Flashcards form the backbone of most students’ study habits. As soon as a new chapter or vocab unit is introduced, outcome the index cards and sharpies. Though this style of rote memorization has been around for decades if not centuries, what many students do not realize is that the standards and styles of modern education have largely passed it by. Now, while flashcards still have some uses, they must serve as only the first step of studying, not the entire process.
The Good: Language and Vocab
Flashcards promote the rapid internalization of a number of single words or terms. As such, flashcards remain a solid tool for memorizing vocab or grammar, whether in English or any other language. Any way of properly studying these areas is going to be some kind of repetitive memorization; in short, flashcards.
The Bad: Humanities
While flashcards are great for learning terms and their specific definitions, this only goes so far in modern history and English classes. Students are no longer tested on simple regurgitation of names, dates, facts, and figures; they are expected to compose complex writing assignments that examine how all those terms interact with each other. Flashcards cannot encompass the breadth of knowledge required for this task; instead, comprehensive and thoroughly organized note-taking, along with practice outlines, essays, and even lectures, must be used to ensure students can make these connections easily and correctly.
The Ugly: No Long-term Retention
Whether it’s English, History, Spanish, or Biology, flashcards on their own have always brought with them a huge drawback: they are good for short-term studying, but if their material isn’t used regularly over the long term, students will forget what they studied soon after they are tested on it. This obviously can have horrific consequences for final exams, as students will at the very least now have to re-do all of their flashcards studying as if they have never seen those terms before. Alternately, the study methods mentioned above give students a durable framework of knowledge that consistently proves to last through the end of classes and beyond.
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