Anki is quite possibly the best app to ever exist [#46]

I'm serious when I say it's the best app I've ever downloaded.

Anki is quite possibly the best app to ever exist [#46]

I started using Anki one month ago. It's an incredibly powerful app that has completely transformed how I prepare for my high school courses, and I estimate it's saved me 5 hours per week. So let me convince you to use Anki (if you aren't already using it).


What is Anki? At its core, it's a flashcard app that uses active recall and spaced repetition to serve you flashcards efficiently. This is best illustrated with an example:

Image 1.

Image 1 displays the front of a flashcard — in this case, the front is a Spanish word that I'm supposed to recall in English. Before I press 'space' (which reveals the answer), I'll give my best guess for what 'peluches' means. Let's say I thought 'peluches' meant 'animals'.

Image 2.

So I got it slightly wrong! Since I was relatively close but didn't correctly identify the phrase, I would press 2 (the keybind for 'Hard'). This means Anki would serve this flashcard to me again in 5d (5 days).

Let's consider some different scenarios:

  1. After staring at 'peluches' for 10 seconds, I completely forgot its English translation and had no idea. I would press 1 (the keybind for 'Again') after I revealed the answer because I couldn't remember the flashcard at all.
  2. I was immediately able to identify 'peluches' as 'stuffed animals' within 2 seconds of first seeing the flashcard. I would press 4 (the keybind for 'Easy') after I revealed the answer.
  3. I identified 'peluches' as 'stuffed animals', but it took me 7 seconds. Since I didn't immediately know the translation, I would press 3 (the keybind for 'Good') after I revealed the answer.

And once you 'rate' the flashcard, Anki decides when to serve it to you next using intelligent algorithms based on spaced repetition. This is really the core of what makes Anki work. Sure, there are tons of different flashcard types, and you can organize your cards into discrete decks, and you can add tags to your cards, and you can do all sorts of wonderful customization things. (Seriously — there's an entire Anki manual.)


Here's the reason why I love Anki: as long as you honestly complete all of your reviews every day, you'll eventually remember everything you input into Anki. There are only three rules that I follow:

  1. Your answers (ie. what is revealed when you flip a card) should almost always follow these 20 rules of formatting.
  2. You should be honest with your card ratings. Don't rate a card as 'Good' when it really should be rated as 'Hard'. You'll save tons of time if you provide accurate data (on how well you remember a card) to Anki.
  3. Complete all of the cards Anki serves you every day. This typically takes me less than 15 minutes, even though I already have 1,300 flashcards across all of my decks.

My advice: don't initially worry about the crazy customization features that Anki offers. Just add a few cards (I especially like Cloze flashcards) and use Anki for a week or two to get a general sense of its functionality. Then, if you're so inclined, you can implement all the customization your heart desires.


Why would I want to use Anki?" is probably what you're thinking. Well, I started using Anki this year because I'm taking AP Psych and AP Bio: two courses with lots of terms to memorize.

I quickly realized that flashcards would be the best way to remember all of the vocab for the AP exams in May. Except I'm lazy, and didn't want to make paper flashcards, so I Googled 'best flashcard app'... and here we are. And I am so glad that I didn't try to do paper flashcards, because Anki is infinitely easier and faster.

Also: since my school doesn't have a psychology teacher, I'm taking Intro to Psychology on Outlier. So far, I've scored a 90 and 92 on my midterms — which I'd say is pretty impressive, given that I've taken a grand total of four pages of notes for the class. I've just put all of the terms I need to remember into Anki, and as long as I do my cards every day, I don't have to worry about remembering them. Put differently: Anki allows me to "forget about forgetting".


Even if you're not a high school student, you can still use Anki to your advantage. If you want to:

  • learn more of a language
  • beat your friends at trivia night
  • practicing guitar chords
  • or remember anything more effectively

You should use Anki. It's open-source, free, and saves you so much time. I'm serious when I say it's the best app I've ever downloaded.