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Using flashcards

This quick guide to using flashcards will help you get the most from them, and be creative while you study.

First of all flashcards are all shapes and sizes, but the most common size is 5”x3” or 6”x4”. You can find some examples of blank flashcards here:

They function as a very useful memory aid, they are best used with a question on one side and an answer on the other.

The point of flashcards is not to write everything you know down on them; that would be just a version of mini notes, which many students don’t find that effective. The real idea is that you have a question on one side and the answer on the other. Then during a study session you can flash the cards and guess the answer.

Flashcards were classically used for language learning but used in the right way they can be very useful for the study of any subject. Some students really believe that writing lots and lots of information really helps with the creation of flash cards. The only problem with this is that it can create passive study. The key is to learn what is on the cards and to test yourself often, so that they are used as part of your active study routine.

You can be creative in how you make and use the cards. For instance, here are five ideas to get you going:

1. If you made a presentation or notes then you can print them out and put them on the cards. You can print the presentations that you made on Keynote or PowerPoint as handouts, you can then print out lots of slides per page. Cut these up and place them on the flash cards, then write a question on the other side.

2. Write down flashcards for key words in each lesson, in pencil. Then test yourself on the same day and at the end of the week. If you can correctly define each keyword, rub the pencil out, and reuse the cards for next week's keywords.

3. Create a quiz using flashcards, with questions on one side and more detailed answers and information on the other

4. If using coloured flashcards, think about using a system of categorisation so that the colours correspond to particular aspects of the subject.

5. Play card games using flashcards. You could create a version of solitaire, or a two-player equivalent, where you place a number of cards face down with one face up on top. You can only get to the cards beneath if you can answer the flashcard on top. You can play single player versions, versions against any number of friends, and incorporate colour categorised cards for different levels of complexity.

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