Brainscape: Add flashcards to your arsenal

When I reached a certain level with a Spanish last year (somewhere between beginners and intermediate), I wanted to start producing and using it. The frustrating thing at this elementary stage is there are still a thousand things you don’t know how to say yet! If I wanted to read football news or discuss politics, I found that the text book I was working through or Memrise gardens I was planting weren’t really helping me vocab-wise. I would look up countless words, making endless lists across random scraps of paper or in the margins of my uni notes. It was hard to maintain a system and I got discouraged when I repeatedly forgot the same words. Then I found Brainscape.

The great thing about Brainscape is it’s really easily customisable and you are in control (which is to be expected, really, as flashcards really are a simple concept). You can see in the screenshot what it looks like to write a deck of flashcards in Brainscape and all aspects of each deck is editable at any time.

I have tried many different ways of configuring my decks. Some I organised thematically, others were grouped by their syntactical function (verbs, prepositions, nouns etc). At first, I would usually put the foreign word as the ‘Question’ and English word as the ‘Answer’. Later, I would use the foreign word in a sentence and put that as the ‘Answer’. I really didn’t find a ‘best system’ so I’ll leave it up to you to experiment.


The next few screencaps come from the Brainscape iOS app and demonstrate what it looks like to study your decks. I’ve always been pretty happy with the app. The main drawcard is that it loads and syncs quickly. It may not be that pretty but its colour schemes aren’t distracting or boring. Unfortunately, there is no Android app – it has been in the works for as long as I’ve been aware of Brainscape (about 16 months).

You can see Brainscape’s “Confidence Based Repetition” system in the 3rd and 4th screencaps. In their words:

As you proceed through cards, Brainscape determines which cards to show you based on the confidence levels that you have reported. Lower confidence cards (e.g. 1s and 2s) will be seen very frequently, while higher confidence cards (e.g. 4s and 5s) are seen very infrequently. 

This brings up something that you should really be aware of: you can end up seeing the same red and orange words a lot which, as you can imagine, gets really boring. The way to get around this is to engage in “Browse Mode” as opposed to “Study Mode”. Here, you can go through your decks without having to rate them and regardless of any existing ratings you’ve made. See the following screencaps for more:

So there you have it: If you’re looking for a flashcard app that’s easily-customisable and loads quickly on your iPhone, then Brainscape could be the one for you. An alternative I’ve heard good things about but never tried is Anki which supports both iOS and Android!

Let me know how you go with Brainscape by commenting, or via Facebook or any other platform you have me on. And remember, click “+Follow” in the bottom-right corner to get me delivered to your email! 

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