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23 October, 2023

Why Use Anki for the DAT?

Anki is an open-source flashcard software. In this article, we will be discuss why Anki is useful in your DAT preparation.
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If you have seen my articles on DATBooster, you will know that I am a huge proponent of using Anki for your DAT preparation. But why is Anki such a great tool? The answer is its facilitation of active recall and spaced repetition software. Here, I will go into depth on what these concepts are and why they are gems for DAT studying.

Active Recall

Active Recall as a study method is essentially answering questions. When practicing active recall, one is, as the name suggests, actively remembering and recalling the information from memory — no notes or hints. This is in contrast with passive recall, which is best exemplified by re-reading or reviewing notes.

Here is a clear example differentiating the two when trying to learn who was the first president of the United States:

  • Active Recall: Answering the question, “Who was the first president of the United States”
  • Passive Recall: Reading in your notes, “George Washington was the first president of the United States”

Why is active recall better than passive recall? Because active recall better facilitates long-term memory storage. Strong empirical evidence of active recall, also known as the “Testing Effect,” was provided in 1992 from experiments conducted by Carrier and Pashler1. In their experiments, Carrier and Pashler showed that the act of actively recalling information facilitated longer and stronger retention of the material than traditional studying methods. In addition, their results demonstrated that active recall improves test performance because of its intrinsic qualities rather than as another study experience.

In regard to test taking, specifically the DAT, active recall mimics testing conditions. On the DAT we will not have access to notes or lecture material. We need to be able to recall information from memory. Also, we need to retain and recall large amounts of information on test day. According to the Testing Effect, active recall is the best way to achieve this task. Therefore, it is best to practice active recall from day 1.

Spaced Repetition

To understand spaced repetition, it is helpful to start with The Forgetting Curve.

Originating from experiments done by Hermann Ebbinghaus, this curve describes the tendency to forget learned information exponentially as time passes. I am sure everyone reading this has experienced this phenomenon. We learn a piece of information and after a day or two without review that knowledge is a bit hazy. Eventually, we begin to say things like, “I knew that once but I have long since forgotten it.”

For the DAT, our goal is to combat this curve so that on test day our retention is as close to 100% as possible for as much information as possible.

But how can we do this?

The answer is Spaced Repetition! Take a look at the above graph. The first line — i.e. the first time you learned a concept — is the original forgetting curve. According to that curve, after 3 days you will have a 60% retention rate. However, take a look at what happens if you review that concept the next day after you learn it: It takes seven days to reach 60% retention.

With each repetition of the material, The Forgetting Curve flattens further.

This is one of the goals of using Anki: to continuously re-interrupt the forgetting curve, through active recall, to maximize retention over time. Anki has a built-in and customizable algorithm to feed you flashcards that utilize spaced repetition. Plus, with Anki, you are using active recall! Best of both worlds!


Knowledge of these two concepts helps us understand the importance of Anki for the DAT. I hope you take these ideas and utilize them to get the best possible score come your test day. Make sure to check out my other articles on how to start with Anki, how to use Anki and other ways Anki can enhance your studies for the DAT! Good luck and do your cards every day!


Carrier, M., Pashler, H. The influence of retrieval on retention. Mem Cogn20, 633–642 (1992).