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SuperMemo for USMLE?

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TheMaestro

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Have any of you people tried this program? There seems to be a lot of scientific research behind it and its supposed to make memorizing "effortless". I'm thinking about using this to memorize the insane amount of bugs and drugs for this exam. If it works I may even use this for all the systems. Has anyone has any experience using this?

Thanks.
 

creamyBokah

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I would go with "Anki". It's a free program (not sure if SM is free or not) and uses a similar algorithm for spaced repetition. It has a nice interface too.

Have any of you people tried this program? There seems to be a lot of scientific research behind it and its supposed to make memorizing "effortless". I'm thinking about using this to memorize the insane amount of bugs and drugs for this exam. If it works I may even use this for all the systems. Has anyone has any experience using this?

Thanks.
 

lord_jeebus

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I used Supermemo and I think it's the greatest thing to happen to learning since the printing press. Since I discovered it, I have scored 2.5 - 3 standard deviations above the mean on all standardized tests that I used it to prepare for (Step I, Step II, ASA/ABA Anesthesiology ITE). By contrast, I used a more conventional UW + review book reading strategy for Step III and was only within 1 SD of the mean.

I started using it before Anki came out so I haven't tried that one.

I looked into the differences. Anki uses the SM-2 algorithm which is from the 1987 version of supermemo. The supermemo algorithm has changed since then (http://www.supermemo.com/english/algsm11.htm) and I think some of the changes are significant. The main difference is that the Supermemo algorithm will adjust its spacing algorithm according to your performance, where the SM-2 algorithm has a preset spacing algorithm based only on the difficulty of study items and is inflexible. Supermemo thus allows for customization of a "forgetting index" - which basically means you can say exactly what percent of facts you want to have memorized - I think this is a feature worth paying for.

On the other hand, even the SM-2 algorithm is a huge advance compared to the old-fashioned flash card or repetitive reading that is still used by the majority of medical students today. Anki has the advantage in that it is free. Anki also supports synchronization between machines, which must be done manually (by copying folders of files) with Supermemo. It also can be used on portable devices.

On the whole, and admitting that I haven't tried Anki, I would recommend Supermemo to everyone. I have used the 2004 and 2008 versions, and I don't think the newest updates are particularly useful (not worth $50). All versions since 2002 use the newest algorithm (SM-11). 2002 costs only $5, although I haven't tried it. Supermemo 2004 is $15, works great, and that's what I would recommend.
 
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username456789

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I used Supermemo and I think it's the greatest thing to happen to learning since the printing press. Since I discovered it, I have scored 2.5 - 3 standard deviations above the mean on all standardized tests that I used it to prepare for (Step I, Step II, ASA/ABA Anesthesiology ITE). By contrast, I used a more conventional UW + review book reading strategy for Step III and was only within 1 SD of the mean.

I started using it before Anki came out so I haven't tried that one.

I looked into the differences. Anki uses the SM-2 algorithm which is from the 1987 version of supermemo. The supermemo algorithm has changed since then (http://www.supermemo.com/english/algsm11.htm) and I think some of the changes are significant. The main difference is that the Supermemo algorithm will adjust its spacing algorithm according to your performance, where the SM-2 algorithm has a preset spacing algorithm based only on the difficulty of study items and is inflexible. Supermemo thus allows for customization of a "forgetting index" - which basically means you can say exactly what percent of facts you want to have memorized - I think this is a feature worth paying for.

On the other hand, even the SM-2 algorithm is a huge advance compared to the old-fashioned flash card or repetitive reading that is still used by the majority of medical students today. Anki has the advantage in that it is free. Anki also supports synchronization between machines, which must be done manually (by copying folders of files) with Supermemo. It also can be used on portable devices.

On the whole, and admitting that I haven't tried Anki, I would recommend Supermemo to everyone. I have used the 2004 and 2008 versions, and I don't think the newest updates are particularly useful (not worth $50). All versions since 2002 use the newest algorithm (SM-11). 2002 costs only $5, although I haven't tried it. Supermemo 2004 is $15, works great, and that's what I would recommend.


For someone just starting their dedicated prep time (~5 weeks until the exam), is this something you'd recommend spending time doing? It sounds great, in theory. I just don't want to get caught up in making flashcards and get way behind.
 

lord_jeebus

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For someone just starting their dedicated prep time (~5 weeks until the exam), is this something you'd recommend spending time doing? It sounds great, in theory. I just don't want to get caught up in making flashcards and get way behind.

In 5 weeks you will not be able to reap the full benefit of either program, but I think they could still have a role.

For instance, you could identify facts you did not know (but think you would be high yield) as you go through practice questions and make flash cards of that subset.

