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Memory is the water that’s in the bucket of our brain. It doesn’t matter if the bucket is half full or it’s up to the brim, some of the water evaporates. So does memory because our brain can take only so much.

When it comes to memory, the “˜R’ for “recollection” is always aided by another “˜R’, and that’s “revision” (or repetition). It is not only an important study skill, but a skill of life as well that calls for us to harp on the same strings to maintain the health of our mind.

With technology has come some great study tools. Simon’s post on 3 Great Online Tools to Improve Study Skills & Get Better Grades 3 Great Online Tools to Improve Study Skills & Get Better Grades 3 Great Online Tools to Improve Study Skills & Get Better Grades Read More , gives an idea of the promise when computers and the web come to assist learning.


Flash cards, mind maps and cheat sheets 10 Essential Cheat Sheets To Download 10 Essential Cheat Sheets To Download Read More are very much real-world tools. It’s just that their virtual avatars have extended the possibilities of use and reuse.

Take flash cards for example. Flash cards are simple set of cards which have a question on one side and the answer on the reverse. Read the question, try to recall the answer and flip the card over to check. It’s a simple and cheap but a very effective memory aid.

Headmagnet is another in the queue of free online flash card applications. But it hopes to jump to the head of the line with its unique selling proposition”¦it predicts when you are most likely to forget. By the way, the word “˜Selling’ is just to honor the acronym”¦the online web app is completely free.

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Headmagnet’s About page mentions that its backend tech is based on the ACT-R cognitive architecture developed at Carnegie Mellon University.

For me and you, it simply means that Headmagnet analyses our flash card reading scores and gauges the rate of our forgetfulness. Using that data, Headmagnet helps us study more effectively by predicting and proposing when to review the study material.

So here’s me logging into Headmagnet to take them up on their word.

free online flash cards

Headmagnet welcomes me with a few sample lists setup. That’s just to get me acquainted with how the system works. Notice the In Head section on the right. That’s the scoreboard to keep our eyes on. The main action areas are mentioned in a series on the top – My Lists, My Head, Friends, Profile, and Settings.

My Lists

free online flash cards

These are groupings of items I am in the process of studying. A few default list types (templates) are already included like one for vocabulary or the one for names and faces. Adjoining the lists are the ways one can use to go through them.

For instance, for my vocabulary refresher, I can take a word and recall its definition or vice versa. I can also tweak the study modes to suit my learning style.

I guess I will click the bright orange button and create my own list. Below is a little sample list of words I am trying to learn. As I add each new word to the list, it gets added to the Items on the right. Using the dropdown, I can view the Items either by way of questions or its answers.

free online flash cards

But for a word buff like me the best feature is the Add New Field. For instance, I added an Image field that will complement my learning of new words by bringing up associated word images (I took the images from my HDD and the web).

After making a choice of the privacy settings (kept it open for Friends), I start my vocabulary training by clicking on Study Now. Clicking on Add to My Head, next to it will put it among the favorite lists which I want to study over a long term.

The screen goes grey for a moment and this is what I see ““

online flash cards

I can also create my own study modes with a slew of customization options.

online flash cards

Then a few personalization settings for the study session”¦

online flash cards

Then the questions for which I have to think up the answers and accordingly self check myself with the response. A timer on top ticks away for the duration of the test.

flash cards online

The test cycles back to the incorrect response and quits only when I have them all right.

My Head

This is the section where, Headmagnet helps us to predict when we will forget the learnt items. My Head displays all lists which you want to learn over a period of time and also displays the current level of strength for each list through a colored bar.

flash cards online

As memory levels start to decay, the color goes from green to orange and then red. The system also prompts us to review the items. Right now, for my lists I don’t have anything to review.

With a large number of lists, it’s better to prioritize by clicking on the stars.

Sharing Lists

I shared my first list with my friends and build up a community of shared lists. The other two options are Private and Public. The other way to take Headmagnet to a wider audience is by linking it to Facebook.

