ANKI - How do I use it?

Perplex

Emeritus Staff
Emeritus Staff
Hey everyone,

I've had a few people ask me about ANKI so I wanted to make a post discussing how I used ANKI and why exactly I started using this method. Before starting I want to emphasise that ANKI, like other modalities of studying, should only form a part of your toolbox. There's plenty of other valid ways to study and it's important to assess how you can use those methods to best suit your needs and ideally maximise learning efficiency.

WHY?
Like many people my early studying focused a lot writing notes based off lectures. My approach, like others would be Watch lecture → Annotate lecture → Write notes → Review prior to exam.
The thing I found ineffective about this approach:
  1. There is a lot of content to cover so invariably you either ended up speeding through lectures, missing core detail, or you would just write dictations of what the lecturer had said, often getting to the end and retaining ~20% of what you wrote.
  2. It was difficult to review content. Again due to volume I think it's challenging to review content on a persistent basis - especially challenging topics. For me this was occurring because I was generally too focused on completing the lectures in front of me.
  3. Review generally only occurred right before exams.
So for me, considering these reasons I decided that solely relying on notes to study was not an effective measure. For some topics I had 50+ pages of content and honestly this is very challenging to remember in a 'simple' way. Don't get me wrong, notes have a place and I still write them but the way in which I write them has changed completely. Now when I write notes I generally try to stick to 1-2 pages of very succinct and core detail pertaining to the topic. So, for example, my notes would be arranged into sub-topics:
  • Epidemiology and Aetiology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Clinical features
  • Diagnostics
  • Treatment (+Side effects)
  • Complications
Under each sub-heading I'd write a few pertinent dot points. This method for me was vastly more effective than just dictating lecture recordings or copying textbook readings.
I'm not disregarding the method of dictation or copying notes from textbooks - this works for some people I know and they still do incredibly well. For me it's a cost benefit analysis - I know that I can learn the same amount of content albeit in a significantly shorter period of time.

ANKI
So now that I had discovered that writing notes was not really for me I needed another method by which to study. This is where I was lead to ANKI by a variety of resources (Youtube, Word of Mouth, etc.). ANKI is a flashcard based system where you construct cards and study them at your leisure and depending on how well, or how poorly, you answer the system repeats the card in an allotted period of time. This system is known as 'spaced repetition'. There is evidence to suggest that this works very well and often you retain a large amount of the content that you learn. Of course, this can be achieved with notes but I just found reading over notes was too passive of an exercise for me - I needed content phrased to me in a Q&A setting.

This system can be overwhelming so I'm to hoping to create a quick guide here that discusses some of the features of ANKI and how I went about structuring my decks, etc. I hope this helps people because I know it is this initial steep learning curve that turns most people off using ANKI.

Structuring a deck
There are two major sub-units of the ANKI card:
  1. Deck
  2. Tag
When you start using ANKI the temptation is to create decks for everything - e.g. separate decks for Biochem, Anatomy, Pathology, Cardiology, Neurology, etc.
I don't recommend this approach as you end up generating large numbers of decks and this becomes really challenging to stay on top of.
Therefore I recommend 1 deck for the year. So this deck might be entitled "Pre-clinical Year 1" or "Clinical Year 2".
You might be wondering how you'd organise your deck if everything is mixed up! This is where tags come in. I'll detail how to utilise tags:
  1. My tag had 2 components
  2. Firstly, what does this topic belong to - is this anatomy, physiology, neurology, etc. So the first part would be Physiology_
  3. Secondly, what is the specific sub-topic - is this a card discussing RAAS? Then the tag would read Physiology_RAAS
  4. After this you can continue to sub-classify but again I don't recommend but for some things it might be necessary. For example CKD complications are a big topic so you might do something like CKD_Complications_MBD if you please. I hardly ever used 3 parts to a tag though, it would have become overwhelming to monitor. I'd recommend sticking to 2.
So why did I structure my deck this way?
  1. It meant I was ALWAYS studying my weaknesses. It didn't mean I could hide my lack of knowledge about X away by just focusing on decks I was good at. One deck forces you to do every card.
  2. It meant every card was different - instead of mindlessly flipping through cards all relating to one topic I had to stay focused because one card may have been about Diabetes, but the next card may have been about Vasculitis.
  3. I tagged everything meticulously because when it came to end of year revision I could focus on certain things by creating decks to those topics. So say, for example, you're not strong with ECGs by the end of the year and you feel okay with the rest of the stuff - then you just create a filtered deck that has all cards with the tag "Cardiology_ECG". This was a great way to do very specific study at the end of the year or before a specific rotation.
Structuring cards
So structuring cards. I'm going to go through how I used each type of card. I mainly used the 'Cloze' deletion and the 'Basic' card. I made a modification to the basic card myself in ANKI creating a 'Basic explanation' card which hard a 3rd field where I provided information that I didn't necessarily want to memorise, but would be helpful contextual knowledge - e.g. I'd put tables in here, or some background information. Once you repeat the cards enough you'll find yourself memorising this knowledge anyway. If changing the card yourself seems challenging (and it can be when you start using ANKI) I'll explain below how you can get the same effect with the standard 'Basic' card.