Once you learn the keyboard shortcuts, it should take less than 20 seconds to make a flash card (if it's wordy, you're doing it wrong). 50 flashcards/day * 5 weeks = 1750 facts. I'd estimate the time burden at 30 min/day for card making plus 90 minutes/day for daily drills. It's a lot (it will be a painful and tiring 90 minutes) but I think it would be worthwhile.

5 weeks may not be enough time for Supermemo to optimize itself to your learning curve, and for that reason Anki may be equally effective.

If you choose Supermemo, in your case I would use a high forgetting index of 10-14% as this will shorten your drills and enable you to make more cards in that time.
 

lord_jeebus

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Pardon my ignorance but how does anki really work? I looked up the link and I infer that you have to program this 'flashcard' system yourself, am I correct?

I agree with guy, with close to 4 weeks left, I doubt if I'll have the time to program anki .

With either system, you

1. Make "flash cards" with a front and a back - eg. Front: "MOA: Metoprolol" Back "Beta-blocker"

2. Go through a daily drill of old flash cards selected by the program. After each card, you indicate how well you remembered (or did not remember) the fact. Supermemo uses a 0-5 scale for this with 4-5 meaning remembered, 3 = barely remembered, 0-2 = did not remember. This information is used by the program to design future drills. Items not remembered will be added to the end of your day's drill until you get them all right.
 

kryptik

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^^ ditto. basically things you recollect well show up at a wider interval, and items you dont sooner
 

tideleonheart

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With either system, you

1. Make "flash cards" with a front and a back - eg. Front: "MOA: Metoprolol" Back "Beta-blocker"

2. Go through a daily drill of old flash cards selected by the program. After each card, you indicate how well you remembered (or did not remember) the fact. Supermemo uses a 0-5 scale for this with 4-5 meaning remembered, 3 = barely remembered, 0-2 = did not remember. This information is used by the program to design future drills. Items not remembered will be added to the end of your day's drill until you get them all right.
How does this differ from Anki?
 

tideleonheart

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That post was about what they have in common, that's why I said "with either system"

See my longer post above for the differences.
Sorry, I should have been more specific and quoted the other post. You said "The main difference is that the Supermemo algorithm will adjust its spacing algorithm according to your performance, where the SM-2 algorithm has a preset spacing algorithm based only on the difficulty of study items and is inflexible." I've used Anki a little bit, and it spaces out flash cards depending on how well you say you know it. (in other words, "again" for seeing it very soon or "very easy" to review it in 8 days). I'm wondering ohw this differs from the way Supermemo works. Are you saying that it spaces it out automatically? Do you do any personal input on how easy the question was for you?

Also, for any Anki users out there, do you know how to change the lengths of time on the "again" "good" "easy" and "very easy" options?
 

lord_jeebus

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Sorry, I should have been more specific and quoted the other post. You said "The main difference is that the Supermemo algorithm will adjust its spacing algorithm according to your performance, where the SM-2 algorithm has a preset spacing algorithm based only on the difficulty of study items and is inflexible." I've used Anki a little bit, and it spaces out flash cards depending on how well you say you know it. (in other words, "again" for seeing it very soon or "very easy" to review it in 8 days). I'm wondering ohw this differs from the way Supermemo works. Are you saying that it spaces it out automatically? Do you do any personal input on how easy the question was for you?

Also, for any Anki users out there, do you know how to change the lengths of time on the "again" "good" "easy" and "very easy" options?

Anki's SM2 algorithm uses your perception of difficulty to decide when you will see the item again. In this sense it adapts to your learning. However, how it adjusts the spacing for the item is rigid (but can be changed by the user) and not automatically adapt to your personal learning curve. For instance, if you are consistently getting too long of an interval after saying something is "very easy" three times in a row, SM2 will not change how it spaces similar facts in the future, but Supermemo will. The Supermemo algorithm is much more complex and basically designed to more optimally achieve an exact degree of retention which the user can specify.

Anki's spaced repetition gets you 90% of the way there, but I think Supermemo is a little more efficient and customizable.
 

Laughing Fish

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I have been an avid user of Supermemo for more than 4 years; I have more than 41,000 flashcards in my database. Supermemo has made me very enthusiastic about learning and studying (Something that wasn't the case until I began using it). I use Supermemo largely to study various subjects that interest me; more than 80% of the flashcards in my database cover various subjects (History, science, philosophy, history of religion, etc.), while the remaining 20% are used for language learning. When retaining languages (Grammar, vocabulary, idioms, etc.), Supermemo has been an invaluable tool.
Because of Supermemo I can speak, read and write Japanese fluently; now my current project is learning Mandarin Chinese.

