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.

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

The Top 3 Reasons Why Flashcards Are So Effective

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.

Brainscape is a web & mobile education platform that helps you learn anything faster, using cognitive science. Join the millions of students, teachers, language learners, test-takers, and corporate trainees who are doubling their learning results. Visit or find us on the App Store .


Ctipton26 4 years ago

bad ass

Ines 1 year ago

that's why Brainscape is a smart app

Liduvina Muñoz Valle 3 years ago

Thank you very much, for this article I found it so interesting, and was useful for doing my homework. May you have a happy day!

Sonia Carbone 5 years ago

Hi Andrew,
Any news about the program for downloading flashcards onto our iphone and study them without being connected to internet???

Andrew Cohen 5 years ago

Hi Sonia,

Thanks for your interest! This feature will be coming soon, in the form of a separate app called the Brainscape Flashcard Portal. We're currently in testing, and we want to make sure there are no bugs or crashes when we release it. Keep following us and you'll definitely be hearing plenty about it when it goes live :)

Abbey 2 months ago

great and simple article! We developed a free language learning app called Ginko Memory with the flashcard approach to learning and so obviously agree with this 100%. We are sharing your post on our facebook page!

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