  • Cloze deletions. Cloze cards basically get you to write something out and then blank a part of it. So when you see the card it would look like "_ is an example of a Gram negative bacteria". I used these cards mainly for epidemiological facts or definitions of diseases. I didn't want to rote learn these facts but I wanted to have some understanding of their definition or prevalence and incidence so I'd be able to provide ball park figures if I was ever asked. On the back of the card feel free to write some contexualising stats, definitions or links, etc. Here is an example: 1585896603927.png
  • Basic cards. The way I would structure these cards is that I'd ask myself a question using these cards - e.g. "What are risk factors for X conditions?", "What diagnostics are important in Y", etc. On the back of the card I'd provide the answer and some explanation. If you don't know how to create custom cards, that's ok! To separate your answer from your "explanation" just put the explanatory notes in a different colour. As you can see below the "explanation" segment of the card contained a visual representation of the cortices and which segments where supplied by which artery. Here's an example:
    1585895289864.png
Other card formats
The formats I listed above are the ones I used by far and large the most. There are other card types you can use - e.g. 'Image occlusion' is very useful when you're trying to learn anatomy and naming structures (e.g. preparing for a flag test in anatomy class).
The question I get asked a lot is how do you memorise complex physiological processes? The answer is two-fold
  1. I still use the basic card but I list the answer in steps! This is really important because when making the card I have to consciously think about how to divide the physiology into logical steps. Hint: Do not just copy and paste your notes into ANKI! This is not the purpose, actively think about making your cards and structure them in a way where you will memorise the content. I see plenty of people just copy and pasting their notes into ANKI. ANKI is not meant for learning slabs of text. It's up to you to condense that knowledge into bite-sized chunks and process it. Here's an example:
    1585895628953.png
  2. A second format is audio cards - you can actually just record yourself discussing the steps and then this is played back once you flip the card. I haven't used this method but I can definitely see it being handy, especially for topics which are unlikely to come up in written exams but may come up in the OSCE setting. These cards would also be useful for "Compare and contrast" style questions - e.g. "Compare and contrast the features of delirium and dementia".

How often should I be revising my deck?
ANKI is not about just writing the cards and then leaving them. This is part of the issue that many users have. Once you make the cards make the effort to revise on a daily basis. If you're busy on a particular day just reduce the card limit for that day. Spaced repetition is how you retain this knowledge!

How many cards should you be doing a day?
However many you think is sustainable and you're willing to commit to on the daily! The key is PERSISTENCE & REPETITION. Don't set your review limit at 300 cards and your new daily limit at 100 if you know that isn't going to happen. On the other end, don't set it at 10 reviews a day if you feel like you're learning nothing. I generally set my limit at 20 new cards a day and a maximum of 100-150 reviews per day.

Should I use premade decks?
Australian-curriculum-specific decks really do not exist to the best of my knowledge, unless you can get a deck off a friend that used ANKI in the past themselves (ask year levels up). I wouldn't rely 100% on this though, make an effort to make your own cards too - the process itself helps you learn the content.
Now pre-made USMLE Step decks are abundant on the internet. I'd exercise caution here: Yes they have a lot of cards but often the content is not entirely relevant to our curriculum or is too specific to STEP exams. I think these decks can be useful to get your bearings around ANKI and how to structure cards. I think it is a good idea to download one to see how they structured their decks and how you can structure your own too. From my experience they tend to use a lot of cloze deletion cards, because to the best of my knowledge their written exams are all MCQs. This is different to use where we have SAQs too.
No harm in trialling them, but just use your discretion in assessing the content of the card and don't hesitate to delete cards that are too niche or irrelevant to our curriculum.

Other methods of learning
Like I said before ANKI is not the be all and end all. It is the the predominate study method I use but I still write concise notes, draw tables and flowcharts (which I incorporate into ANKI), listen to podcasts and watch youtube videos. I also use online MCQ bank resources to supplement my learning.

