Anki: Make Your Own Deck: The Basics

Do you want to learn a special list of facts? Enter them into Anki, a free flashcard program, and before you know it, you'll have them all memorized.

In Anki, each fact goes on its own “flashcard.” Flashcards are saved into files called “decks.” It’s very easy to make your own deck.

Step 1: On the Menu, Choose File -> New to Start a New Deck

You may be asked to give your deck a name.

Anki: New Deck Screen

Step 2: Click the Big Green Plus Sign to Add Cards

The big green plus sign is also on the menu, if you need it later.

You can also press Ctrl-D. Or choose Edit -> Add Item ... from the menu.

Enter the question in the Front box, and the answer in the Back box.

Anki: Enter Card

Click Add, and you’ll get the same screen again, so you can add another card.

Step 3: Click Add After Each Card You Enter

Keep adding cards until you’re done. Click Add for your last card. Then click Close.

That’s it! You’ve added your facts. Now you can memorize them.

Keep Each Card Short

There’s a lot to learn about making good flashcards, but the most important rule is: keep each card short.

If possible, try to memorize only one thing on each card.

Avoid lists. In the example above, the question asks for four items, not one. Four items is okay, but that’s about as long a list as you should ask for on one card.

Five is probably too many, and six or seven is way too many. You won’t remember them all. For long lists, you’ll need to break them into chunks, or learn special memory tricks, like loci.

If you keep the cards short, you won’t need to use memory tricks very often. All you’ll need to do is review your cards. Every day, Anki will only show you the cards you need to see that day. Pretty soon, you’ll learn them all.

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4 Replies to “Anki: Make Your Own Deck: The Basics”

  1. How to answer essay type questions
    Hi, you say we should keep cards short, 5 items maximum.

    Should we use questions like “What are the characteristics of the dead sea?” in case we get asked something similar in an exam? How would we prepare to answer such a question?

    1. It depends on the test. If
      It depends on the test. If you’ll only be expected to give a short list of “the characteristics of the Dead Sea,” then you could put this list on a card.

      Personally, I’ve always had trouble with lists like this. You need some way for each item in the list to connect to the next. Ideally, this happens naturally. If not, a [verbal mnemonic](/content/verbal-mnemonics-overview) can help connect the items. But this artificial connection won’t be nearly as strong as any natural connections you can find in the material itself. (For instance, the name “Dead” itself can remind you of how salty and fatal the water is.)

      If you’ll be asked to write an essay, Anki isn’t going to help you remember huge chunks of prose verbatim. (Not easily.) But, the essay may boil down to remembering 4 or 5 points. If so, you might focus on memorizing that list of points. This is basically what the [Greek and Roman orators did](/content/loci-method) to remember their speeches.

      But you might also try making a [mind map](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map) of the main points. The color and connections of mind maps can be extremely helpful.

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