How to Review Using Flash Cards

Three Parts:Obtaining the cardsMaking the cards relevant to your reviewStudying using the cards

Reviewing. No-one likes it, but everyone needs to do it. Flash cards (or cue cards) are a good way to do this because you learn as you make the cards, then you have an excellent tool to test yourself from, over and over again, until you know the answers.

Part 1
Obtaining the cards

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    Buy or make some cards. Make sure that they are approximately A6 size (half of an A5 piece of paper). Don't try to save money by getting paper, as you can see through it, which allows you to unwittingly cheat. It must be lightweight card.
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    Make your own flashcards using a pack of index cards and a black marker pen. Colored cards work best, so you can categorize your flash cards. Plus, they're easier to look at and study from.

Part 2
Making the cards relevant to your review

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    Take the first index card and write the subject you are studying for in big letters. For example, write "SCIENCE" in block letters. Write the test name smaller in the card's margin (or the top). For example, "Trimester 1 final exam." This becomes the top of the pile card that tells you which set of flashcards you're using.
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    Write the keyword on the first card. On one side of the card, write a very brief cue, key word or phrase, or possible exam question. For example "Solar system planets (in order of closest to sun)".
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    Write the answer on the other side. On the other side, write "Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune".
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    Make up several - or dozens - of such cards. You could color code them for different subjects - for example, have all blue cards for biology, and pink cards for physics.
    • If you want to categorize the cards by color, you could write each category's questions on a different color than the answer card. For example, blue cards could be multiple choice questions and pink could be written response. Or, pink is questions about fractions and blue is graphing questions.
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    Increase the complexity for essay exams. If you are reviewing for an essay-based exam, make the information on the back side of the cards more complex, so that you can see the word (for example, "Romeo") and be able to recall several points showing his love for Juliet, several points showing the complexity of his character, advantages and disadvantages of Shakespeare's portrayal of him, what the moral is, etc.
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    Put the flashcards in order. Or, randomly stack them, anyway you like. It can be helpful to put all the questions in each category together. Put the title card at the top of the pile before putting a rubber band around them all for safe keeping.

Part 3
Studying using the cards

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    Begin studying using the flashcards. Surprise! You've already been studying. By writing down the questions and answers on your flashcards, you've studied already. But you will need to study some more by using the cards to test yourself.
    • Read all the questions and answers either silently or aloud. Next, read the questions and try to answer them, then check your answers. Finally, ask a parent, sibling or friend to quiz you. And repeat!
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    Test yourself. When you have made multiple cards, it's time to test yourself. Here's how you do it:
    • Pick up the first card and read the keywords/phrase.
    • Try to recall as much of the information as you can.
    • Flip over the card and see if you got the answer(s) right.
    • If you're happy you got the information right, put that card on the 'right' pile. If you got the information wrong or incomplete, put it on the 'wrong' pile.
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    Do this for all the cards. When you've gone through all the cards, go back to the 'wrong' pile, and repeat the process. Keep going through the 'wrong' pile until you get the information right, and there are no cards left in the 'wrong' pile.
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    Complete the process. Then go through the whole lot again for good measure.

Tips

  • Keep your flash cards in your pocket or purse. This way, whenever you're free, you can whip out your cards and revise your notes.
  • Make sure the keyword side of the card is as blank and identical as possible - or else you start to remember that the card with the torn corner has this answer, and the one with the crossing out has that answer, and so on, and that is no help in an exam. The only cue should be the key word / phrase on the card. So use the same color ink, size of writing, color of card etc., throughout a whole subject.
  • Alternatively, you can use an online flashcard creation tool such as Sharplet. This has the added advantage that it tracks how well you know each card and optimally adjusts how often you need to see it.
  • Some stores sell flash cards and memory cards that have a hole punched in them and are kept together with a small chain or metal hoop. These are quite useful as all your flash cards are bound together and you can hang them to your pencil case or purse. You can make your own by making flash cards in mini size (couple of inches long) and punch a hole in all of them, a few at a time. Make sure the hole you punched is in the exact same place for all your question cards, then you can thread them together.
  • When that test is over, do not throw the flashcards away! Get an empty shoe box with a lid, put a rubber band around the set of cards, and keep them in the box. That way, if you bombed the test and your teacher is letting you retake it, you don't have to make entirely new cards to study from. Each time you make a new set, put them in the same box so you now exactly where to find your cards when you need them.
  • Set a "study goal". Say to yourself, " Today, I'm going to study 45 minutes!" And keep that goal. Stick to it.
  • Take breaks. Do not try to study your whole 45 minutes in one sitting. It's harder to learn when you're cramming all the information in at once. Instead, work on the first 10 questions and take a break. Then do the next 10, and another break. Pace yourself.

Warnings

  • Don't leave this until the night before the exam; you don't have time to be making flash cards and cramming on the one night left!
  • Do not mix subjects in one set of flashcards. Make a different set for each subject. One for math, one for science, and so on.

Things You'll Need

  • A pack of index cards or similar cards
  • Something to write with (black pen or Sharpie work best on colored paper)
  • A shoe box for storage
  • Rubber bands to keep the cards together
  • Separate envelopes

Article Info

Categories: Memorization Skills | Homework Skills