The Benefits of Using Flashcards in Your Psychology Study Routine

Creating your flashcards is one of the most effective studying techniques. It engages retrieval practice, a well-known study method that helps you commit terms to memory. Try to limit each card to one question or concept, and consider adding pictures. Research shows we remember visual cues and emotions more than just black-and-white text.

Spaced Repetition

Using a psychology study guide is one studying technique along with flash cards. When studying with flashcards, you use a learning technique called spaced repetition. This centuries-old method allows efficient memorization of concepts by repeatedly reviewing information at increasing intervals rather than cramming it together in one session. The key to effective spaced repetition is allowing your brain time to absorb and process new knowledge, consolidate it with existing memory traces, and build neural pathways to related concepts. Studies have shown that this form of active recall is far more effective for memorization than passive methods like reading, rereading, and cramming. Plus, physically rehearsing information on a flashcard can help you better understand it. In a study on flashcards, students who hand-wrote their questions and answers had a 150% better retention rate than those who read them off a screen. While flashcards can be used for any subject, they are best suited to fact-based content, such as dates and terms. When creating your flashcards, keep them simple and break complex subjects into smaller chunks. Write the question on one side and the answer on the other. This way, you can separate your cards by confidence, rereading those you are less confident in more often while returning to those you feel confident in less frequently.


When you use flashcards, you’re forcing your brain to recall the information on each card actively. The process of recall is what moves the information into long-term memory. This is why you’ll often find students studying with a stack of flashcards the night before an exam. But flashcards can be an effective study method if you use them correctly, but they’re not the best for all subjects. Fact-based content like dates or terms are ideal for flashcards, but more complex material may be better suited to another study method. Flashcards can also encourage consolidation, improving test performance by linking concepts in your brain. For example, when a concept is taught visually—like a picture of a tiger—it becomes linked with the word ‘tiger’ and can be remembered quicker.

Boosting Confidence

The process of using flashcards can help students develop a sense of confidence in their study skills. This is because they can see their progress through the different learning intervals. For example, if they have a problematic psychology question that they answer correctly, they can mark this off the box. This creates a chain of success, where students feel more confident each time they complete a set of questions. Additionally, many students find learning easier from flashcards than textbooks, as they are small and can be carried anywhere. They can even use them on the bus or train to school. This can make them a great way to study for an exam, as it can be a distraction-free way to absorb information. Studies have shown that using flashcards can help students perform better on exams than those who don’t. This is due primarily to the fact that they allow for spaced repetition, but some studies have found that conceptual flashcards can also boost test scores. In one study, students write a definition of a bold-faced term on one side of a flashcard and then the textbook definition on the other. They also had students generate a realistic example of the term from their own lives to boost retention. The students were randomly assigned into groups to receive this instruction and then self-reported their test scores for a college course in intro psychology. This allowed them to control for Hawthorne bias and other study strategy effects.


Recall, or the ability to pull information out of memory rather than reading or recognizing it, is an essential aspect of studying. It’s what makes flashcards effective and why they perform much better on tests than just reviewing or recognizing. Practicing active recall can strengthen your neuron connections, so the next time you take a test, you’ll be more likely to remember the material. Incorporating the recall-enhancing strategy of flashcards into your study routine is easy and can be done almost anywhere. Start by creating flashcards with questions on one side and answers on the other, then try to recall the information from memory instead of simply flipping the card over. You can also use an app such as Anki, which incorporates spaced repetition and recall into its learning methodology. To maximize the effectiveness of recall flashcards, it’s essential to prioritize the cards you are having trouble with. This will help you identify gaps in your knowledge and improve your understanding of the material. You can do this by rewording the back of the card to make it more specific or generating an example in your own words. Using these strategies can also enhance metacognition, or your awareness of your thinking, which can help you plan future study sessions and make accurate judgments about how well you know a subject.