How to Study Effectively with Flash Cards – College Info Geek

This is a flashcard. More specifically,
it’s a bad flashcard. And by the end of this video,
you’re gonna understand exactly why because
today, we’re talking about how to make effective flashcards and how to study them
more efficiently. Now, flashcards are
an incredibly powerful learning tool because they
promote active recall, the process of actively
retrieving memories out of your brain, which is
one of the most efficient learning strategies there are. But flashcards are tools
made by human beings and as you probably know,
things made by humans come in varying
degrees of quality. For example, my girlfriend’s
art versus my art. However, when we go into
the making of a thing with the best practices in mind, we can come out with a
better product and in today’s video, I’m
gonna give you eight specific rules for both
making better flashcards and for studying them
more effectively. Now, for the purposes
of this video, I figured I would need
some flashcards of my own to use as examples. So I’ve gone ahead and
issued myself a challenge and that is to learn
and memorize the entire periodic table of
elements because believe it or not, I
actually never took chemistry in high school. I had a really busy schedule
with other classes at the time and just never got to
it, so I’ve gone ahead and started making
some flashcards, which I will be using in
the course of this challenge and we’re gonna use
these to demonstrate the elements of good flashcards. But first, we have to start
with a more general tip, which is to simply make
your own flashcards. I know a lot of people like
to share their flashcards with their friends
and for people who study flashcards on
computers or on apps, there are entire online
communities where you can upload and download pre-made
decks and I think these have their uses
in certain cases, but in most cases, it’s
gonna be much more effective for you to make
your own flashcards. One of the most integral
and important parts of learning is the process
of intaking information and really wrangling
with it on your own and creating your own
words and your own forms out of that information. That’s gonna build really
strong neural pathways and those are gonna be unique
from the neural pathways of somebody else and if you
just take pre-made cards made by somebody else
that you didn’t have to do any work to create,
you’re denying yourself that entire part of
learning process. So, now that you know
the importance of making your cards yourself,
let’s get into the actual nitty gritty of what
makes a card good and the first tip I’ve got
for you is to add pictures to your cards and to
mix them up with words. Now, in cognitive psychology,
there’s a principle called the picture
superiority effect, which describes how
people remember images and pictures much better
than they do words and from an evolutionary
standpoint, this makes sense. Written language
is just a system of arbitrary symbols
that people made up and when we look at
things on a grand scale, it really hasn’t been
around for all that long. Plus, our brains are
adapted to be very sensitive to imagery. The locations of food,
the animals that’ll think you’re food, the animals
that won’t think you’re food but they’ll still completely
mess you up, et cetera. By adding pictures
to your flashcards, you can make them a
lot more memorable and personally, I like
to do this by drawing on my flashcards, but you
can also just print out pictures from the
internet and glue them on or if you’re using an app
or a computerized flashcard program, a lot of them
will allow you to easily import pictures. But you can take
this one step further by making sure those
pictures are next to words. In 1985, there was a
study done in Canada that showed that
descriptive sentences added next to pictures made
those pictures much easier for people to recall. Now, if you take a look at
my chemistry flashcards here, you might think they
look a little bit weird. But that’s actually on
purpose because they’re demonstrating the third
tip I’ve got for you, which is to use mnemonic
devices on your flashcards. Now, a mnemonic device
is really anything that helps you create
associations between pieces of information
in your mind. The classic one is
the acronym, ROYGBIV, which helps you remember
the order of the colors in the visible light
spectrum, but it can really be anything and I’m
using associative imagery on my flashcards. For example, my
flashcard for magnesium as a magnemite asking for
more goulash, which is a completely ridiculous
picture but, it helps me remember the
association between Mg and magnesium because
magnemite sounds like Magnesium and more goulash is a
good way to remember Mg. Now, the more weird and crazy
and wacky these pictures are, the more easily you’re
going to remember them and remember, you’re
making your flashcards for yourself, so it doesn’t
matter what anyone else thinks of them or whether
or not those associations would work for someone else. It’s just for you. So, the next few tips
I’ve got for you guys really go hand in hand. The first one is to have
only one question or fact one each one of your flashcards. Now, doing this is
gonna help you avoid what are called
Illusions of Competence. Basically, our brains
can really easily confuse recognition with recall. When you recognize
something, you’re basically affirming to yourself
that yes, I’ve seen this or I’ve been exposed
to it before. But recall is different. Recall is actively retrieving
something out of memory without again,
being exposed to it. And our brains can really
confuse these things if we’re not careful. So, here’s an example. Say you’re taking a
