Thoughts On Flashcards

One thing I've noticed about studying for any kind of test is that flashcards help immensely; be it Biology, Chemistry, History, English or even Math...actually on second thought they don't seem to work for math but math is ridiculous so we won't talk about that.

But I digress. Anyways, I've noticed that ever since I started to use flashcards for whatever class, my grades for tests and what not went up by a large margin; and by a large margin, I mean by like 5%, which isn't a whole bunch but it's better than nothing. Before this, however, I was a firm believer that flashcards wouldn't help. I mean, why would flipping cards with definitions on them help me what-so-ever? I preferred to stick to reading chapters in the books, and making lists to go over, instead of using cards.

Now, this method worked for me, but I believe it was because I could sit down and read something for an hour straight. I used to have this ability back in middle and high school, thanks to the obscene amount of reading I used to do. Once college rolled around, however, I had lost that ability; I blame excess time on the internet and video games for this, but I regret none of that. Regardless, my old method that never failed now consistently failed, and I needed another plan of attack. And it wasn't until one of my boring psych lectures did I find that new plan of attack, thanks to my teacher telling everyone to try them out and see what happens.

I, of course, was skeptical; flashcards didn't work in the past, so why should they work now? But upon putting effort into them, I found that they had actually worked! My slipping grades no long started to slip, and I actually was able to retain information learned in the class, as opposed to just remembering it for the test and forgetting it later. The only downside was, was that I got really into them. I began to make flashcards for just about every single thing in every class, and this lead to a total brain overload.

I was trying to study so much that I actually began to remember nothing for the tests; this lead to me completely bombing a test, because I had tried to shove so much information into my head, that none of it stuck. Sure, this could happen to any kind of study method someone has; having to stuff too much info into your in such a short notice, and you'll find that you remembered nothing. But the problem was ten times worse with flashcards.

You see, because flashcards are so easy to make, it's incredibly easy to get lost in the process of making them. I started to find that I would go through 75% of a stack of one hundred flashcards, for one test alone. Not only was this expensive (yes I'm well aware that a stack is like a dollar, but when you're a poor college student still going home to do your laundry, every cent counts) but it lead to me not retaining any of the info that I had spent hours studying.

So, I attempted to cut back on the amount of cards that I had, but this lead to anxiety. What if the things that I was cutting out where important to the test? There were these constant 'what ifs' floating around my head, which also led to a mental block of retaining info as well. Finally, I decided on a different course of action; I would only go through chapters and write down vocabulary words for the flashcards and elaborate on them on the back of the cards. Now, I didn't think this would change anything, in fact, I thought the problem would be worse, but in my case, it actually helped!

See, once I began to elaborate one specific vocab words, I realized that I was beginning to cover all the information that I thought I left out. I was able to review all of the material, at a fraction of the flashcards, which was small enough that I was able to retain the information! It was a great solution to my problem, and it's one I'm still using today.

But you're probably asking yourself, "That's neat and all, but what's the point of all that? What's the point of everything you just said?" I guess, dear reader, the whole point of this piece was to show that sometimes, less is more. As in, if you find yourself making a massive pile of flashcards and horrible grades to go along with it, maybe you should try to make less cards, and elaborate more on ideas. Because who knows, it might just be the solution you were looking for.

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