If I could go back in time and tell myself only one WORD before college started, I’d scream ‘ANKI’ in my ear drum. Or, if you prefer the MCAT Neuroanatomy way, the sound wave would enter through my pinna, proceed through my external auditory canal to the tympanic membrane, follow through the malleus, incus, and stapes until it hit the oval window. From there, the wave would work through the perilymph of my cochlea and start getting converted to electrical signals across the basilar membrane and the hair cells before traveling up the vestibulocochlear nerve. Then, it’d proceed through the brainstem to finally be interpreted in the auditory cortex of the temporal lobe. Today’s post is about how I was FINALLY able to learn that process and not be intimidated by it.
According to the internet, “anki” 暗記 means “learning by heart; memory work.” *Ankisuru 暗記する means learn by heart commit to memory. Anki is a flashcard program that provides spaced repetition based on how well you feel you have learned the material. I have seen the tool pop up on several premed and medical school student blogs and decided it convert over from my beloved Quizlet and Study Blue websites that I use to make my online flashcards.
This is what the Anki home screen looks like. I have created decks for all of the MCAT topics under the username MCAT Study. Each day, I have a certain number of flaschards “due” for me to study based on how I rated the flashcards I studied yesterday. Every morning, after I tackle my MCAT Questions of the Day in my email inbox, I sit down to work through all of the cards that I have “due”. I’ve found that Anki works the best when you review the cards every day, and I’ve incorporated the flashcard review into my daily studying.
To create new cards, click the ADD button in between DECKS and BROWSE. From there, you can add to a new Deck or an existing Deck. You can even add images, audio, and video clips to the cards. I’ve found many tutorials on YouTube instructing users on how to create card loops and multiple cards from a single image. For now, I’m usually typing up practice discrete questions and regular formulas and facts I have to memorize.
When you start studying, the cards you have created pop up question first. This card was one of today’s Behavioral Sciences cards (Chapter 2 of Kaplan Behavioral Sciences). After you answer the card out loud, in your head, or on paper – I jot down the answers on flashcards to use up the HUNDREDS of blank flashcards I have left over from college – I hit the space bar for the answer/back of the card to pop up.
After the answer is displayed, Anki’s rating system is displayed at the bottom, allowing me to decide how well I think I know the matter that is being tested. Then, the card will be shown to me in the time interval I have specified. This is incredibly perfect for studying for exams, LIKE THE MCAT, when you are studying months in advance and need to remember all of the information for a very long time. I wish I was able to use this as a college student to make flashcards on lecture material for exams! Can’t you see how awesome this tool would be to study for a cumulative final!
You can even change the settings for cards as well based on how many you need to review!)I’m currently studying Thermodynamics and Thermochemistry, and finished my “due” cards for today. However, even though I finished the number of cards Anki gave to me, I hit the CUSTOM STUDY button to add more cards for today’s study only. You have the options to customize everything about the repetition of your deck.
This morning was the first time I saw this card, so notice how little the increments of time are – 1 minute, 10 minutes, and 4 days. I usually hit the 10 minute button so Anki knows that I want to review this card more than others in my deck.
At the end of the studying session, Anki tells you how many cards you studied and how long you spent studying them (it manages your time for you! How awesome is that!!?!) There’s nothing more satisfying than going down the line and seeing that you have no cards “due” for that day.
Even though it seems like a massive pain to create your own Anki decks, I highly recommend you spend the time and actually do it! I cannot stress this enough! As you can see, the spaced repetition of the material is based on your own preferences. I make cards based on my own weak material, and I know that trying to learn a big deck of cards would be useless if it didn’t include my personal weaknesses.
For example, when I created this card, I specifically included the two questions on there to focus my memorization on what was really important about Broca’s Area in the brain. I’m always confusing the functions of Broca’s Area with Wernicke’s Area, and the MCAT loves to take advantage of this! However, now that I’ve specifically created a card for this topic, and can use Anki’s spaced repetition to make sure I don’t forget the functions, I see it way more often that if I used a pre-made deck. Now, as soon as I’m prompted with this card, my mind goes to the mneumonic I’ve created for the location of Broca’s area (BF = BoyFriend = Broca’s Area in Frontal Lobe), and connect that to the function of Broca’s Area, which is speech production!
It’s also incredibly tedious to go through all of the “due” flashcards each day, but I know it will be worth it when I achieve my dream score on the MCAT! I’m already seeing the effects of Anki when I tackle my MCAT Questions of the Day and daily sample passages! Furthermore, I don’t have to spend a dedicated day to review when I’m looking through all of the relevant material each day!
I think the only downside to Anki is that the mobile app they’ve created in companion to the downloaded software is $25 on the app store! That’s really expensive in comparison to free apps like Quizlet, but if I needed to study on the go for classes and the MCAT, I would be sure to make the investment. I plan on making that purchase when I enter med school or a post-bac program!
Now it’s time to get back to work!