How do you use flashcards for MCAT preparation most effectively?
For the first time on the show today, we’re joined by Zasca from Blueprint MCAT. She shares her experience using flashcards in medical school and offers advice on making your own flashcards versus using premade decks.
If you would like to follow along on YouTube, go to premed.tv.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
Zasca’s Personal Experience
Zasca, a first-year student at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, is thoroughly enjoying her experience thus far. Having grown up in Texas and attended undergrad in California, moving to the east coast has brought about significant change. Despite this adjustment, Zasca expresses a genuine liking for the city and appreciates the opportunities it offers for work-life balance. Alongside her studies, being in New York allows them to explore and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere the city has to offer.
Zasca uses Anki flashcards frequently in medical school and finds them to be really popular among other medical students. Zasca is a big proponent of making her own flashcards. And that’s something Zasca still does in medical school because Zasca feels like the process of making those flashcards is very helpful. But there are a lot of pre-made decks out there that are really popular amongst med students and med students in general.
“The way that you use Anki and flashcards really does depend on the person.”
Using Flashcards for MCAT Prep
Some ways Zasca recommends using flashcards for MCAT prep include:
Make your own flashcards.
Making your own flashcards, as the process of making them can be helpful for learning. Focus on topics you are less comfortable with.
Zasca suggests picking content from your textbooks that you are less familiar with or confident in, as those are the areas that will benefit most from extra review. She adds that the process of creating the cards itself can reinforce learning.
Use pre-made decks.
When using pre-made decks, Zasca emphasizes developing a daily habit of reviewing new cards as well as cards due for a re-review using spaced repetition principles. This helps retain information long-term. She recommends setting a goal like a certain number of new and review cards to complete each study session.
Add topics you consistently miss on practice tests to your flashcard deck for extra review.
Zasca also advises students to add any topics they continue to miss on practice MCAT tests to their flashcard deck, as this identifies areas still needing more focused review through flashcards.
Consider different card types like cloze deletion or image occlusion.
Some card types she found useful were cloze deletion cards where parts of text are removed, and image occlusion cards where labels on diagrams are covered to test recall.
How to Choose What to Make Flashcards Of
Zasca recommends picking what to make flashcards of based on your personal comfort level with different topics. Zasca said she relied on their “internal filter” to determine what topics she was less confident in versus very confident.
As an example, Zasca mentioned, she didn’t make as many cards for biology/biochemistry since she had experience teaching those topics before. However, she made a lot of cards for chemistry/physics since that was a weaker area.
Zasca also said to consider adding topics you consistently miss on practice tests to your flashcard deck, as that indicates a need for more review of that specific content area. Specifically, Zasca says that if she was already very familiar with the content of a topic from previous experience teaching it, like biology/biochemistry, she didn’t feel it was necessary to make flashcards to review that information again.
“Being super intimately familiar with the things that you’re maybe not as good at is ultimately much better for you in the long run.”
However, for topics that were not her strong suit, such as chemistry/physics, Zasca recognized she would benefit more from making and reviewing more flashcards on those concepts. Seeing the chem/phys flashcards more frequently would help Zasca better retain that information, since it was an area she needed extra practice with compared to her stronger topics.
Making Flashcard Review a Daily Habit
Zasca recommends setting a goal like a certain number of new and review cards to complete each study session in order to keep up with the reviews.
“If you’re not learning stuff from making the cards, you need to set a time each day to go through the cards.”
When using pre-made flashcard decks, Zasca emphasizes the importance of developing a daily habit of reviewing new cards as well as cards due for a re-review using spaced repetition principles. This helps retain information long-term.
Zasca explains that if an MCAT student is preparing for the exam over an extended period of six months or longer, using spaced repetition flashcards from Anki or Blueprint will allow them to retain information from even their earliest study sessions conducted months before test day. The spaced repetition approach facilitates long-term memory of concepts through intermittent reviewing over a large study period.
Exploring Study Tools for MCAT Prep and Beyond
When it comes to MCAT prep or navigating through medical school, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the abundance of available resources. The sheer number of options for tools like Anki and Blueprint flashcards can lead to a sense of paralysis, leaving you unsure of where to begin. Give yourself some time to explore these tools and find what works best for you.
Consider giving yourself a trial period to test different decks or even create your own flashcards.
Additionally, take the time to familiarize yourself with the interface of the software you’ll be using. For instance, Anki may have a slight learning curve, but with tutorials and patience, you can quickly become proficient. By allowing yourself this initial period of exploration and adjustment, you’ll be better equipped to hit the ground running and make the most of your chosen study tools.