by the time you get to the last month of studying for a test, in addition to doing as many practice problems and practice tests as possible, you’re probably also focused on memorizing an intimidating stack of flashcards. I’ll be honest, I always hated the tedium of memorizing flashcards.
Over the years, I’ve tried different approaches to figure out how to memorize flashcards more efficiently and effectively. Here are three techniques I learned along the way that I think will save you a lot of time memorizing all the lists and formulas.
Reading: How to review your flash cars
by default, I think many people take a stack of flashcards and then flip through them in order, from top to bottom.
the problem is that in a stack of flashcards, there are three types of cards:
cards you know very well and immediately remember
cards you know well enough that you can remember without looking at the back
cards you don’t know and need to look at the back to find the answer
The problem with going directly through a stack is that you see each of these card types with the same frequency. Ideally, you want to see the cards you don’t know much more often than the ones you know very well. otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of time reviewing cards that you’ve already fully memorized.
instead, this is the approach I used:
take a stack of cards for a particular job or section of the syllabus.
Pick up the top card. if you know the card, place it to the side in a separate discard pile. if you don’t know the card, put the card back on the bottom of the pile you’re reviewing.
keep moving until all the cards in the pile are in the discard pile.
When you use this method, you only see the cards you know once each time you check the stack. you’ll see the cards you don’t know multiple times (maybe 3 or 5+ times) before correctly remembering them to put them on the discard pile. This way, you spend a lot more time with the difficult cards that you haven’t memorized yet.
Another benefit of this technique is that you end up mixing up the cards for a particular role. when you always see the cards in the same order each time, you can remember the cards just because you remember the previous card. when the cards get a bit messy, you need to think more to remember correctly. this also helps you memorize flashcards.
This is a popular technique for language learning. the idea is that you’ll see a new word several times during a lesson, but words you’ve already learned, you’ll see much less often, just enough so you don’t forget them.
Here’s how I incorporate this idea:
When I go through a stack of flashcards and hit one, I know it so well that I immediately remember when I see the prompt, I put that card in a separate stack that I’ll only read once a week or so. . again, the goal is not to waste time reviewing flashcards I’ve already memorized.
here are the stacks of flashcards i used:
stacks of cards I try to look at daily or every other day for the cards I’m still learning
a weekly stack that I know very well but want to see infrequently
a stack of cards that I feel comfortable with and that I don’t need to see again
over time, the goal is to move the cards from the daily pile to the pile of cards I don’t need to see again. a day or two before the exam I’ll go through all the cards in the last stack, just to make sure I’m still ready with them.
In the past, I used to review flashcards by looking at the message, then thinking about what the answer was, and if I remembered the answer, I moved on.
over time I realized that this approach is not that effective. for my scholarship exams, I did the following instead:
First, I read the notice aloud.
– if I know the answer, I say it out loud; if I don’t know the answer, I read it aloud and then go one step further and explain the answer out loud as if I were teaching a class.
This basically looks like I’m walking around my apartment, looking at flashcards, and loudly explaining different actuarial concepts to an imaginary group of people. if people saw me, they’d probably think I was crazy, but it worked.
here is an example of what I mean:
let’s say I’m looking at a brosius card:
I read aloud: “When is it appropriate to use the method of least squares?”
thinking: hmm. I can’t remember that one. something to do with the stability of the book of business. I’m not sure.
reading aloud: “appropriate if there are a number of years of data and a common distribution for x and y losses can be assumed. fluctuations are due to randomness.”
explain out loud: “so when we look at a data set, it’s important that there are no systematic changes in the book of business, such as a mix change in the book. least squares works when data from two periods of Different developments (x and y) have stable distributions, and if there is significant premium growth over the years, we should probably use loss ratios for the method instead of direct losses.”
If you’ve never done this before, you’ll probably find it a bit awkward, and if someone were watching you do it, they’d probably think you’re a bit crazy. but believe me, you’ll learn the cards much faster and understand the material for those flower problems better than if you just look at the front, shrug, then look at the back and move on.
when you just look at the card, all you’re doing is reading. Your brain is much more engaged if you’re reading a flashcard, saying what’s on it, listening to yourself say what’s on the card, and then teaching the material (or pretending to!). this is because teaching helps you learn a subject much better than studying it yourself.
now, I guess you won’t find a captive audience wanting to learn about a brosius article that was written a couple of decades ago about an esoteric insurance booking method. but you can still simulate this by acting like you’re teaching.
It’s much easier to pick up a stack of flashcards and flip through them. however, I found that there are much more efficient ways to learn flashcards than doing this.
Try these three techniques and see if they work for you. Ultimately, the goal is to learn the material as efficiently and effectively as possible so you don’t waste all your free time making flashcards.