Flashcards are a favourite to use and students who find this technique useful, can often be seen with stacks of them just before entering the exam. The bonus of flashcards is also that they are relatively small so can easily be taken around with you, so it is easy to regularly expose yourself to the content on them.
Flashcards can be a really effective tool for helping you revise content, although I’ve found students use them less effectively to improve longer answer question answers, as this technique favours compartmentalisation of content.
I’m going to go through a few techniques below that I have advised (and seen used) students to use and hopefully you’ll find something new to help you. Remember to use you specification to help you include the correct content.
Rote learning key information
Most of my students use flashcards to help them improve that quick recall of information. This could be definitions, spellings of a specific word, formulae and equations, especially when used in conjunction with some if the mnemonic techniques, and there are many more you could use.
- Write the key word on one side of flashcard.
- On the other side, write the definition.
Spellings of words
- On one side of the card, write the word you want to learn to spell (double check you’ve spelt it correctly!).
- Draw or print an image of that word, or an associated picture(s), on the other side.
Formulae and equations
- On one side of the card, write down a prompt, or the components of the equation in a random order
- On the other side, write the correct formula or equation
Common questions and answers
The joy of science having such a clear specification, is that after a while it becomes quite difficult to ask about the specification point(s) in a completely novel way. As you practise past paper questions, you’ll come across the same type of question over and over again, and more importantly the same marking points. If you can work out the root of the question and what always comes up, then even if you don’t understand the content, you can learn the correct answers. However, I’d always advise understanding over blindly learning.
Using flashcards for longer question answers can be really powerful, but this only really works once you’ve made your flashcards.
Building spider diagrams or basic mind maps
- Pick one of your flash cards and answer the question on one side or recall the definition etc.
- If you get it correct, place it on the centre of a table, on the floor, or pin to a noticeboard. If you get it incorrect, go back to number 1.
- Choose another flashcard that is linked to that centre card.
- For every card that you choose to use, you have to correctly answer the front side or recall the definition, otherwise you have to put it back in the pile and choose another one
- Build a spider diagram or mind map (it should start building up like a police evidence board and you can even link them using string).
The idea of this approach is that you’re not only having to build a map of linked ideas, but you actively testing your understanding of the content.
Answering longer past paper questions
This is a more focused and directed approach than the technique just explained.
- Choose a longer past paper question on a topic that you have produce all of your flashcards for
- Go through each of you flashcards and pick out the ones that you think are linked to that question
- You are only allowed to use the flashcard in your answer if you can correctly answer/remember the other side.
- Only use the flashcards selected (and got step 3 correct) to write an answer.
- Mark using the mark scheme and add to your flashcard for this topic if you missed key information.
Flashcards can be a powerful revision technique, especially if you integrate other revision techniques. One of the biggest downsides of them is the time it takes to produce the resource. I would strongly advise that you make them as you go through the year. By the time you come to revise, you’re actively using them instead of only starting to put them together.
You can buy completed packs online, although rarely are these specific for an exam board. There are also lots of websites out there that you can create your own ones, although pupils have said they prefer buying blank card ones and making them from scratch. They are more substantial, last longer, have a nice feel to them, and the designing and making them by hand is going to benefit your learning.
Inspired? Try it now.
Read something above which could be what you’re looking for? Why not give it a go and create a pack of flashcards using the different models above?
If you’ve liked (or not) this page, leave a comment. Similarly, if you’ve got some good ideas, share them with everyone.
I’ve put some links below to buy some blank flashcards from Amazon. These are the two most popular: