Using Anki Effectively for Medical School: Full Guide

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re using Anki (or considering using it) to study for medical school. Congratulations on making a smart decision – Anki is a potent tool that can help you retain a LOT of information. In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about how to use Anki effectively for medical school. We’ll cover the basics of what Anki is and how it works, as well as some tips and tricks for creating effective decks and studying with Anki. Let’s get started!


What is Anki?

Anki is a flashcard program that utilizes both spaced repetition and active recall, two of the most powerful memorization techniques, to help you remember information more effectively.

Spaced repetition is a learning technique that involves increasing the intervals of time between review sessions for information that has already been learned. The idea is that by spacing out your review sessions, you can better retain the information over the long term.

Active recall is a learning technique that involves retrieving information from memory to answer a question, as opposed to just passively reviewing it. The act of recalling and utilizing information helps to strengthen your knowledge and makes it more likely that you’ll be able to remember the information in the future.

Anki combines these two powerful techniques by allowing you to create digital flashcards and review them on your computer, phone, or tablet. The program will also take your input on question difficulty to automatically space out your review sessions based on how well you remember the information, making it an incredibly effective way to study.


Types of Anki Decks

There are four card types available to students using Anki: Basic, Basic + Reverse, Cloze, and Image Occlusion.

Basic card

Basic cards are the simplest type of card, and they’re great for memorizing simple facts or information. On the front of the card, you’ll write a question, and on the back, you’ll write the answer. When being tested, users will be presented with the question side of the card and be expected to memorize the answer side of the card. For example, if you’re trying to memorize the symptoms of appendicitis, your card might look something like this:

Question: What are the symptoms of appendicitis?

Answer: The most common symptom of appendicitis is pain in the lower right side of the abdomen. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and fever.

Basic + Reverse card

Basic + Reverse cards are similar to Basic cards. On the front of the card, you would write the answer, and on the back, you would write the question. However, when being tested using Basic + Reverse cards you may be presented with either side of the card to quiz your knowledge.

This type of card is helpful when you want to be able to recall information in either direction. These types of questions may be useful in cases where you need to know both the definition and the explanation for a medical term.

Question: Myocardial infarction (MI)

Answer: The damage or death of an area of the heart muscle (myocardium) resulting from a blocked blood supply to that area.

Cloze card

Cloze cards are a bit more complex than Basic or Basic + Reverse cards. With Cloze cards, you’ll create a sentence with blanks in place of the information you want to remember. For example, if you wanted to memorize the different types of white blood cells, your Cloze card might look something like this:

The five main types of white blood cells are __, __, __, __, and __. When being tested on a Cloze card, you would be presented with the sentence above and be expected to fill in the blank with the correct answer. In this case, the correct answer would be “neutrophils”.

If you’re having difficulties cloze cards can also be set up to offer hints that can be displayed to help you remember the answer.

Cloze cards are great for memorizing information that is presented in a sentence or paragraph form. This could include medical definitions, lists of symptoms, or even short passages from medical articles.

Image Occlusion Card

Image Occlusion cards are similar to Cloze cards, but instead of blanks, you’ll be hiding information behind an image. This type of card is great for memorizing diagrams or medical images.

To create an Image Occlusion card, you’ll need to download the Image Occlusion plugin from Anki’s website. Once the plugin is installed, you can create a new Image Occlusion card by selecting “Create Deck” from the “Decks” menu and then choosing “Image Occlusion”.

On the front of the card, you’ll add an image. Then, using the Image Occlusion tool, you can draw shapes over the parts of the image that you want to hide. For example, if you were trying to memorize the parts of the eye, your card might look something like this:

As you can see, the Image Occlusion tool allows you to cover up part of an image so that you can test your knowledge later. This is a great way to memorize complex medical images or diagrams.


Tips for Using Medical School Anki Decks

Now that you know the different types of Anki cards, here are some tips for using them effectively:

Create Anki Decks on High Yield Topics

When creating your medical school Anki decks, it’s important to focus on creating decks that are high-yield. This means that you should focus on creating decks that will help you learn and remember the most important information. Many students try creating too many cards which can easily become overwhelming.

It’s better to create a smaller number of high-quality cards that you’ll actually use than a large number of cards that you’ll quickly abandon.

To do this, you can start by looking at your course syllabus and identifying the most important topics. You can also talk to upper-year medical students or your resident/preceptor to get their recommendations.

Create Cards That are Succinct

When creating your medical school Anki cards, it’s important to make sure that they are succinct and to the point. Do not try to dump a whole bunch of information on a card in the form of paragraphs. This will help you save time when creating cards and also ensure that you’re able to remember the information when you review it later.

Creating cards that are too long or contain too much information can be overwhelming and lead to you forgetting the information. So, try to keep your cards short, sweet, and to the point.

Keep your Anki Decks Categorized

As you create more and more medical school Anki decks, it’s important to keep them well organized. This will help you save time when trying to find a specific deck later on.

This can be done by tagging your medical school Anki decks by subject or topic. For example, you might have a tag for “Anatomy” or “Physiology”. This will help you quickly find the deck you’re looking for when you need it.

Additionally, you can also create sub-decks within your main medical school Anki decks. For example, if you’re studying for an upcoming Anatomy exam, you might have subdecks for “Endocrine System”, “Digestive System”, etc.

Use Filters to Focus Your Study Sessions

Anki’s filtering feature is a great way to focus your study sessions. This feature allows you to specify which cards you want to see when reviewing a deck.

For example, let’s say you’re studying for a medical school exam that’s coming up in a week. You can use Anki’s filtering feature to only show you cards that you’ve marked as “Due Soon”. This will help you focus your study time on the most important information.

Additionally, you can also use the filtering feature to focus on specific topics or subjects. For example, you can use a filter to only show you cards that are tagged with “Anatomy”.

Stay Consistent with Your Studying

As we stated previously, studying using Anki decks relies on spaced repetition to be effective. This means that you need to be consistent with your studying in order for it to work.

If you only study using Anki decks sporadically, you will not be able to effectively learn and remember the information. So, it’s important that you make a commitment to studying on a regular basis.

Consider Using Pre created Medical School Anki Decks

If you don’t have the time or energy to create your own medical school Anki decks, there are plenty of pre-made decks available online. However, we always recommend creating your own Anki Decks as writing the questions themselves can help you retain information.

A quick Google search will reveal a number of different medical school Anki decks that you can download and use. Additionally, many medical students also make their decks available for free online on forums such as Reddit.

Just be sure to carefully vet any medical school Anki decks that you download from the internet. Make sure that they are high-quality and up-to-date before using them.

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