Hey there! So you’re shopping around for the best flashcard app to help you study for that next exam, learn a language quickly, or master those guitar chords. And in your online meanderings, you’ve come across two powerhouse names: Brainscape and Quizlet.

Which flashcard app should you choose?

Is Brainscape better than Quizlet? Are the two companies even direct competitors in the first place, where one is trying to unambiguously become the superior product for all studying?

Well, those may actually not be the right questions. The key here is not which flashcard app is "better," as both are excellent products. The real question is "which product is better for me?"

To help you determine that, I’m going to explain how Brainscape is different from Quizlet and the specific use cases for which each flashcard app is best suited.

Hi, We're Brainscape!

Brainscape web & mobile app

Brainscape is a web and mobile flashcard app that helps you double your learning speed. We've spent years researching and building the best ways to leverage key cognitive science principles to make your studying as efficient as humanly possible.

Brainscape's prioritization of effectiveness over fun makes our app a great choice if you are a serious learner who needs to memorize a massive amount of content-heavy information over a long period of time.  It's the reason we're a top choice for medical students, law students, avid foreign language learners, top high school and college students, and thousands of professional certifications.

Brainscape has often been called the "grown-up version of Quizlet" and we’re optimized for serious long-term learning in the following ways:

Flexible flashcard format

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 and dates.

Flexible flashcard organization

We make it easy for flashcard makers to (i) "curate" flashcards from various sources (both within Brainscape and from outside), (ii) "bookmark" useful cards from across various subjects or decks, and (iii) create 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.

Trusted certified content

Instead of just accepting a big import of a publisher's existing paper flashcards, Brainscape works directly with small publishers and content experts, in order to jointly create the optimal study experience for our unique platform. This results in an increasing number of certified flashcard collections that represent the most effective ways to study foreign languages, professional certifications, and hundreds of other subjects.

100% Self-driven

Rather than multiple-choice or matching exercises, where you merely recognize the answer, Brainscape focuses on flashcards, which ask you to think of the answer from scratch (active recall), and to rate your confidence in each card (metacognition), on a scale of 1-5.  This combination of active recall and metacognition is scientifically proven to strengthen your memory much better than recognition games do.

Focused on attacking your weaknesses

Because Brainscape provides five gradients of flashcard confidence, instead of Quizlet's two ("know" or "don't know"), Brainscape is able to implement a more personalized spaced repetition sequence, which repeats harder concepts more frequently until you gradually increase the confidence interval.  [Read more about Brainscape’s spaced repetition algorithm.]

Brainscape spaced repetition adaptive flashcards

Defeats the “forgetting curve”

This last concept is perhaps the most important. Learning with Brainscape isn’t linear. You don't just "flip through" questions in Brainscape. Instead, our app automates and personalizes the optimal repetition of content so that you (1) never forget anything and (2) don’t waste unnecessary time. We obsessively help you defeat the dreaded “forgetting curve” that is endemic to all studying.

How spaced repetition words illustration
Each time Brainscape repeats a concept at the perfectly determined time interval FOR YOU, your "forgetting curve" (how quickly you forget after that exposure) is "shifted out" to the right, meaning that you will now remember that concept for even longer before the next repetition.

Learn more, faster

The net result of using Brainscape over a long period of time is that you will learn increasingly more, per net unit of time spent studying. The benefits of active recall, metacognition, and spaced repetition actually accrue exponentially the longer you use the product consistently.

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

Of course, this doesn't mean that Brainscape is going to solve all your learning needs (at least not yet.  Some subjects—like math or computer programming—may involve deeper hands-on problem-solving that isn't well addressed by a flashcard where you simply "think" of an answer. Other subjects—like reading, writing, or philosophy—involve oral and written discussion that far exceed the borders of a bite-sized flashcard.

And finally, there are other subjects that are indeed great for bite-sized flashcards, but where the stakes aren't so high, and where learners are more interested in having fun while they study. That's where Quizlet comes in...

When should I use Quizlet?