Conclusion
Thanks for reading all of this! I hope that this has provided you a good bearing on how to utilise ANKI to study effectively. I'd be happy to make this thread into a more Q&A style thing where you can ask questions and we can share ideas of how to structure decks, or good decks that you've stumbled across yourself. Please feel to ask questions.
 

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Lear

Monash III
Great article Perplex!

So I had a question regarding the process of seeing a lecture --> having the cards made.

You mentioned the typical way 'My approach, like others would be Watch lecture → Annotate lecture → Write notes → Review prior to exam.'

Could you describe the new process you use? If you're given a lecture, do you directly start making questions from the lecture notes itself?
Or do you, for example, watch the lecture --> make some notes --> pick out important information from your notes to add to your deck.

Similarly, a problem I had last year with anki is the lack of ability to synthesise and make links between lectures on the same topic. Often lectures supplement each other and if I had made some cards on the earlier lecture I found the information was very compartmentalized and not complete.

Did you simply make these cards as each lecture occurred or did you wait for all of the lectures on a certain topic to be finished before creating the cards, having now had the benefit of knowing the bigger picture.
 

Fili

Dentistry Student 🦷
Moderator
Great article Perplex!

So I had a question regarding the process of seeing a lecture --> having the cards made.

You mentioned the typical way 'My approach, like others would be Watch lecture → Annotate lecture → Write notes → Review prior to exam.'

Could you describe the new process you use? If you're given a lecture, do you directly start making questions from the lecture notes itself?
Or do you, for example, watch the lecture --> make some notes --> pick out important information from your notes to add to your deck.

Similarly, a problem I had last year with anki is the lack of ability to synthesise and make links between lectures on the same topic. Often lectures supplement each other and if I had made some cards on the earlier lecture I found the information was very compartmentalized and not complete.

Did you simply make these cards as each lecture occurred or did you wait for all of the lectures on a certain topic to be finished before creating the cards, having now had the benefit of knowing the bigger picture.

I'm not Perplex but what I usually do is type everything the lecturer says in OneNote and once I'm finished with that, make my anki cards.

If a slide is dedicated to e.g. Cranial Nerve XI, my "large anki" would be ...
Describe CN XI.
- What is it?
- What is its function?
- Where do its cell bodies lie and where do its axons go through?
- Where do its axons synapse?

I'll then write my answer for that. I will then make smaller anki from this e.g. "What is the function of CN XI?"
This is to make sure I memorize the details and not just the broader lecture slide.

I will proceed to image occlusion the anatomy of CN XI as well.

If I need a "broader picture" on how things relate to each other, I usually make a separate anki deck for that module (or set of lectures) just to relate everything again. I sometimes also make my own brainstorm and image occlusion that e.g. I wrote a table of "what are the 12 cranial nerves, their origins, function and where they synapse" and threw that into image occlusion.
 

Perplex

Emeritus Staff
Emeritus Staff
Great article Perplex!

So I had a question regarding the process of seeing a lecture --> having the cards made.

You mentioned the typical way 'My approach, like others would be Watch lecture → Annotate lecture → Write notes → Review prior to exam.'

Could you describe the new process you use? If you're given a lecture, do you directly start making questions from the lecture notes itself?
Or do you, for example, watch the lecture --> make some notes --> pick out important information from your notes to add to your deck.

Similarly, a problem I had last year with anki is the lack of ability to synthesise and make links between lectures on the same topic. Often lectures supplement each other and if I had made some cards on the earlier lecture I found the information was very compartmentalized and not complete.

Did you simply make these cards as each lecture occurred or did you wait for all of the lectures on a certain topic to be finished before creating the cards, having now had the benefit of knowing the bigger picture.


It depends, for some lectures, yes, I just use the slides to orient my cards. However, for the most part I would watch the lecture, make some brief annotations - when I make these I ensure I'm actively condensing what the lecturer says into key points rather than just dictating - and then produce my ANKI cards based off that.

With lectures like you described I would wait for all the lectures to come out. However, often with complex topics I used to read ahead. So for example, if we were covering the RAAS system- it's a complex topic, so I'd read ahead on it and make some cards and then would add more cards following lectures just to ensure I didn't miss any of the details that I needed to know.

I hope that helps!

I'm not Perplex but what I usually do is type everything the lecturer says in OneNote and once I'm finished with that, make my anki cards.

If a slide is dedicated to e.g. Cranial Nerve XI, my "large anki" would be ...
Describe CN XI.
- What is it?
- What is its function?
- Where do its cell bodies lie and where do its axons go through?
- Where do its axons synapse?

