How to Study with Flashcards


Flashcards are a tool used by students at all levels of education. Chances are that if you ask someone how to study for a test, the answer will include the use of flashcards. Effectively using flashcards for optimal results, however, requires a certain technique. A study conducted at Kent State University identified an efficient way to study with flashcards, dubbed the "3 plus 3 method."

  • Study your flashcards until you know the answer, without prompting, three times in a row. At this point, information is in your short-term memory.

  • Review the flashcards three more times to cement information into long-term memory. This is a key step in test preparation. Don't skip it and be sure you're really paying attention to the information and not just reciting information without engaging with the flashcards. Visualize the information burning itself into your brain.

  • Stop and move on to another activity. Once you are able to give the correct answer three times in a row and then review it three more times, the information should be lodged firmly in your memory. Additional studying will not help, according to current research, and you've reached the point of diminishing returns. Researchers found that people who used the "3 plus 3" flashcard method were able to retain information learned for up to four months -- more than enough time to ace that final exam.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make your own flashcards based on study notes whenever possible as this also helps with memorization.
  • Reviewing key information right before going to bed is also a good way to improve memorization.

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