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online flashcardsI think everybody is familiar with the old saying: “Repetition is the mother of all learning“. It means the more you repeat a subject in your study, the better results you will get. This statement has been proven by many scientific experiments like this one, and people all around the world uses this method all the time to help their learning.

The popular implementation of this “learning by repeating” method is flashcards usage. Thanks to the power of technology, flashcard learning is not limited to physical cards anymore. It has been adapted as countless web and desktop applications. One of those online flashcard services is Brainscape. This one is unique because it has a different method of utilizing and presenting the cards.

Deal The Cards

Aside from the standard signup process, Brainscape also allows you to register using your Facebook account. The second option is quicker, but only for those who feel comfortable letting third party applications access their account Facebook Quietly Patches A Massive Security Hole, Millions Potentially Affected [News] Facebook Quietly Patches A Massive Security Hole, Millions Potentially Affected [News] Facebook has confirmed claims made by Symantec over millions of leaked "access tokens". These tokens enable an application to access personal information and make changes to profiles, essentially giving third parties the "spare key" to... Read More .  After signing up, you can start using the service by choosing what topic you want to learn.

There are three main groups of topics to start: Test Prep, Languages, and Knowledge Junkie.

online flashcards

For example, you can find flashcards to learn Chinese inside Language.

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free online flashcards

But my curiosity brought me to Keyboard Shortcuts inside Knowledge Junkie. After choosing the topic, pick one of the available decks to start.

free online flashcards

In general, learning a subject using Brainscape is similar to using another flashcard service/application. But the difference is Brainscape only asks users to think of the answers, and doesn’t require users to write anything.

free online flashcards

After seeing the question and thinking of the answer, click the “Reveal Answer” button to check to see if you were right.

make your own flashcards and memory games

Brainscape will ask you to rate your knowledge of the answer using a scale of 1 to 5. It will use your rating to determine how often the question will be repeated during your learning session. “Perfectly known” answers will be repeated less often than the “Very well” known answers, and so on.

make your own flashcards and memory games

We can see from the “Frequency of Repetition” pie chart how often each kind of question will pop out. The questions rated as “Not at all” known will appear in more than half of the learning session. This kind of arrangement will help users focus more on their weaknesses and less on the topics that they’ve already mastered.

make your own flashcards and memory games

Create Your Own Decks Of Online Flashcards

While I think Brainscape’s method of displaying the flashcards is great, it’s obvious that its collection of decks is pretty limited. Luckily, the service provides you with the ability to create your own decks of cards with your chosen topics.

  • The first step to creating your deck is filling in the deck’s basic information.

03a create deck

  • Then click the “Create Cards” button to start. You can fill in more supplementary information if you want to.

03b supplementary issue

There are two ways to create your online flashcards. The first one is by using “Quick Create“. This method is great if you only need to fill in basic questions and answers. The second one is “Standard Create” where you can customize the font style and add images and sound.

03c create cards

This is what the “Quick Create” looks like. First, you write down the “Prompt” which will appear at the beginning of each card. Then you fill in the “Question” and “Answer” fields, and click the “Add these Cards” button to add more cards to the set. If there are cards that you don’t want to keep, you can easily delete them using the red “minus (-)” button on the right of each entry.

03d quick add

The “Standard Create” fields are more elaborate. You will get all sorts of editing options on the toolbar.

03e customize card

And also the option to add images and audio.

03f add media

You can review the cards by going to the “Review” tab. There are also options to Edit, Delete, Add Note and View Notes.

04a review

All of the decks of cards in your collection are accessible from the “My Library” tab at the top of your account’s page. You can see the list of subjects in the left pane and decks of cards under a subject in the main pane.

04b my library

The subjects are editable. Just click the option button and choose “Edit Subject“. You can also share your subject via email by clicking the button below it.

04c edit subject

Going Mobile & Wish List

Brainscape’s flashcards also available as iPhone apps. But the company made their apps different from other flash card apps. Instead of releasing one app with a library of cards, Brainscape has released one app for each subject. Some of the decks are free while others are paid.

The topic that I used as the example above – Keyboard Shortcuts – is available for free.

05a iPhone app1

The app takes a similar approach to its web counterpart: question, answer, and knowledge rating.

online flashcards

The way I see it, Brainscape’s method of displaying online flashcards gives the product a competitive edge against other similar products. Unfortunately, there’s still one thing missing. A flashcard application will only really take off if there are lots of flashcard decks from various topics in its repository, and Brainscape’s repository is rather empty. If this web service want to expand its flashcards collection, it could use the power of community by letting users contribute and share their custom flashcard decks.

What do you think of Brainscape? Will you use it or do you prefer other flashcard applications? Share your thoughts using the comments below.

  1. Andrew Cohen
    May 25, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Hi Jeffry - great review of Brainscape!  I'm actually the founder, and I saw this in a Google Reader alert that I had set up.  I tried to find your contact email to thank you for the review but could not find how to write to you.

    Anyway, I'd love to keep in touch.  Brainscape is only at the very beginning stages of its vision, and we have some big plans to come as we continue improving the software.  Thank you to all the readers (and re-tweeters) for your interest!

  2. Cell Travis
    May 25, 2011 at 5:57 am

    This reminds me of the old memory maps, flowcharts and flashcards I used to create by hand back in the school & college days. The concept of flashcards can be extended through study sheets and quizzes from "Quizinator" as well. Though it's a website meant for teachers, I believe even students will find some use of them.

  3. Joshua Clarke
    May 24, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    I use Quizlet.com and highly recommend it. It has a greater variety of subjects then this site, and has 3 different modes of study.

    • Anonymous
      May 24, 2011 at 11:10 pm

      Hi, thanks for sharing. I'll try Quizlet.

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