history of flight class because obviously,
airplanes are awesome and now you’re
studying for a test where you need to
know some information about the first airplane,
the Wright flyer. So, you make
yourself a flashcard. You put First
Airplane on the front, but then on the back, you
put several different facts and here’s where you
can run into trouble because later on, when
you’re studying and you see First Airplane, you might
remember that it flew in 1903. You might remember that it
was called the Wright flyer and you might even remember
that it flew four times. But maybe you forgot that it
used a sprocket chain drive to drive the propellers. And then you turn it over
and you say to yourself, “Oh yeah, I do remember that.” And then you put it aside. So, by making four
individual cards for each of these facts,
you’re guaranteeing that you’re getting each
one either right or wrong and that’s gonna help
you to study the ones you got wrong more
efficiently and avoid those illusions of competence. Now, on a related note, we
have the fifth tip here, which is to break complex
concepts or questions down into simpler questions. And you can run into a lot
of situations like this one, where let’s say
you’re trying to learn the different
groupings of elements on the periodic table. And there’s lots of them. There’s the alkali metals,
the transition metals, there’s some noble gases. So, maybe you go and make
a flashcard like this where all these groupings
are a different color and you have to
name all of them. Well, once again, this
is a bad flash card because maybe you know
some of those groupings. Maybe you know all but
one, but that one grouping you didn’t know, there’s
gonna be an illusion of competence and you’re
gonna think that you knew it just by looking at the
listing on the back. So instead, make
flashcards like this that only highlight
one of those groupings and make sure that you
know it before putting that flashcard aside. So, now that you guys know
some of the best practices for making your flashcards,
it’s now time to move over into how to study them. I’ve got three
really important tips in this section of
the video for you guys starting with the
first one, which is to say your answers out loud when you’re studying
your flashcards. This is kinda just a
way to mentally commit to your answer before
you actually look at the back of the
card, which helps you, again, avoid those
illusions of competence and helps you make sure
that you’re not recognizing the answer and mistaking
that recognition for recall. Make sure that you
actually know the answer. Now, the second tip here
is to make sure you study your cards from both
sides and this is a way of creating neural pathways
in your brain that work in both
directions so that way, if you’re asked either
side of a question, you’ll be able to trace
that neural pathway back to the answer. For example, if you only
studied the chemical symbol, Be and you knew that
it stood for Beryllium, but then you were
later on asked, “What’s the chemical
symbol for Beryllium,” you might not be able to
get back to Be if you didn’t study the cards in
both directions. So, make sure you do. And lastly guys, my
final tip for you here is to realize that flashcards
are not a silver bullet. They’re just one method
of reviewing material and they are situational. They’re just like, say,
a bow and arrow, right? You wouldn’t use a
bow and arrow in every single situation. You wouldn’t use it
up-close no matter how good of a Hanzo player
you think you are and flashcards are
the exact same way. You have to know the right
situations to use them in. A lot of information
ties into an overall visual hierarchy or
an organization and
with flashcards, you kind of lose that. For instance, the periodic
table is a really, really powerful visual tool
and if you were to say, try to memorize all the
atomic numbers of the elements with flashcards, you’d
really be doing your brain a disservice because
learning the periodic table and all the visual
representations and relationships is
much more effective. Also, make sure that
you’re learning before you’re reviewing
because flashcards often aren’t the best tool
for teaching you the underlying concepts,
which may help you learn facts much more efficiently. So, those are my eight
tips for improving the way that you make and
study flashcards and right now, you might
be thinking to yourself, “Wait a minute, Tom
skipped something.” And yes, I did, because
there’s one additional incredibly effective
technique for learning and studying that goes hand
in hand with flashcards and that is spaced repetition. But that’s such a complex
topic and I really wanna dig deep into it and teach
you guys the science behind it and how to use it
effectively both on paper and with apps, so
that is gonna be the subject of
next week’s video. Until then guys, thank
you so much for watching and if you’ve got additional
tips about flashcards, I would love to hear them
down in the comments below. Also, if you enjoyed this
video and you found it helpful, give it a like to
support this channel and if you wanna get new
videos on being a more effective student
every single week, you can click that big
red Subscribe button right down there. If you wanna get a free
copy of my book on earning better grades, you
can click the picture of the book right
there and if you missed last week’s video,
it was on having a more productive summer, so
check it out right there. You can find the full
article for this video with lots of links and
resources and cool extra details right over there and if
you wanna connect with me, go out into the forest
and tune into one of those creepy number stations
and listen for my voice. (creepy music) Don’t actually do that.

