In the last school year, did you use flashcards during your revision? If yes, why?
Do you think it’s the best way to learn? Or did your teacher tell you to do so? Whatever the case, you should not use flashcards when studying. And I’ll show you why…
Reason 1: Flashcards turn you into a robot
It’s incredibly easy to get caught up with mechanically writing down the questions and flipping the card over to copy out the lenghty answer from the textbook.
Write, flip, write. Write, flip, write. Write, flip, write.
You don’t want to be a wind-up doll, but that’s what write-flip-write will do to you.
Reason 2: Flashcards are inefficient
Let’s assume you spend an average of 3 minutes making a flashcard (without copying from your book). That’s 20 flashcards an hour. At the end of the 60 minutes, you may already know 10 of the answers. Do you really need to study those cards? Yet, that’s what we often do.
And what about the other cards? While you may do OK, you could save 80% of your time if you took notes, and tried doing past papers.
Don’t you think you can learn more than what’s written on 20 flashcards in an hour? Yes, you can! But not by studying with flashcards, because…
Reason 3: Flashcards encourage rote-learning
Rote-learning is a technical phrase to say that you’re repeating the same stuff in the same way again and again. I believe that this is a very ineffective way to learn, becaus you study facts in isolation.
It is much more interesting and easy to create mental links between material. Learning in context allows you to connect information and add a lot of new information to your web of knowledge.
The man behind Yearlyglot says: “[Flashcards have] a specific way [they] was intended to be used, and in which [they] can be beneficial, whether for review, or organization, or quick-reference, but [they] weren’t meant for learning.”
Reason 4: Flashcards can make you overly confident
If you’ve tested yourself on about half a stack of flashcards, it’s easy to say “Oh, I’ve done so much already, I should really take a break”.
Number like 1o,15 and 20 can sound impressive. If you’ve done 20 flashcards, you can easily fool your brain into thinking that you’ve learned a lot.
Reason 5: Flashcards are boring
We often wish to get over with revision: no more hours learning stuff that you don’t care about in the most boring way ever. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I’m sure you can think of something more fun to do than flipping flashcards for 2 hours straight.
You want to go outdoors instead? Alright. If your studying the parts of a flower in biology, why not go to your garden and see if you can identify them on one of the roses? That sounds a lot more fun than sitting at my desk, feeling like I’ll nod off if I continue to torture myself with those small scraps of paper.
Reason 6: Using flashcards can ruin your diet
Imagine yourself lying on your bed, two stacks of flashcards in front of you. To your left are the cards you’ve yet to revise, to your right is the small pile of cards that you’ve already covered. You take a yellow card from the left pile. You glance at the question, mentally making note of the possible answer, and flip the card to see whether you were right.
As you put the card down on the right stack, you think “I’m hungry. I should go get myself some food from the fridge”. Then you remind yourself “No. I’m studying. I’ll eat once I finish”.
The next time you put a card on the right stack, your haunted by the same thoughts again. Perhaps this time you think you need a stretch, or you feel like you’ve done enough. These thoughts will persist until you finish or you give up.
If you do make it through the entire pack of cards, you’ll be exhausted. The constant decision-making has depleted your willpower, making you more likely to give in to short-term benefits, such as eating a donut, or not sticking to your excercise routine to relax instead.
Reason 7: Flashcards allow you to cheat
As you’re lying on your bed with the flashcards, there’s another urge you need to resist before you even flip the card. You’ve read the question. You halfheartedly try to come up with the answer but you feel like it’s probably wrong. Still, you flip card to see the answer. And you move on.
Flipping the card is incredibly tempting, and just like motivating yourself to stick with the cards, it can be really draining. I don’t know about you, but after I revised flashcards I always felt like taking a nap.
So I thought why not find a better way to revise. And lucky for you I did. You can read what I do instead to save hours of extra work.