When it comes to leveraging the power of spaced repetition to help serious students learn a lot of information over time, few flashcard apps bear up to the reputations of Brainscape and Anki.

And since you’re here, you’re probably curious about which of these—Brainscape vs Anki—is the best flashcard app to help you learn your subject more efficiently. Well, I’m happy you landed here for your answer because, in this guide, we are going to explore how Brainscape is different from Anki and which flashcard app is best suited to your specific needs.

Let’s start with a 30,000 foot view of Brainscape vs Anki …

What’s the difference between the Brainscape and Anki flashcards apps?

Comparing Brainscape and Anki flashcard apps

Anki and Brainscape are flashcard apps that use spaced repetition to help students learn. Both platforms deliver a similar study experience: they enable people to break down mountains of information into collections of individual facts, which they can then study in a question-and-answer format, employing:

  • Active recall to remember each answer from scratch (prompted only by a question)
  • Metacognition to self-assess how well they knew the answer using one of five possible “buckets”, ranging from 1 (didn’t know it all) to 5 (knew it very well).

Then, using spaced repetition algorithms, Brainscape and Anki drill users on the facts—the frequency of which is determined by their self-assessed confidence—until the information is deeply ingrained in their memory.

That’s the basic, shared premise of the two flashcard apps. Both use proven cognitive learning principles like spaced repetition, active recall, and metacognition to help users learn a lot of information more efficiently.

[Read: How brain science can help you learn a language (or anything!) faster]

Now, the important differences between Brainscape and Anki arise in the areas of content creation, curation, collaboration, trustworthiness, and delivery. So let’s take a closer look at these differences ...

Did you know? “Anki” is the Japanese word for "memorization".

What Brainscape offers that Anki doesn’t ...

Brainscape App Store Preview

Flexible flashcard format

Brainscape's content creation formats are more flexible than Anki. Instead of just an image or a vocabulary word in a small text box, Brainscape flashcards have an open canvas for much richer types of questions and answers, of various lengths and formats. This fosters the creation of content that promotes deeper understanding of the subject as a whole, and not just isolated names, dates, and vocabulary.

Easy to curate and organize knowledge

Brainscape fundamentally makes it much easier for users to organize their knowledge by:

  • "Curating" flashcard collections from various sources (both within Brainscape and from outside),
  • Organizing flashcards into decks and decks into “classes”,
  • Editing cards in real time, from any device,
  • "Bookmarking" particularly important cards from across various subjects or decks, and
  • Creating study mixes across lots of different subject areas.

Improving the way that learners and educators organize their knowledge is a major part of Brainscape's mission.

Easy to collaborate with other learners

Brainscape is also a more collaborative platform. Multiple editors can easily work on the same flashcard deck at once, holding each other accountable for content creation. This inspires teams of students, employees, and other users to work together to make great flashcards for a shared class or learning experience.

With the Anki flashcard app, on the other hand, only one author is permitted per deck, which puts the kibosh on collaborative learning.

[Read: Turning flashcards into a collaborative class activity]

Trusted certified content

Because of these collaboration tools, Brainscape is able to work with subject-matter experts to create certified flashcard collections that are comprehensive for a particular exam, professional certification, subject, or language. These are formatted in a way that fosters the best possible learning experience, while constant feedback loops allow other users to suggest edits for further improvement. I.e. you know you can TRUST this content.

With Anki, however, there is no certified content, only user-generated content, and this isn’t ranked according to quality and popularity so you have no idea what you’re getting when you access another users’ flashcards.

Trusted user-generated content

Brainscape DOES rank its user-generated content in order of popularity (which indicates quality, accuracy, comprehensiveness, and usefulness). So, when you search for a subject on Brainscape's Knowledge Genome, you can trust that the flashcards that appear first in the search results are the best in their category, second only to Brainscape’s certified content (if there is a class for that subject).

Opportunities for partnerships

Another benefit of Brainscape’s collaborative tools is that they support reseller partnerships, school licenses, and enterprise licenses in a way that isn't possible with the Anki flashcard app.

What this means is that if you’re an “influencer” in your field, you could become a reseller of Brainscape’s flashcards; or, if you have proven expertise, you could partner with Brainscape to create certified content; or you could make your own content private and sell it, which could generate a passive income for you. Anki simply doesn’t support any of these opportunities.

