The Top 3 Reasons Why Flashcards Are So Effective

Modified on by Andrew Cohen

The Top 3 Reasons Why Flashcards Are So Effective

Flashcards may have a reputation as being one of the most boring ways to study. But there’s a reason that flashcards have been a preferred study method for hundreds of years: They friggin’ work!

While they won’t necessarily instill focus and motivation in an otherwise helpless student, flashcards are hands-down the most effective way for motivated learners to study and retain factual knowledge, especially when they are used smartly. Guess what you can actually improve student engagement with flashcards.

Below the break are the top 3 reasons why flashcards are so effective:

Why Flashcards Help Us Learn

1. Flashcards engage “active recall”

When you look at the front side of a flashcard and think of the answer, you are engaging a mental faculty known as active recall. In other words, you are attempting to remember the concept from scratch rather than simply staring at the passage in your textbook or recognizing it on a multiple choice quiz. Active recall has been proven to create stronger neuron connections for that memory trace. And because flashcards can so easily facilitate repetition, they are the best way to create multiple memory-enhancing recall events.

2. Flashcards utilize your metacognitive faculties

When you reveal the answer side of a flashcard to assess your correctness, you are essentially asking yourself “How did my answer compare to this correct answer?” and “How well did I know (or not know) it?” This act of self-reflection is known as metacognition. Research shows that applying metacognition tends to ingrain memories deeper into your knowledge.

3. Flashcards allow for confidence-based repetition

Because flashcards exist loosely, rather than tied to a book or document, you are able to separate them into piles based on whether (or how often) you need to study them again. This practice of confidence-based repetition is proven by decades of research to be the most scientifically optimized way to improve memory performance.

Of course, where possible, you should always try to learn new concepts using project-based learning, or by asking your own questions. But when it comes to studying or reviewing concepts in the most effective way possible, nothing comes close to flashcards. Especially adaptive learning flashcards.

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Nayantara 3 years ago

Flash cards are amazing. We started using them with our baby.

Alif2Yaa Arabic Bookstore 3 years ago

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James Doehring 3 years ago

Try some mental math flash cards:

Steve Hunter 3 years ago

Out of curiosity, what do you think is more effective. Reading a chapter and making flashcards as you read through, or reading the chapter, doing practice questions on the chapter, and only making flashcards of concepts you answered incorrectly?

I am currently doing the first option and I'm finding that it's making my study times much longer. I thinking about simply doing the latter and seeing how it goes. It seems a more efficient use of time, i.e. not even taking the time to create flashcards on information that I already know.


Ada Choi 3 years ago

Wow, Great post. I am really impressed by reading the myths about learning Japanese. Though it’s difficult to learn for many in my case, I didn’t find it that difficult. I had purchased some sets of Hiragana and Katakana flashcards from for learning the language. And I feel very easy to learn as the flashcards are designed in such a way that one will not find it difficult to learn.

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