How to use flashcards to improve your memory

Here's how utilising flashcards in dynamic ways could be the key to improving your memory and training your brain.

For hundreds of years, academics have stood by the theory that, as we age, our memory capacity decreases. However, more recent studies have suggested that keeping mentally active, especially as we get older, might help maintain cognitive functioning.

Memory training can benefit all ages; as young adults who regularly engaged in brain training games demonstrated, for example, increased brain processing speed.

using flashcards to revise

In general, there are two ways of learning that can help us retain information for a longer period of time, either through experience or from reinforcement. Though the methods of learning will be different for everyone, the theory still stands.

Margot Prince, UK community manager at online learning platform Quizlet shares her top tips on how flashcards can help boost your memory

 

Active recall

active recall

Methods of learning often differ depending on the person and the subject at hand. Whether you create rhymes, write down information repeatedly, or create quizzes to test yourself, the objective is to understand the information at hand and commit it to our long-term memory. Different active recall learning methods can be used to learn a new language, revise for an exam, or practice a new instrument.

Repetition, for example, can help some people master a new skill, which is why flashcards have been a longstanding and useful tool in academia.

"Methods of learning often differ depending on the person and the subject at hand"

Flashcards are a prime example of active recall; you must break down the information, write the question and answer, and then test yourself repeatedly to fully learn and comprehend the materials at hand. Using this learning method repeatedly enables many people to commit new information to memory.

A study by Harvard University found that some participants were able to better recall information learned through repetitive study techniques, rather than participants who used various other methods. Repetitive study techniques are comparable to learning methods often employed by people learning a new language, whereby students converse with native speakers or read a passage and repeat it aloud.

Repeating the information aloud increases your ability to recall the information, therefore helping you to learn the new information inside and out.

 

Repetition

repetition of flashcards

As the age-old saying goes, practice makes perfect. Repeating a behaviour, an action, or even writing new information more than once will increase the likelihood of retention. Using an app or a platform, such as Quizlet or Evernote, means that you no longer have to physically write information down.

Create a study set and start quizzing yourself straight away. The more you go through it, the more likely you are to retain it.

 

Engaging your metacognitive faculties

metacognition

Many scenarios and explanations offer insight into how different people learn new material. Whether you are brushing up on your knowledge of fine art or trying to revise for an exam, flashcards provide the perfect technique of learning, because they engage your active recall.

The process of having the answer on one side and the question on the other means that you can reflect upon your answers, understand them, and as such, control your learning. This is what is known as metacognition—the ability to take charge of your own learning, an awareness of how you learn, an evaluation of your needs, then generating strategies to meet them.

A report from 2015, highlighted that “metacognitively aware learners are more strategic and perform better than unaware learners.” Assessing your progress is also assessing your knowledge.

 

Games and quizzes

games and quizzes helping with revision

Games and quizzes can often increase engagement in a subject, and so, will increase the likelihood of long-term memory retention.

A study by Harvard Medical School shows that playing a game as we learn can boost memory and, in some cases, slow the effects of degenerative diseases.

When we play we engage the brain in a different way, seeking a solution, to then be rewarded.

 

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