A better user experience

Brainscape has a beautiful and simple user interface with a well-thought-out and implemented user experience. One of the biggest criticisms of the Anki flashcard app is that it’s clunky and complex, hard to navigate, and delivers a poor user experience. And, fair enough, being free and open-sourced means that it doesn’t have the funding for more sophisticated design, features, and customer service.  (That said, Anki is always evolving and may improve in this respect.)

What Anki offers that Brainscape doesn’t ...

Anki flashcards app iTunes

Prescriptive spaced repetition algorithm

To its credit, the Anki flashcard app is a very sophisticated tool that uses a more prescriptive spaced repetition algorithm, actually allocating a set number of days to each repetition, for example, "You must study this card again in 4 days." Many learners who are extreme knowledge hackers prefer this degree of control.

With Brainscape, the spaced repetition isn’t quite so prescriptive. For example, if you rate a card a 4 and keep studying that day, it may eventually show up again, once you’ve circled through all of the 1, 2, and 3-rated cards. Most of our users prefer this "relative" method of repetition scheduling rather than Anki's "absolute" scheduling method, which won't show you that card again for x number of days (and where you have to remember to come back in exactly X days or else that scheduled repetition is moot).

[Read more about Brainscape’s spaced repetition algorithm.]

Open-source software

Anki is an open-source software tool, which means that it’s free and open to all to use (with the exception of a $25 fee for the iOS app). Some people philosophically prefer this to contributing to the growth of a profit-seeking company. And while Brainscape’s basic features are also free, it does offer a Pro subscription model to help fund future innovation. But you can at least rest assured that your usage (even free usage) contributes to the improvement of the field of education.

Naturally, a free and open source product won't have the polish and flexibility that larger scale operations—like schools and businesses—might want from a flashcard app. However, if, as an individual, you like the charm of free, open, and minimalist—while offering even geekier study algorithm customizations than Brainscape, who does the thinking for you—then the Anki flashcard app may be the perfect choice for you.

Summary: “Brainscape vs Anki” points of comparison

To help you better visualize the differences between our platforms, we've made this handy chart for you:

Feature

Anki

Brainscape

    Content

  • Only offers user-generated content (UGC).

    Trustworthiness

  • UGC isn’t organized based on popularity (quality, accuracy, and thoroughness) and so you don’t know if you can trust what you find.

    Work load

  • Requires a lot of work to set up because you can’t trust UGC, so you have to make your own flashcards from scratch.

    Collaboration

  • No collaboration between creators supported.

    Learner analytics

  • You can only view your own learning data.

    User experience

  • Open source and not as optimized by user experience (UX) designers. Some say it's harder to use.

    Spaced repetition

  • Requires scheduling and discipline, and can be quite prescriptive about when you can study.

    Reseller opportunities

  • No option to sell your study assets.

    Cost

  • Anki iOS app costs $24.99 for lifetime use. Otherwise, web and Android (for some reason) are completely free.
  • Offers both user-generated and expert-curated (certified) content.
  • UGC is organized based on popularity and quality so you can gauge the trustworthiness of what you find, depending on its ranking.
  • Trusted, pre-made flashcard collections (both certified and UG) save tons of time on getting started.
  • Collaboration between creators supported and encouraged.
  • Offers a rich stats dashboard for your learning and for tracking other students’ progress, if you’re an educator.
  • iOS, Brainscape has a beautiful and simple user interface with a well-thought-out UI/UX experience.
  • Can be used anytime, anywhere for consistent, intentional, and opportunistic study, which eliminates boundaries.
  • You can make your content private and/or sell it!
  • Brainscape is free to use unless you want a Pro subscription to access unlimited UGC and certified content. Click here to view pricing plan.

A final note on Brainscape vs Anki

Brainscape vs Anki flashcard apps

Fundamentally, Brainscape and Anki are two different flashcard apps that do the same thing very successfully: help serious students studying high stakes subjects learn so much more efficiently. Some people are die-hard fans of Anki, while others swear by Brainscape. So, it’s more about which one works best for you, the individual.

Naturally, we think we’ve done an excellent job of creating a scientifically optimized study system that is also a total pleasure to use (not to mention delivering a beautiful and seamless user experience). But, well … call us biased.

I hope that with the information laid out in this guide, you now feel that you know which is the best flashcard app for you. All that’s left to say is we wish you the very best with your studies and may your chosen flashcard app help you rise to your challenge!


[Now check out how Brainscape fares against another popular flashcard app, Quizlet! Brainscape vs Quizlet]