I'll then write my answer for that. I will then make smaller anki from this e.g. "What is the function of CN XI?"
This is to make sure I memorize the details and not just the broader lecture slide.

I will proceed to image occlusion the anatomy of CN XI as well.

If I need a "broader picture" on how things relate to each other, I usually make a separate anki deck for that module (or set of lectures) just to relate everything again. I sometimes also make my own brainstorm and image occlusion that e.g. I wrote a table of "what are the 12 cranial nerves, their origins, function and where they synapse" and threw that into image occlusion.

I think that this is an excellent approach. I remember using a very similar approach for the Cranial nerves myself!
Yep, I think it can be challenging at times to make cards that succinctly contain the 'bigger picture', but this is where I think you need to be creative. As you saw above in my example I had a card describing the pathophysiology of CKD-associated mineral bone disease. Well I didn't want to cram too much detail into that one card so I created separate cards that discussed diagnosis, management, complications, etc. Because I've used tags, if I ever feel that I want to see the 'whole picture' in one go I can just filter and create a deck specific for "CKD_MBD".
 
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ponyswordz

UAdel BDS (2020-2024)
Valued Member
Heyoo all. So I tried out Anki about a day after reading Perplex 's post and have felt the effects of Anki already kicking in just from revising about an hour/day throughout the past 7 days. However, I was wondering out of curiosity as to how long it takes for you guys to make Anki flashcards for each 50-60 minute lecture? It takes me about 1.5-2 hrs which for the time being is quite manageable since my online lectures and tutorials are postponed but by the time classes begin again, I am not sure if I would be able to keep up with that pace. I understand that this is my first time using Anki so definitely have miles to go in terms of learning but just wanted to hear some of your tips and experiences. Denks :)
 
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Fili

Dentistry Student 🦷
Moderator
Heyoo all. So I tried out Anki about a day after reading Perplex 's post and have felt the effects of Anki already kicking in just from revising about an hour/day throughout the past 7 days. However, I was wondering out of curiosity as to how long it takes for you guys to make Anki flashcards for each 50-60 minute lecture? It takes me about 1.5-2 hrs which for the time being is quite manageable since my online lectures and tutorials are postponed but by the time classes begin again, I am not sure if I would be able to keep up with that pace. I understand that this is my first time using Anki so definitely have miles to go in terms of learning but just wanted to hear some of your tips and experiences. Denks :)

It really depends on the lecture but yeah I take ages to make anki cards as well. This is because I usually make mnemonics and ways to memorise them - and tbh I'm also learning the content as I make the anki.

Imho this is worth it to me since making the anki is learning the content as well + makes doing them easier. And tbh anki just makes me study stuff.

If I didn't have anki, I probably won't know what I do or do not remember after a few days.
 

Perplex

Emeritus Staff
Emeritus Staff
Heyoo all. So I tried out Anki about a day after reading Perplex 's post and have felt the effects of Anki already kicking in just from revising about an hour/day throughout the past 7 days. However, I was wondering out of curiosity as to how long it takes for you guys to make Anki flashcards for each 50-60 minute lecture? It takes me about 1.5-2 hrs which for the time being is quite manageable since my online lectures and tutorials are postponed but by the time classes begin again, I am not sure if I would be able to keep up with that pace. I understand that this is my first time using Anki so definitely have miles to go in terms of learning but just wanted to hear some of your tips and experiences. Denks :)

First off this is not abnormal! For some lectures it can take a while to generate cards and cover the topic sufficiently. Part of this is due to the fact that you're new to ANKI, once you become more familiar with generating cards and have the format down, you will naturally begin to make cards at a faster pace.
For now keep making cards, once you get over the initial learning curve you will develop the necessary speed.

Also don't hesitate to trial different card types as I mentioned above - using cloze deletions, image occlusion, basic cards, etc. will help speed up the process too.


It really depends on the lecture but yeah I take ages to make anki cards as well. This is because I usually make mnemonics and ways to memorise them - and tbh I'm also learning the content as I make the anki.

Imho this is worth it to me since making the anki is learning the content as well + makes doing them easier. And tbh anki just makes me study stuff.

If I didn't have anki, I probably won't know what I do or do not remember after a few days.

I absolutely agree, the great thing about making cards is that it is a learning exercise within itself. Taking the time to condense the information and frame it into a card is a form of learning.
 

LMG!

MBBS IV
Administrator
Tagging question for you Perplex (or anyone else who wants to weigh in).

I'm currently going through my OB/GYN lectures and have been tagging (for example):

Clinical_Breast
or
Anatomy_Breast

depending on what I'm carding.

Does that seem sensible?

Also, would it be too much to go:

Clinical_Obstetrics_GDM (for example)?

Would you lose the Clinical? Or the GDM? Or neither?

Thank you!!
 

Perplex

Emeritus Staff
Emeritus Staff
Tagging question for you Perplex (or anyone else who wants to weigh in).

I'm currently going through my OB/GYN lectures and have been tagging (for example):

Clinical_Breast
or
Anatomy_Breast

depending on what I'm carding.

Does that seem sensible?

Also, would it be too much to go:

Clinical_Obstetrics_GDM (for example)?

Would you lose the Clinical? Or the GDM? Or neither?

Thank you!!

I think that's an adequate way to tag.
As for the second example, yes, I'd probably lose the clinical part of the tag and stick with Obstetrics_GDM. Of if you wanted to leave the clinical part I'd phrase it as Obstetrics_Clinical_GDM. In that way the sub-topics are clear - i.e. Discipline = Obstetrics → Clinical focus → Condition = GDM.
 

TKAO

oowah!
Valued Member
I think this is really important with Anki cards and will seriously augment learning especially when you need to identify structures (this was mentioned above but only in passing - here's a couple of links to the stuff). This is called image occlusion Enhanced 2.1 (Image Occlusion Enhanced for Anki 2.1 (alpha) - AnkiWeb) which honestly seems like it was designed for learning anatomy and other diagrams like that. The way it basically works is that you can cover up sections of the image which will then be automatically compiled into cards which is kind of like a 'cover and check' method to memorise what goes where. Would strongly recommend. Here is a video tutorial to figure out how to use it: How to Use Anki Effectively - Image Occlusion Enhanced [Part 4]. Hope it helps for someone!
 

Benjamin

ICU Reg (JCU)
Emeritus Staff
Adding onto the excellent posts above I thought I would share my ANKI experiences - I used ANKI to study for my ICU primary exam as my main revision after having covered the material previously. Specifically, I used the ANKIweb app on my android phone. I did a few things unconventionally from the classical teaching on how to use ANKI decks and so I thought I would share how flexible and effective it can be especially for exam revision. I had already covered the material several times before even starting to use the ANKI decks which makes it a very different method compared to learning things for the first time, and my entire purpose of using ANKI was to highlight what I did and didn't know so as to better focus my revision.

I didn't write my own ANKI cards. I did this initially out of a plan for saving time but found this helped me learn how to answer questions asked in a 'different' way. It's very unlikely that the exact wording you use to write your ANKI cards will come up in the exam and so being able to answer questions that you haven't seen before on content you have covered is excellent exam preparation.
  • All of my shorter questions were taken directly from a previously written ANKI deck that I trusted and was available from here: Download Part One · Part One
  • I instead aggressively edited the ANKI cards to suit my learning style - if I felt something needed a picture and it didn't have one I would find one and add it in. The android app is very good at doing this directly on your phone.
  • If I kept failing a specific question then I would go back, review the material and then change the card so that it was easier to remember or better explained.
  • This saved me more hours than I can count. In my 2 months of ANKI cramming I covered 2000+ of these specific cards ... there is no way I could have written these myself in the same amount of time.
I didn't restrict all my ANKI cards to small areas / facts. Again, my purpose was to make doing ANKI cards as similar to sitting the actual exam as possible and so while the classic teaching of ANKI is to make the facts easy to learn I instead used the spaced repetition method to make sure things I didn't know well were covered multiple times before the exam.
  • My pharmacology deck was literally photos of the book I was using -- noting that the book I used was an incredibly condensed version specifically written for ICU / Anaesthetics exam preparation and so was already quite effective revision material.
    • Again, additional information that wasn't covered in the photo was added in especially if it had been asked in past questions before.
  • I literally included past questions as the front of the ANKI deck and photos of my model answers written to time
    • This would be something like "Describe the mechanisms by which heat is lost from the body (40%). Discuss the importance of these in a sedated and intubated adult patient (60%)." and then photos of my two page answer written in 8 minutes.
  • To study these cards I would give myself an exam time simulation - in the actual exam I had 8 minutes to write and answer and so I would give myself 8 minutes again to write the entire 2 page answer. Anything less than 80% correct I would fail myself on the question.
My learning / review intervals were quite short. This reflected the fact that I was using ANKI mostly as a cramming / consolidation tool on top of having already covered the material many times and that I was trying to cover the entirety of the ICU primary syllabus multiple times in less than 2 months.
  • I had it set so that I would cover my entire deck every 2 weeks. This meant covering 145 short fact cards, 20 past exam questions and 7 drugs per day as a minimum. The first month was probably double that as I had to get through all the cards first but after that the repetition cycle slowed down.
    • Anything more than this is almost certainly unachievable - the past exam questions alone took me 5-6hrs per day to cover.

Overall, some tips / rules:
  • Never skip a day. Once you miss one day things start piling up and it will take a monumental effort to get back on top of it.
  • Make your ANKI decks as close to an exam simulation as possible
    • If your exam has short answer questions then write short answer ANKI cards! Try to match the exam question style that they use.
      • Alternatively you can use your tutorial questions that you have already written answers to for your tutes.
    • Image identification? Try and find their source and then use it in your cards!
    • Don't write MCQs / extended match though as those take a lot of time and absolutely suck.
  • Don't be afraid to use other people's decks if:
    • You have enough knowledge already to be able to identify errors or when things aren't quite right
    • You want to practice answering questions that you didn't write yourself
    • You are willing to add onto the cards / edit the cards so they suit you more
  • If a card is really easy then make it harder for yourself -- there is no point covering material you know exceptionally well several times so change the question to ask yourself more in depth information. Your deck should develop with your knowledge instead of being static.

I think this is really important with Anki cards and will seriously augment learning especially when you need to identify structures (this was mentioned above but only in passing - here's a couple of links to the stuff). This is called image occlusion Enhanced 2.1 (Image Occlusion Enhanced for Anki 2.1 (alpha) - AnkiWeb) which honestly seems like it was designed for learning anatomy and other diagrams like that. The way it basically works is that you can cover up sections of the image which will then be automatically compiled into cards which is kind of like a 'cover and check' method to memorise what goes where. Would strongly recommend. Here is a video tutorial to figure out how to use it: How to Use Anki Effectively - Image Occlusion Enhanced [Part 4]. Hope it helps for someone!

On the topic of image occlusion methods -- these are perfect if you are certain they will use that resource for the actual exam but become more difficult to use if they use a different image for the same stuff... If that is the case (likely) you need to start making things more difficult for yourself:
  1. Do the cards enough that you can identify what the structure is named / where it is on your images
  2. Start to try and describe its relationships when asked to describe it, e.g. what is lateral / medial / deep / superficial?
  3. Describe more information about it and add it to your cards -- learning a muscle? After you can ID it then ask yourself its insertion / origin / nerve / blood supply as well every time you see it.
The above strategy also works for other questions too - instead of just learning what is on the card try and ask yourself more in depth questions each time you see it.

Re: tagging
Clinical_Obstetrics_GDM (for example)?

Would you lose the Clinical? Or the GDM? Or neither?

Thank you!!

Ask yourself what the purpose of tagging everything is. Are you actually going to go back and specifically learn about that in particular? Is that how you are going to segregate your revision? I didn't tag any of my cards - I let the ANKI app do the work of figuring out what I did / didn't know and had it set to give me a random assortment of cards. If I want to look something up in my deck I just use the search function.

If you are planning on specifically revising a topic later then it might help to tag them but I would only do so to the level of granularity needed to revise it - i.e. if you are going to just revise obstetrics in a block then there is no point adding a clinical or anatomy or disease specific tag, just tag it as obstetrics.

Additionally, specifically revising things kind of goes against the entire spaced repetition mantra. How are you deciding when to revise gestational diabetes? Most likely you are planning to do it after having read it recently ... at which point you will probably get most of them right and it won't be an accurate reflection of whether you have retained the knowledge over a longer period of time. In saying that, my entire post is about how flexible ANKI can be so do what you will.
 
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LMG!

MBBS IV
Administrator
I have made 247 cards since getting back on the Anki train, covering O&G (rotation) and Neuro (core) so far. Thanks for getting me back into this, Perplex! Now the next step, to actually revise them regularly! :D

Benjamin re. tagging. I've actually moved on from the tagging method I detailed above. I am still tagging because I do want at least the option of revising individual stuff, but I'm not doing it as specifically as I indicated above.

For example, my applied (cadaver and path pots) exam will be anatomy and pathology. I may want the option of reviewing, for example, path specifically at some point, so I've tagged, say, a card on uterine leiomyomas separately to a card on risk factors for pre-eclampsia (one is tagged O&G_Clinical and one O&G_Pathology). Whether it'll be useful or not I don't yet know, but I just wanted some way of sorting the cards available to me if I ended up needing it and it seemed easiest to do this now.
 

TKAO

oowah!
Valued Member
I'm curious to know when you guys started using ANKI as a form of study. I'm making a feeble attempt to use it in med sci and I'm not entirely certain that all of these tiny facts are very useful. I find myself tending to make ~50 odd cards per hour lecture which results in an absolute massive amount of cards that I'm struggling to even review.

After a while I switched to a method where I would watch the lecture (2x speed so for 30 mins), write up some notes (1 hour ish) and then write up some question associated with the notes and chuck those questions into anki (maybe like 20 minutes), but I'm finding that these questions that I write are often pretty broad in scope and I just copy and paste my notes into the backside of a reverse card. This way I take perhaps the same ish amount of time as the original method but generate ~20 cards per lecture.

Any tips on how to improve my current method to make it more time efficient and easier to memorise? Do I need to know all the minute details of each lecture? Is it really even necessary to use anki in first year when all the assessments are pretty much all MCQ with very little short answer?
 

Perplex

Emeritus Staff
Emeritus Staff
I'm curious to know when you guys started using ANKI as a form of study. I'm making a feeble attempt to use it in med sci and I'm not entirely certain that all of these tiny facts are very useful. I find myself tending to make ~50 odd cards per hour lecture which results in an absolute massive amount of cards that I'm struggling to even review.

After a while I switched to a method where I would watch the lecture (2x speed so for 30 mins), write up some notes (1 hour ish) and then write up some question associated with the notes and chuck those questions into anki (maybe like 20 minutes), but I'm finding that these questions that I write are often pretty broad in scope and I just copy and paste my notes into the backside of a reverse card. This way I take perhaps the same ish amount of time as the original method but generate ~20 cards per lecture.

Any tips on how to improve my current method to make it more time efficient and easier to memorise? Do I need to know all the minute details of each lecture? Is it really even necessary to use anki in first year when all the assessments are pretty much all MCQ with very little short answer?

I think at the beginning this is pretty normal - you don't know what's important and what's not. I think we all do this when we write notes - we end up writing way more than necessary, but we don't bat an eye because we're wired to perceive more notes as beneficial. I think writing excessive amounts of ANKI cards makes you realise that something you're doing is relatively inefficient. Now let me clarify - I think you can have A LOT of cards that are relevant (look at USMLE decks with >10,000 cards). The key is just to make sure that each card has a succinct amount of information that is easy to retain - don't try and put massive paragraphs in a card (unless you're using it to contexualise your knowledge rather than trying to rote-learn it). If you're struggling to review all of those cards maybe just reduce your review limit now. Get comfortable with doing 20-30 new cards per day and perhaps reviewing 50 per day. Limit yourself to maybe 25-30 cards per lecture to start with. Eventually you'll get more efficient at making cards - you will, for example, get better at making one card for two concepts that you can connect.

So in summary my recommendations:
  • Set your new card limit to like 20-30 new cards per day
  • Limit reviews to 50-75 cards per day
  • DO NOT try and copy and paste from notes (unless it's a diagram). Phrase your notes as questions. For example: If your notes are one how proteins fold, maybe have 4 cards each of which describes the four different structures proteins assume (primary, secondary, tertiary and quatanery)
  • If your assessments are MCQ try and phrase some of your cards as MCQs
If you want, maybe you can provide an example of a topic (and some facts you're expected to know about it) you're covering now and I could tell you how I'd go about making cards for it.
 

TKAO

oowah!
Valued Member
Alright so my first attempt at studying all of this was in a (retrospectively horrible) system. It kinda looked like this:
1588676360704.png
After that, I switched to a purely notes based system that looked like this:
1588676446196.png
While it seems like a lot of notes for one lecture, its important to realise that this column isn't very wide at all and it uses bulletpoints so it probably looks a bit longer than it needs to be. The notes are based on either the lecture outcome slide on just trying to organise what is going on in the lecture (sometimes lecturers really can't nail down the scope of what they want to teach).

Then I switched to a combined system that attempts to have both the notes (I like them at this point because it gives you an overview to what you are learning instead of anki tending to feel like a bunch of unrelated facts - should I not do this?) and questions to significantly cut down number of cards to make sure that they focus only on what is on the notes like so:
1588676658601.png
Then I chucked all of my questions into anki because lord knows I wouldn't be able to space out these questions without it so they end up turning out like this:
1588676937252.png
The questions are copy pasted from the questions section on my onenote and the answers are copy pastes from the appropriate section of my notes. As you can see, some questions are both relevant to the same part of the notes, and so they have the same answer but the relevant bits of the answer vary. For the question 'What are the 4 ways in which calcium can be taken out of the muscle cells myoplasm when relaxed?', my mental answer is only PMCA, NCX, SERCA and calsequestrin but for the next question of 'how do each of these ways function?', my mental answer is all the in depth descriptions of each (eg. a pump that uses 1 ATP to remove 1 ca ion' etc. .

Any feedback about this current system is appreciated.
 

Fili

Dentistry Student 🦷
Moderator
Alright so my first attempt at studying all of this was in a (retrospectively horrible) system. It kinda looked like this:
View attachment 3397
After that, I switched to a purely notes based system that looked like this:
View attachment 3398
While it seems like a lot of notes for one lecture, its important to realise that this column isn't very wide at all and it uses bulletpoints so it probably looks a bit longer than it needs to be. The notes are based on either the lecture outcome slide on just trying to organise what is going on in the lecture (sometimes lecturers really can't nail down the scope of what they want to teach).

Then I switched to a combined system that attempts to have both the notes (I like them at this point because it gives you an overview to what you are learning instead of anki tending to feel like a bunch of unrelated facts - should I not do this?) and questions to significantly cut down number of cards to make sure that they focus only on what is on the notes like so:
View attachment 3399
Then I chucked all of my questions into anki because lord knows I wouldn't be able to space out these questions without it so they end up turning out like this:
View attachment 3400
The questions are copy pasted from the questions section on my onenote and the answers are copy pastes from the appropriate section of my notes. As you can see, some questions are both relevant to the same part of the notes, and so they have the same answer but the relevant bits of the answer vary. For the question 'What are the 4 ways in which calcium can be taken out of the muscle cells myoplasm when relaxed?', my mental answer is only PMCA, NCX, SERCA and calsequestrin but for the next question of 'how do each of these ways function?', my mental answer is all the in depth descriptions of each (eg. a pump that uses 1 ATP to remove 1 ca ion' etc. .

Any feedback about this current system is appreciated.

I probably will end up having heaps of anki cards since if I were to use the "4 ways in which Ca2+ can be taken" etc anki I would have that one big one you have, with PMCA, NCX etc in blue so they stand out.

I would then break it into smaller anki e.g. "Describe how PMCA is involved in the removal of calcium from muscle cells" in one card, "describe how NCX is involved ...." in another etc. I would also screenshot my slides if there are good diagrams on the slides via the "windows + shift + s" and paste it on the anki answer page.

I'm fine with having heaps of anki cards though since they help me memorise the details.
 

LMG!

MBBS IV
Administrator
I would also screenshot my slides if there are good diagrams on the slides via the "windows + shift + s" and paste it on the anki answer page

I have just discovered how super easy it is to do this (Yamster and Sherlock will not be surprised it's taken me this long!) and I agree that it is a super useful addition to some of my cards.
 

Fili

Dentistry Student 🦷
Moderator
I have just discovered how super easy it is to do this (Yamster and Sherlock will not be surprised it's taken me this long!) and I agree that it is a super useful addition to some of my cards.

I used to pull out the snipping tool etc and screenshot and crop images (which wasted so much time) until my RA showed me the shortcut and now most of my anki cards have diagrams lol - just helps so much and it's so easy.
 

LMG!

MBBS IV
Administrator
I have discovered a frustrating thing in the way I've set my Anki cards up. I've made them all one deck, and I agree that this would work perfectly usually, however... I have core learning and rotation learning at the moment, and I've got both mixed into one deck. My mid-year exams are on core learning only, so I want to concentrate specifically on the cards that are from that content. Is there an easy way (perhaps using my tags?) to create a new deck from my current deck that only includes the core stuff?
 

TKAO

oowah!
Valued Member
I have discovered a frustrating thing in the way I've set my Anki cards up. I've made them all one deck, and I agree that this would work perfectly usually, however... I have core learning and rotation learning at the moment, and I've got both mixed into one deck. My mid-year exams are on core learning only, so I want to concentrate specifically on the cards that are from that content. Is there an easy way (perhaps using my tags?) to create a new deck from my current deck that only includes the core stuff?
If you did all in the same day you can try to hold shift and then click the top and the bottom to highlight it all before then switching their decks all together. You can't actually do that in anki without an addon. Heres a useful one: Search and Replace Tags - AnkiWeb. To use it, highlight all the cards you want to switch then click ctrl+alt+shift+t. that should bring up a window that first asks for which tag you want to switch then to another window that asks what you want to switch it to. Then you can try to sort with that tag then highlight them all and ctrl+d to shift deck. Unfortunately I can't think of a better solution than to manually dig through them and switch all their tags unfortunately:(
 
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