How to use Anki (Getting started)

What is Anki?

Short version

Anki will help you memorize a lot of things, very efficiently.

Long version

Click to expand
  • Anki is a spaced repetition flashcard program.
  • You will have a deck (or decks) that contains a number of cards.
  • Each card has two sides (a question side & an answer side).
  • On the question side you will have a question (or a piece of information).
  • On the reverse side of the card you will have the answer.
  • When you start studying you will see your cards appear, one at a time in a random order.
  • You will see the question side and will have to recall the information on the back of each card.
  • If you recall the information correctly then you hit the “good” button and the card is then complete for that day. It will pop up again in the future (e.g in a day’s or a week’s time). This interval increases each time. e.g 1 day -> 3 days -> 15 days 
  • If you get the answer wrong or can’t remember then you hit “again” and you will have to try to answer it correctly again later on.
  • Every day you can add new cards to the list.
  • You do this study session everyday and your list will increase over time (as well as the knowledge in your brain).

Imagine we want to learn the numbers in English, we might create our flashcards like this.

Example

Front cardBack card
1one
2two
3three
4four
5five
6six
7seven
8eight
9nine
10ten

So our first card, comes up… ‘1’. 

Once we remember (or give up), we will press “show answer

If we guessed correctly (one) then we will press “good“. We will then need to guess this card correctly one more time before it is complete for the day. If we got it wrong then we press “again“. So let’s pretend we got it right and move on through our other cards. This same card then pops up again.

As you can see. This time if we get it right and hit “good” then it will be complete for 1 day. This card is now hidden for today and won’t appear until tomorrow.

When it appears tomorrow however, out “good” button will be “3 days” now. When it appears again after that it will take even longer before it will appear again.

Getting started

  1. Go to the Anki website.
  2. Download the software (this is free for Windows & Mac).
  3. When the download is complete you can now install.
  4. When you open it for the first time you can either “Import File” (to study a deck someone has already made) or create your own. For now we will “Create Deck“.
  5. Name your deck. (In our example we will call it “English”)
  6. Press “Add” (at the top) and we can create our first card. Fill in the “front” and the “back“. After these sections are filled in, press “Add” (next to help).
  7. Repeat this step and fill in the information for another two cards. We should now have three cards altogether. Once this is done hit “close“.
  8. You will now be given the option to “Study Now“. So follow the steps mentioned in the “Long version” above. Once you have finished this then that’s it, all done for today! 

Be aware! Although you will complete this deck very quickly today (it has only 3 cards), it will take longer the more cards you add. Expect a 100 card deck to take around 30 minutes+

Step 5
Step 6
Step 7

What’s next?

Once you have finished your deck then that’s it for today. When you use your computer again tomorrow then the deck will refresh and you will be reminded to study again. 

You can keep adding new cards for anything new you want to learn. Be careful though, adding too many cards at once can make it very difficult to learn everything before the next day. Also, the more cards you add, the longer it will take to complete your study session each day.

Pre-made decks

A lot of people at this point will usually say something like this:-

“This sounds like a great idea but making a deck sounds like a lot of time and effort. Can’t I just download a deck and study that?”

The answer to this is YES! There are plenty of decks out there to get started with and we will look at how to do that now.

  1. Go to the Anki Shared decks website here.
  2. Search for the deck that you want and download it. (It will be saved as an .apkg file.)
  3. Load up Anki and hit “Import File“. Point it to where the file is and hit “Open“.
  4. You are now ready to “Study Now“.
  5. The deck will slowly add new cards from the deck each day at the default rate (20). You can change this if you want to study more or less cards each day.

Conclusion

This will get you started using Anki. However, there is so much more that can be done, including:-

  • Customizing the look of each card
  • Customizing numbers such as (Intervals, limits etc)
  • Installing plugins to enhance Anki further
  • Adding media (pictures, audio etc)

Make sure to read the manual because there is so much to be done inside Anki beyond the basics. Also make sure to hunt around on youtube for other guides and tips.

The last thing for you to do is try Anki for yourself. Some people (myself included) swear by SRS programs and the value of such a program is immense. Other people prefer other ways of studying to retain information. Try it for yourself and see if it works for you!