Using flashcards effectively

A student asks:

What's the best way to use flashcards for revision?

Flashcards are very popular in the USA, but have never really taken off over here. Any student with an exam to study for has a large stack of things they're trying to learn: a question on one side, the answer on the other.

My favourite method is simply to go through them and test yourself. If you get it right, put it aside for now; if you get it wrong, put it to the back of the pile, and keep going until you have them all right. Some other, unorganised thoughts:

  • Repeat once or twice a day, depending on how much you're trying to take in.
  • If you have lots of cards, work on a few at a time rather than going through them all in one burst.
  • Put marks on them to say "I got this right" or "I didn't know this one" - that helps identify problem areas.
  • Go through them often.
  • Shuffle them so you don't just remember the answers in order.
  • Keep adding new cards (slowly) when you have more to learn
  • Remove any cards you're really confident on.

If you use a revision program like Anki, it takes care of a lot of that for you, managing which cards you see when.


Colin is a Weymouth maths tutor, author of several Maths For Dummies books and A-level maths guides. He started Flying Colours Maths in 2008. He lives with an espresso pot and nothing to prove.


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I teach in my home in Abbotsbury Road, Weymouth.

It's a 15-minute walk from Weymouth station, and it's on bus routes 3, 8 and X53. On-road parking is available nearby.

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