When should you use Quizlet?

Quizlet is one of the most successful education startups ever built.  They've been around much longer than Brainscape, they have proliferated to the majority of U.S. K-12 schools (especially K-8), and they even filed to go public in September 2021.

Quizlet's big secret to success is that their product is fun to use.  Because Quizlet decided to focus on only vocabulary and images (where the answer is always just one word or phrase), the app allows for question types like multiple choice, matching, and fill-in-the-blank. These types of questions have only two possible outcomes: “right” or “wrong” answers, and thus it is easy to score you on leaderboards against other students.

While those competitive exercises may not be as effective a learning tool as Brainscape, they are immensely popular in schools where students need a bit more motivation to engage in their studies or homework.  In fact, Quizlet has recently even become popular as an in-class competition too, with their fun interactive class trivia game called Quizlet Live.  We've seen the videos and the kids love it.

The big decision to make when deciding between Quizlet and Brainscape is therefore how much you value fun vs. effectiveness.

If you (or your students) really need some motivation for studying a boring subject—and if that subject really only requires a few minutes or hours' worth of studying—then Quizlet can be the best flashcard app for the job! The net benefit in time saved by having otherwise used Brainscape wouldn't have been that great for such a short study time after all.

Some low-stakes subject areas ripe for Quizlet include:

  • Studying for a 7th grade biology quiz
  • Learning your U.S. state birds for fun
  • Running a live trivia game with your class (or at the pub)
  • Memorizing 20 key phrases in Norwegian for your upcoming 3-day trip

For tasks such as these, Quizlet is probably the more appropriate flashcard app.  In fact, these types of lower-stakes tasks might even represent the majority of studying in the world, and we at Brainscape are okay with that. Brainscape is more focused on serious learners who have a lot to study over a long period of time.

Summary: “Brainscape vs Quizlet” points of comparison

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

Feature

Quizlet

Brainscape

    Primary stated goal

  • Make learning fun and social.

    Best for

  • Younger students (K12) who need motivation to learn, for smaller cram sessions.

    Learning experience

  • Highly “gamified” learning experience with a focus on fun and competition.

    User types

  • Mainly for students and teachers.

    Design theme

  • Playful, simple and youthful.

    Spaced repetition

  • No spaced repetition on the free version! Only accessible via paid version, and with minimal personalization.

    Content

  • Optimized for mainly just vocab and images, which makes “gamifying” the experience much easier, based on the answers you get “right” or “wrong”.

    For schools and companies

  • No private enterprise licenses available.

    Quizlet Plus vs Brainscape Pro

  • Provides explanations, personalized study paths, and customizable flashcards.

    Additional content

  • Explanations for the answers to exercises in popular textbooks. Need to upgrade for access.
  • Learn faster and remember longer.
  • Serious, self-motivated students studying for high-stakes exams and certifications.
  • Self-driven rather than gamified: hyper focused on effective and efficient learning.
  • Flexible design for learners, educators, and professional organizations.
  • Mature with an appealing and easy-to-navigate UI/UX.
  • Sophisticated and personalized spaced repetition algorithm for all users.
  • Flexible to account for longer, more detailed and complex questions and answers, which you then self-assess your confidence in. This allows the individual to steer their OWN learning path in a more personalized and optimal way.
  • Private enterprise licenses available.
  • Provides unlimited access to user-generated and certified, expert-curated flashcards.
  • The Brainscape Academy, which contains hundreds of articles—both general and subject specific—on how to overcome key challenges and excel. Available free to all.

A final note on Brainscape vs Quizlet

Brainscape and Quizlet flashcard apps

At the end of the day Quizlet and Brainscape serve different markets and purposes. But armed with the information laid out in this guide, I hope you now feel that you know which is the best flashcard app for you (and that you think it’s Brainscape).

So, remember, if you’re a serious student studying a high stakes subject—whether it’s your biology finals, the bar exam, or a professional certification—Brainscape is the best study tool to help you study so much more efficiently.

All the best with your studies!


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