• Olga Jarrell

Are Flashcards Effective for Learning Vocabulary?

Updated: Nov 27, 2019

For vocabulary learning there are many methods. In fact, there are as many ways as there are personalities in this world. Flash cards is one of the techniques one can use to acquire vocabulary efficiently. They have worked for centuries, and still do. Even though flash cards are available online and in a variety of applications nowadays, self-made physical cards are great in many ways.


First, they can be shuffled, which not only rids you of the false context of order, but also allows you to create piles of words that are related in some way. Learning words in groups tends to increase your chances of remembering them. Some suggestions for grouping: on topics (for example, seasons, weather, traveling, etc.) on lessons in your textbook, or parts of speech (verbs, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, etc.). Deciding what groups to use is less important than coming up with the groups, reshuffling your piles accordingly, and constantly shifting among the groupings.

Second, the physical act of creating flashcards will help you remember words. When you write, you use a different part of your brain than when you read. So if you both read and write, you have a better shot at memorizing.

Third, you can always add to your stock of cards. It might take a while to get at least 500 words down on cards, but adding, say, ten a week can be quite manageable. Besides, these cards will last a long time.

Finally, your own flashcards are always personalized. Other people’s stuff such as cards online or in apps isn’t always good – vocabulary is likely to come in isolated words, and many things are not relevant to you.


  • Use 5x7 index cards. They’re still very portable but leave enough space for additions. Here’s a model:

  • Write a word, and if you know some words with the same root, you can also add them on the front. Don’t write just a single word on a flashcards – write the sentences with this word and learn the sentences as a whole. If you force yourself to use the word correctly in a sentence, or even if you copy down a brief, correct use of the word from a textbook, for example, you will be reinforcing memorization.

  • The back is where you write a definition, and the corresponding English sentences.

  • Always start writing at the top. You may want to add to this card later.


  • Work through the cards in batches, shuffle them, retire the ones you’ve recited correctly five times in a row, and once in a while, pick up the cards you have retired.

  • Distribute your practice time. For example, it is better to study your cards for ten minutes at a stretch six different times than to study them for one hour straight. During the break your brain is processing the information for better memory storage and retrieval.

  • Keep track of you progress. You can put an “x” on the corner of the card each time you get it wrong.

  • Studying flashcards regularly through the day is the solution for students who are generally very busy. Practice your cards a few minutes before and after class, at lunch time, or during commercials while watching TV. Overall, you can collect the total practice time of 15-20 minutes during the day. This might not sound like a lot, but over the period of a week, a month or a semester it could help you build vocabulary.

  • Carry your cards along in your backpack and practice them every time you have a minute or two.

Using flashcards is the most basic study tool, but it has helped a lot of people to learn words. If you want to learn vocabulary effectively, why not try to make your own flashcards and study them regularly. Good luck!

#flashcards #learningRussian #vocabulary #howtostudy

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