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11 March, 2024

Benefits of Using Anki

The INBDE is a standardized exam to obtain licensure and practice dentistry in the US. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of Anki and how it can be used to ace the exam.
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Active recall and spaced repetition are evidence-based learning concepts that can be implemented through the software Anki in order to help students learn more efficiently and boost their test day retention. Most students study passively by probably rereading notes and combing through study guides. They trick themselves into thinking they know the material and expect to retain vital information simply by exposure. The problem with this form of passive studying is that you are not interacting with the information, and you are not maximizing your retention as you are not building important neural connections.  This article will explore how to study for the INBDE using Anki as one of your study strategies. We will go over how spaced repetition, active recall, and the design of the Anki software can be instrumental in efficiently boosting your retention.

🧠 Active Recall

Active recall is the process of retrieving information when presented with a question or problem. In other words, it’s testing yourself in order to identify what you know and what you don’t know.

Fundamental to this process is the ability to break material down into its fundamental components and formulate questions based on these bite-size pieces. This is referred to as the atomization of knowledge.

Regularly quizzing yourself and putting your knowledge to the test is the only way to make sure that you are, in fact, retaining that information. Flashcards are the most commonly used tool to implement active recall.

The drawback to flashcards is knowing when to review them. It turns out that there is a science-based solution to this—spaced repetition.

🔁 Spaced Repetition

Spaced repetition is the method of implementing active recall at increasing intervals by determining the optimal time between reviews.

Hermann Ebbinghaus, who first described spaced repetition, found that there was an exponential loss of retention as time passed. However, every time information is reviewed the brain consolidates it and the rate of memory loss decreases. This means we can project approximately when you should review a specific question. By quizzing yourself right as you’re about to forget something you’ll remember it better and for longer.

Doing this process by hand for all your classes would be a gargantuan task. Luckily, softwares exist to streamline this process and keep track of everything for us. The most popular software is called Anki.

The first curve on the graphic above is your retention when you only review the material once. However, if you test yourself more frequently, you’ll notice that the curve flattens out and your retention decreases less quickly. Spaced repetition is all about testing yourself at about the time you’re going to forget the information to keep you on your toes and keep the information fresh.

📚 Anki's Design

Anki is a free open-source software that allows you to implement spaced repetition by creating and sharing flashcards. The software is hyper-customizable, simple to set up, and makes learning straightforward.

The first step is to familiarize yourself with the information you want to learn and identify the key concepts and most basic facts to memorize. If you’re lucky, someone has sent you a deck of high-quality cards. If not, then you have to make them yourself.

Once you’ve got your cards, it’s time to put active recall to work. When you answer a card you will be prompted to select: “again, hard, good, or easy.” The card interval (when you see the card next) will be adjusted based on your selection. To simplify the process I only ever use “good” (if I get it right) or “again” (if I get it wrong).

Each day, Anki will automatically present you with the cards that are due to be reviewed that day. If you answer correctly, the next interval between reviews will be longer. If you get a card wrong the process starts over and the card will be presented to you as new. The beauty of this method is that you end up only reviewing and relearning the cards that you need to review.

Anki allows for high-speed, low-drag studying and has become a powerhouse tool for medical students reviewing for their boards. Anki makes it easy to stay on top of all your material by simply reviewing the cards Anki feeds you everyday.

👉 Conclusion

While it sounds too good to be true, it’s not, but it does require some rigor. You must review all your “due” cards for the day. If you don’t, the number of cards will accumulate and you won’t remember the information as well.

Don’t be scared off, though; Anki easily becomes part of your daily routine, and reviewing goes by quickly. You’ll cover so much more ground than traditional studying that you’ll wonder why it took you so long to start.

You now understand how the design of Anki implements active recall and spaced repetition concepts in order to improve retention and give you the knowledge and confidence you need to ace your exam!