatives that made heavy use of flashcards and others the place I didn’t use them in any respect. When studying Chinese language, as an example, I peaked at round 18,000 flashcards. In distinction, I didn’t use them in any respect for Spanish. My most latest Macedonian mission most likely peaked at round 3000 flashcards.

I didn’t use flashcards through the MIT Problem, and I solely made about 20-30 paper flashcards for quantum mechanics to nail down some difficult trigonometric identities. I used them for finding out medical neuroscience, however I haven’t used a single one for my latest analysis mission.

Flashcards are best to use when it’s worthwhile to memorize lots of data that has a cue-response sample. Thus they’re preferrred for studying vocabulary, trivia and legal guidelines.
Nevertheless, flashcards have a number of pitfalls for those who’re not cautious:

  • They’ll result in memorizing with out understanding. I feel that is extra possible with premade decks, the place you may grind out the right reply via repetition with out seeing why it’s true.
  • They’ll result in memorizing a selected reply—as an alternative of a common methodology. Flashcards are nice for details like “7 x 7 = 49.” But it surely’s a lot tougher to show an algorithm just like the one you employ for 1501 + 239 = 1740. It’s troublesome to incorporate the complete vary of potentialities in a static set of flashcards. In consequence, you pattern a couple of issues from a given kind, which invariably results in memorizing these solutions as an alternative of the final algorithm. I desire observe issues right here, particularly for those who can draw from a big library of circumstances as an alternative of repeating the identical playing cards.
  • They’ll result in memorizing stuff you most likely don’t want to recollect. That is equal to the scholar who highlights each sentence in her textbook. I’ve coached some college students who appear to create a flashcard for each attainable factoid with out choosing which of them deserve memorization.

My view on flashcards is that they’re good supplementary observe. For duties with a excessive reminiscence burden, they could even be the majority of your finding out time. But, I feel they need to at all times be paired with life like observe—whether or not that’s having precise conversations in a language, doing observe assessments in your certification exams, or utilizing the ability in actual life.

What to Do About Efficient (however Unenjoyable) Finding out Methods?

After discussing a few of these factors with Garrett, he conceded that (in his view) the standard of the premade medical flashcard decks was comparatively excessive. Thus, the problem was much less whether or not this technique would work and extra whether or not it was attainable to keep away from it.

Right here, I feel it’s helpful to maintain a couple of issues in thoughts:

  • Generally a technique simply takes some getting used to. For instance, I strongly advocate doing observe assessments to organize for a standardized examination. Nevertheless, nervousness often runs excessive, and other people are inclined to keep away from utilizing this technique initially. Nevertheless, for those who get within the behavior of taking timed observe exams often, the nervousness diminishes. The as soon as anxiety-provoking exercise turns into routine, and also you cease feeling so dangerous about it. Regardless of my ambivalence about flashcards, I had no issues utilizing them for 4 hours a day whereas in China. Generally, you simply gotta give it a shot.
  • Perceive what the technique is making an attempt to realize. If the aim of the technique, you may replicate it with different means. On this case, flashcards are a very efficient technique to get (a) retrieval observe and (b) spaced observe. These are efficient finding out methods, however there are different methods to do them. You are able to do observe issues, as an example, or give your self recall prompts.
  • Begin with a centered strategy. As talked about earlier than, some issues are best to resolve with flashcards. Vocabulary is a reasonably apparent one. However there are fuzzier circumstances. You possibly can study a medical diagram via flashcards, or you could possibly print out a clean diagram and fill within the labels with none hints. When you dislike flashcards, I’d begin through the use of them solely in the obvious circumstances and utilizing different methods the place you may.

For a aggressive studying state of affairs like medical faculty, the utility of low-efficiency methods is restricted. Prefer it or not, Garrett might want to move exams, so there’s a minimal studying-efficiency bar he’ll should cross to make it.

However for many people, we’re studying for functions that aren’t fairly so urgent. If you wish to study a language for enjoyable and primarily get pleasure from watching international movies, you may not trouble with practising talking. Equally, essentially the most rigorous strategy to studying to attract most likely includes a gradual build-up of fundamental technical abilities in more and more sophisticated initiatives. However perhaps you identical to drawing flowers or faces and need to begin there for curiosity’s sake.

I have a tendency to not speak about optimizing for enjoyment when studying as a lot as effectiveness. This isn’t as a result of enjoyment is just not necessary, however as a result of I feel it’s one thing folks can readily do on their very own. Solely what you love to do, so you’re the just one who can modify your studying course of to fit your personal persona and preferences. Studying so much will depend on discovering strategies that work—and strategies you may get pleasure from and follow!

I am Christian Nnakuzierem Alozie (Kris Kuzie Alozie). A native of Eziama Nneato in Umunneochi LGA, Abia State, Nigeria. I am an inspirational writer and a motivational speaker. And above all, a lover of charity.

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