100 thoughts on “How to Study Effectively with Flash Cards – College Info Geek

  1. Was brought here for my college reading class. I seen Dr. Neo Cortex and knew it was going to be good, then the Overwatch reference. Thanks so much! <3

  2. adding pictures and using them as mnemonic devices like Thomas stated is really 1000 times better and easier for your brain to recall the info on the other side of the flash card, than adding words alone. Look up the picture superiority effect, it conveys that the human brain has the ability to process images and pictures far more faster than just words. I still don't understand why some people are making it hard for themselves to memorize quickly and efficiently by making "bad flashcards" and by including a ton of words in one card and by not using the way brains remember information.. Aka imagery.

    Thanks Thomas, great video!

  3. quizlet has a powerful tool where you can print flashcards, I can't write good (dyslectic) and have perfectionism issues (can't stand it when my words are changed in an ugly way)

  4. Hmm, anyone thought of Flash Card vs Mind palace? I still find mind palace is easier

  5. Bio student here, and flash cards have never worked for me, I just have too much information to memorize and understand for each test and each class. Flashcards only work if you have to focus on one specific thing.

  6. After all these tips,the only thing that I remember is the creepy voice,which does fright me X( But indeed well-done in this video which is quite obvious from the creepy joke.

  7. 2:09 there is a traditional card game in Japan called Karuta. This technique can be really effective when studying with group.

  8. Hello Thomas frank,I am bharati from India, I have used your idea of answering MCQS.In discription my video, I have shared the link of your video.if you don't like this,I will remove my video from you tube. I hope you will consider my request. tq

  9. I am making my own card on an app( to waste less paper). Is it alright?

  10. Just downloaded tiny cards but can't see how to create my own cards do u have video on how to do this?

  11. Hi! I have another great app I use to study Chinese that our Chinese teacher gave us, it’s called quizlet. You can either download the app or go to I recommend logging in. My Chinese teacher makes the class flashcards, but you can also make your own.

  12. OK …the Leitner system excels in reinforcing long term memory. Your concession to bullshit with the 'challenge' aspect of this 'information' sufficiently undermines this CRUCIAL fact to inspire me to type this and move on after this last observation. You have forgotten the periodic table, you know it and so do I.

  13. Excellent video. But the first flight were in Paris and by Santos Dumont.

  14. I used imagery on my flashcards for an exam, but the problem with that wss that it is not very effective if you have to learn 100+ things verbatim. To help me remember the image in a certain order or way, i made a story for it. I was able to memorize , but We were also asked to recall things verbatim within less than a minute.

  15. Thank you Thomas grateful of your gift of knowledge of flash cards😇

  16. Wish I would've found this channel a few years earlier. Thanks for those amazing videos. Greets from Germany. Btw I'm terrible Hanzo player 😂

  17. I am really questioning the effectiveness of this method when it comes to medical subjects 😔😔

  18. Lol I just make flash cards and never bother to learn them

  19. If you do one flashcards for one questions then you end up with thousands of cards

  20. So.. I wasn't able to hear thomas' voice on the number station during my forest visit at midnight..
    Did I messed up something???

  21. I hate you. It's impossible to watch your video once. I usually watch each one 12 times. This one is clear, simple, practical and well done. It's a pleasure to watch it. And your speech is sweetly plain. One can feel the happiness and love you spread by doing this job. Congratulation. LOVE, LIVE, LEARN n LAUGH MAC

  22. Say if the question is name 8 non renewable resources, how would you put that on separate cards?

  23. I'm afraid that if I start making flashcards properly, there will be 3000+ in one deck. Med school yo

  24. 2 years ago we found out that Thomas Frank was really into Overwatch and dabbled in Welcome to Nightvale

  25. I wish you were on my “flash” card. Heh 😏

    Yeah I’m pretty pleased with myself

  26. I publish flashcards on TinyCards, if you like it, search me as General Culture or Geography Master (I have two accounts)

  27. 1. Add pictures and words
    2. Use mnemonic devices
    3. Only one question and answer/fact per card
    4. Break complex questions into simpler questions
    5. Say answers out loud
    6. Study cards from both sides
    7. Use flash cards for reviewing, not learning
    8. Spaced repetition

  28. A Quick Summary:
    Image; 1 for 1; Simplify;
    Say answers aloud; Use both sides;
    Learn first, then review via flash cards;
    Right Situations; space repetition;

  29. Any tips on making some cards like this for multiplication problems? My grandson needs some kind of visual cues. Thank you.

  30. I want to like this video a thousand times.Started using flash cards today and i must say this video really helped me create good ones.Thanks,new subscriber🤗

  31. I'm a first year medical student in India and believe it or not, I didn't know what flashcards (or any other study techniques for that matter) were and how they worked. I just tortured myself all day everyday through high school and read paged after pages of books to memorize and study. I'm glad I found this out because med school is going to be so much harder

  32. ■ Make flashcards
    1. Add pictures and mix them with words.
    2. One question/ fact, one card.
    3. Breakdown complex concepts into multiple simple questions.
    ■ Study them
    1. Say your answers out loud.
    2. Make sure you study your flashcards from both sides.
    3. Flash cards are not a silver bullet( it means you can study by the other ways because flashcards are situational)
    —> Addition: spaced repetition combined.

  33. I mostly put pictures on a few decks of flashcards (with the occasional card woth a word on either side). Is just a picture good? I’m a language learner.


  35. " We are going to use these to demonstrate good flashcards" points to flashcards of elements
    Me: lol

  36. We watched this in science class, first hour, and I saw the Steven Universe art. I’ve been waiting all day to find it. And at last.

  37. Mneomic device
    Make it silly

    1 card, 1 ?/method
    Utter outloud
    Both ><
    Situational, learn b4 review
    Write it, b4 u commit it

  38. Is there a recommended template's flashcards for technical classes like Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, Physics and mathematics… ?

  39. Replying to you after 3 years after this video is made! Hey Thomas, I'm from Sri Lanka and am making a channel helping the local kids do their studies better. I speak in my native tongue so you guys wouldn't understand it. But starting off, you have been a HUGE HUGE inspiration for me. I give you due credit when I get material from you. Thank you so much! I'm so grateful for the service you render us! Stay blessed and stay awesome!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *