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
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