Finals Prep: The Art Of The Single Flashcard

By now, you should know that finals are coming. If you didn’t know that, I’m sorry to break it to you this way but it’s that time of the quarter again! Time for late nights, color-coded study guides and sleepovers at Powell! However, even amid this dismal time, one can always find some hope. For many, this hope can be found on a three by five flashcard. Many professors, especially those teaching on South campus, permit a single flashcard to be used on exams. Typically, they allow both sides to be used. If you are one of the lucky few who is given this opportunity, here are a couple of tips on how to make the most out of your flashcard:

  1. 1. Printing

    Printing is a valuable asset when it comes to flashcards for several reasons. For one, if you are far from what anyone would call a Picasso, printing tables, graphs and diagrams can be a much better option than drawing them by hand. This is especially helpful because of how difficult it can sometimes be to draw such intricate things in such a small space while still making them comprehensible (this also applies to writing anything in general on your card).  Another reason is if you make a mistake on your flashcard, it is an easy fix to just retype, reprint and retape.

  2. 2. Color-Coding

    Coloring may seem like it is purely for aesthetics, but it can also be a great tool when it comes to flashcard prepping. Coloring important terms with a highlighter or using a different pen for different concepts or material can be a great way to keep information organized and to know where to direct your eyes in the midst of all the anxiety while taking the exam. The last thing you want is to be spending the majority of your time searching for things on your flashcard rather than actually applying them while taking the exam. If it helps, organize them by week the material was taught!

  3. 3. Examples

    Example problems are a major game changer on flashcards. A lot of the time, professors will use the same problems or questions with different numbers, so by having the problems and solutions already on your card, you can know you are at least getting a few questions right already. Further, example problems allow you to calm down a bit. They act as a safety blanket. During an exam, you are stressed, anxiety is high and sometimes it takes some time to actually get down to even starting to solve anything. All the knowledge that you have been jamming in your head for weeks and that you know you know, suddenly goes flying out the window once that test is in hand. Having example problems ready at hand assure you that you do know the material, that things can be solved and allows you to breathe.

  4. 4. Organization

    Organize your card! Yes, by utilizing the coloring techniques I mentioned before, you are organized, but it also helps to section things off and make sure some material is not bleeding into other material. The last thing you want to do is to be searching for a formula or rule only to discover that the formula is for another equation.

  5. 5. Formulas, Rules And Exceptions

    Your professor is most likely giving you a flashcard on the exam because he or she knows that there are a lot of formulas, rules and exceptions that you need on the test and, rather than having you spend the majority of your time memorizing these, chooses to provide them for you which allows you to focus on actually understanding the material. That being said, be sure to have ALL formulas, rules and any exceptions to the rules on your card. No matter how easy they may be or how sure you are that you know them, put them on the card because once you have studied all the difficult material and that exam is distributed, that knowledge that you once thought you knew so well, may be lost and forgotten.

  6. 6. Make It For You

    Most importantly, make the card work for you. Don’t be afraid to personalize, include your own tricks and methods, and organize it in a way that you are familiar and comfortable with. This card is meant to help you succeed and does not have to be understood by everyone, including your professor. As long as you understand it and can navigate it with ease when the test comes around, you’ll be as safe as a basket of kittens!

Flashcards can be one of the greatest assets if allowed on an exam. But that benefit can only be reaped if you use your flashcards correctly and take them for all they're worth. And, though you may think they are some sort of cheat, you will be surprised by how much you actually learn and memorize while making the card itself. When taking the exam, you may find yourself relying on the card much less than you thought. Happy Finals!