Flashing Our Memory

From log-in to the first list, takes about 5 minutes. It’s easier to operate if you watch the basic video on the homepage and then do the tour to understand all the features.

Free online flash cards are simple devices by themselves. Headmagnet makes the learning simpler by giving a variety of ways to structure the Item lists and the lessons. From straight Q&A to multiple choice tests and slide shows”¦one can be one’s own tutor.

The scaled grading system and the predictive review helps us to keep tabs on how we are doing with the lessons.

As free online flash card applications go, Headmagnet is one of the more flexible ones around. Take a few lessons and let us know your score for it.

  1. Andrew Wang (Headmagnet Creator)
    March 1, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Thank you for the thorough review, Saikat! I really appreciate it.

    @anon:

    I've tried using Anki and quite a few other study apps. Their inadequacies are actually part of the reason why I created Headmagnet. Anki is a desktop app you have to install on your computer, and has a very limited and rudimentary online web app. It doesn't even tell you how well you know what you know at the moment, nor does it let you create multiple study modes based on the same set of information without having to create a whole new separate set of cards. If it works well for you, then stick with it, but I'd encourage you to give Headmagnet a try and send us some feedback on what you like, and what missing features you'd like to see. The more good study apps there are out there, the better for you, right?

    The main problem that people have with Anki (other study apps based on the Supermemo algorithm) is that it mainly just tells you only WHEN you need to study and what you're overdue on studying. These apps are somewhat useless (and discouraging) if you're someone like me who doesn't have the discipline to study when it tells you to study. You can't really see or project what your estimated recall rate would be using Anki. The Supermemo algorithm simply isn't built to do that.

    Headmagnet is based on a different memory model (ACT-R) that estimates memory strength, memory decay, and recall rate, rather than just calculate the number of days before you need to review a card. It lets you see the consequence of what happens if you don't study, and gives you a quick gauge of how strong something is in your head at the moment.

    Headmagnet is a fully web-based app, with nothing to install on your computer. It is flexible on when you study, and gives you the information to choose what/how you want to study.

    We've got many more useful features coming soon, including more stats, graphs, importing/exporting, and improved online social networking. Stay tuned!

  2. Andrew Wang (Headmagnet Creato
    March 1, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Thank you for the thorough review, Saikat! I really appreciate it.

    @anon:

    I've tried using Anki and quite a few other study apps. Their inadequacies are actually part of the reason why I created Headmagnet. Anki is a desktop app you have to install on your computer, and has a very limited and rudimentary online web app. It doesn't even tell you how well you know what you know at the moment, nor does it let you create multiple study modes based on the same set of information without having to create a whole new separate set of cards. If it works well for you, then stick with it, but I'd encourage you to give Headmagnet a try and send us some feedback on what you like, and what missing features you'd like to see. The more good study apps there are out there, the better for you, right?

    The main problem that people have with Anki (other study apps based on the Supermemo algorithm) is that it mainly just tells you only WHEN you need to study and what you're overdue on studying. These apps are somewhat useless (and discouraging) if you're someone like me who doesn't have the discipline to study when it tells you to study. You can't really see or project what your estimated recall rate would be using Anki. The Supermemo algorithm simply isn't built to do that.

    Headmagnet is based on a different memory model (ACT-R) that estimates memory strength, memory decay, and recall rate, rather than just calculate the number of days before you need to review a card. It lets you see the consequence of what happens if you don't study, and gives you a quick gauge of how strong something is in your head at the moment.

    Headmagnet is a fully web-based app, with nothing to install on your computer. It is flexible on when you study, and gives you the information to choose what/how you want to study.

    We've got many more useful features coming soon, including more stats, graphs, importing/exporting, and improved online social networking. Stay tuned!

  3. anon
    February 28, 2010 at 11:02 am

    sorry, it looks like "anki" is still 10x better than this alternative.

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