For me, the study of physiology effectively entails extracting a list of pertinent facts and explanations from a huge amount of text, and then memorising these one-by-one until they stick. In the examinations, 10 to thirty mark questions are asked on some kind of physiological phenomena. This is where the flashcarding comes in: I simply dump all the information I’ve memorised about the topic onto the page and bam, there’s my answer. Details and nuances are all included, ambiguities explained, reasoning made sound. All of those hours busting my ass with Anki, wading through metric fucktons of information constructing concise, comprehensive flashcards pay off in that one three-hour exam session.
An example of the use of Anki flashcards that I wrote:
For any given deck, approximately 30-50% of the questions will be in the multiple-question format, with the rest being short ‘one-liner’ type deals (e.g. “What temporal point demarcates the change between the embryo and fetus? Two months”).
Most decks have around 50 cards, some (such as the reproductive physiology one shown above) may have as many as 200.
For me, working through these is tiring, especially with the cards asking more than one question that each require detailed answers. Often I’ll find myself closing my eyes and busting my ass to try and recall some relevant fact or detail, only to find myself wondering if that biomed undergrad on OkCupid has messaged me back yet. Chicks in engineering man, I get a semi just thinking about it.
Anyway. This requires a huge amount of focus and concentration, as well as appropriate breaks, rest and pacing, but I find it pays off. The ‘question-and-recall’ method is perhaps most effective because it mimics exactly what occurs in the exam. Furthermore, I find myself encouraged to go back to the textbook and to read about the topic in context to obtain a solid, thorough understanding of the material. Perhaps a good analogy would be that memorising the cards is like burning the pieces of a puzzle one by one into your mind, while the overarching understanding is what arranges them into the completed piece.
Except the final product spells out “HAHA YOU WILL FORGET THIS IN A WEEK FAGGOT”.