• Wu You

How I Use Anki to Remember Everything ✨

Anki is one of the most popular flashcard apps people use to memorize and learn a lot of information to then regurgitate in their exams. But the problem is that we struggle to actually create 'good' flashcards for ALL of the content in our subjects. This article will teach you how to make effective Anki flashcards and practice them for your exams.

Table of Contents


Why Should You Use Anki Flashcards?

#1 Spaced Repetition Tool

Our brain needs to review information in certain timed intervals to actually retain it long-term. Anki's software is based on the concept of the forgetting curve and it will automatically quiz you more often on the questions you personally struggled with.


#2 Active Retrieving of Knowledge

Using flashcards is an alternative to the "Google Sheets Method". By covering up the answers to the questions, we are forced to actively retrieve information (much more effective than simply reading, etc.)


#3 Versatility: Diagrams + Equations

You can literally add anything in Anki! Include equations, pictures, and even audio. But don't forget to keep your decks as simple as possible.


How to Create Effective Flashcards?

Organize using a basic structure

Don't have a separate deck for each class. Create decks for each topic/unit and add the topic number on the front of the flashcard. Use tags to label the major sub-topics of that unit.

Putting all the content of a topic in one deck is a blessing because it forces you to get in the habit of reviewing the entire topic every time you study.

So many of us stress about wasting time reviewing old content at the expense of all the newer information we learned in class recently. But because all the topic's content is in one deck, Anki can space out the frequency of the older questions which means it takes far less time to maintain the already learned content while studying the new content.


Understand first, then memorize

All of us try and memorize information that we don't fully understand but just do it as a cramming technique. There is very little utility in rote memorizing chunks of information without being able to conceptualize it and explain it in a wider context. You are less likely to remember the information if you don't understand it and even if you do remember it, you will be terrible at applying it in the exams.


One piece of information per card

Simpler cards are just much easier to review. The biggest mistake I made was that I created very complex cards that could be split up into several key concepts. Doing complex cards means that you're more likely to forget the difficult parts of each card so you waste time repeating them excessively on Anki.

Instead, if you test yourself one piece of information per card, every part of the topic can be repeated at its own pace. Tackling these simpler cards is just easier too. It's a big time saver in the long run.


Creating Decks for Specific Subjects

Chemistry + Physics

For topic-specific flashcards, I highly recommend this website! It's created by a 2020 IB graduate who scanned all the flashcards he created into a PDF file. Each flashcard is concise and covers the subject very well. Download them, convert them into a jpg version and add them to your Anki deck.

Additionally, I supplement the flashcards with some of my own ones using the notes in IB Academy, they're reasonably neat and nice too.

Create one deck per topic, keep them as simple as possible

(10 decks for Chemistry SL and HL, 8/12 decks for Physics SL/HL)

The advantage of doing that is when you have a topical monthly exam, you can just do all your revision and repetition with one deck. When you have mock or final exams with multiple topics, then transfer those flashcards into a large deck named "Mock Exam 1", for instance. Also, by filtering the topic number, you can easily transfer the flashcards back to the original unit-specific deck again.

Make flashcards for definitions, explanations and "factors"

Make sure to use the subject syllabus to find EVERY definition and explanation that you have to learn for a topic and create a flashcard for it. Paper 2 exams for both Chemistry and Physics consistently have several 3-4 point questions with IB-specific explanations. Furthermore, to get full marks you almost always need to mention keywords that need to be memorized. This is an example of such questions:

Flashcard Front:

How does temperature affect the rate of the reaction?

Flashcard Back:

  • As temperature increases, the average kinetic energy of the particles increases

  • The collision frequency of the particles increases

  • The collision frequency involving kinetic energy higher than activation energy increases.

You must mention all 3 things in one question to get the full mark. Therefore, it is very important to add these typical questions in your flashcards and paste a model answer in the back.

Another example of a flashcard I make is "factor" questions. For example:

Flashcard Front:

What are the 5 factors that affect the rate of reaction?

Flashcard Back:

1) The concentration of reactants. 2) Temperature. 3) Pressure (for reactions involves gas). 4) Catalyst. 5) Particle size (Although you may only need to answer 3 of 5 in the exam, knowing all 5 will still be beneficial)

The time interval to review

I am still a DP1 student so my revision tasks are often on a unit-by-unit basis. So, I personally start reviewing the unit deck one or two weeks before my exams but it is important that you set aside around 3 flashcard review sessions for yourself (change the setting preferences for different revision intervals if you'd like).


Business Management

I personally recommend Paul Huang's book. His book lists all the advantages & disadvantages of business decisions that you need to remember, you can just screenshot them and add them to the deck.

Read the previous sciences section for the principles and steps I use to create flashcards. My process is the same for Business.


Biology

To study biology, check out "How I Actively Study Biology With Google Sheets?" for a flashcard alternative method.

It is essentially a google spreadsheet with ALL the paper 2 extended-response questions from the last 10 years of past papers. All questions, organized by topic, are listed out in one column and their corresponding mark-scheme answers are pasted in the second column.

"I would hide the mark scheme answers for all the questions of a topic and recall as much of the answers as I could without using any other resources."

I'd suggest simply using the spreadsheet but if you really prefer studying with flashcards, transfer all the questions and answers into your decks. It may take a fair amount of time. Email unlockib7@gmail.com for a free copy of the spreadsheet.


Final Thoughts

Despite teaching you how to create good Anki flashcards, I have to say CONSISTENCY is the most important thing with using the app. If you leave it to the last minute, you'll end up with 60-100 flashcards to review every day before the exams. So, please use the bits of spare time you have to review your deck, don't try to finish all of it at a stretch. If you can persist with the flashcards, I really believe you won't be very anxious when there's a mock or final exam coming up.