I began using Supermemo before Supermemo-based free programs began appearing (Mnemosyne and Anki being the most famous(?)). When I look at my statistics window in Supermemo, I see that I have retained more than 95% of the total flashcards in my collection, so even though I am not very familiar with the raw algorithm that makes it work, I am confident that the latest version (2008) is pretty awesome. (It's kind of like loving fast cars without being a car mechanic. I just care about stuff going fast, nothing more)

Supermemo can be frustrating to use. The person behind Supermemo is a scientist who is NOT AT ALL concerned about aesthetics. Options can be hard to find, and it seems that features are more or less "duct-taped" onto the existing program. Think of it as the "Castlevania 2" of learning programs (Castlevania 2 is an NES game noted for a lack of clues when trying to solve arbitrarily complicated puzzles. You almost certainly needed some sort of guide to complete the game). The initial shock of using Supermemo can be jarring, but over time you will no doubt get used to it.

For temporary purposes, Anki and Mnemosyne would probably be better choices (Or even good old-fashioned cramming can do the job). But if you plan on retaining information on a long-term basis (Years and years later), I would try to learn to use Supermemo, which has been in development since 1982, in contrast to the recent crop of products which lack the years of testing Supermemo has.

As it was pointed out in an above post, SOMETHING is better than nothing, but it seems that the present algorithms are more efficient than previous iterations. Here is a graph showing the amount of time spent learning 3,000 items using SM-2 as opposed to SM-5 http://www.supermemo.com/images/ol-fig-3-5.jpg
The present algorithm is SM-11, so I can only imagine how different the statistic is now.

Although I don't plan on entering the medical field, I just wanted to add my voice to the discussion.
 

buckeye12

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Just curious, how did you find this thread and end up commenting on it?

StudentDoctor.net is pretty well-known, and its patrons are a pretty solid target audience of learning tools. Anyone marketing a learning tool would find such an open forum as this one quite quickly, I'd think.
 

Perrotfish

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Alright, it's a little to late for this program to save my Step 1 score, but a few questions about using it for rotations:

1) Well, have you guys used it for rotations? Do you think it's a worthwhile way to learn?

2) If so, do you ned to program it yourself, or have other people made sets of cards that you can use/buy? If it's the latter, where would I find the cards for 3rd year rotations and their associated shelf exams?
 

Laughing Fish

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How did I find out about this forum? Very little exists on the internet about Supermemo (At least compared to more popular and trivial topics), with the exception of the Supermemo site itself. This will not change in the immediate future, as the basis of Supermemo goes against conventional schooling techniques and methodology (Cram, test then purge; an intellectual bulimia, if you will). The point is: Supermemo isn't going to get more popular, so I've given up hoping that that will change.

Thus, I set up a "Google Alert" in my RSS reader to alert me when the word "Supermemo" is used on the internet. There are about 20 or 25 alerts per week, and most of them are warez sites or iPhone App reviews (There is a Superemo iPhone app, although I still prefer the Windows version). Other times it links to a forum. If possible, I'll try to contribute to the discussion and say more or less "you've found something cool, you aren't alone! Keep digging, you're about to hit some awesome treasure!"

By "rotations," do you mean using it only for a certain amount of time? For example, use it for 4 months at a time?

Supermemo is basically a hyper-rescheduling flashcard program. There are two sides to a flashcard: Question side and answer side. You see the question side (Which can also have pictures, video or sounds associated with it), and guess the answer. You grade yourself on a scale of 0-5 (How well did I recall that information?), and based on that grade, Supermemo schedules when you need to next review that information. Because the review intervals will quickly start spreading (Difficult information is reviewed being reviewed frequently, easier information being reviewed less frequently), you need to check Supermemo every day to see if there are any flashcards you need to review. If you skip a few days, you get a traffic jam of flashcards from the previous days you missed. Although there is a function to allow for missed days here and there, it is largely a program designed to be used every day. (This is one thing that turns many people off of the program)

I know for a fact that there are groups of medical students that use Supermemo to pass their various medical exams, and they pool together their flashcards to prevent a doubling of effort. I've never really investigated such groups, as medical knowledge is a very small niche that doesn't really benefit me unless I'm doing something in the medical field.

I have had trouble finding good sources for flashcards, but the more I use Supermemo, the more I am convinced that making flashcards yourself is the best choice. Why? Because before you can remember, you must first learn. By creating flashcards (And adhering to the various principles of making flashcards), you are "chewing" and "digesting" the information, and a flashcard ends up being the nutrient left over, the fruit of your labor. I think of Supermemo as my "Save point" in learning. Study stuff, deconstruct and analyze it by making flashcards, save your progress by putting the flashcards into Supermemo.
 

kryptik

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^^ wow you know your stufff, my only issue is there is no mac version, thats why i use anki plus anki is free
 

lord_jeebus

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Laughing Fish brings up a good point - Supermemo is great for memorizing things for the boards - but has the power to make you remember 95% of what you learn permanently, vs forgetting almost everything you have ever learned (admit it).

I haven't used Supermemo outside of medical knowledge though. Maybe some day.
 

jejun

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I used Supermemo and I think it's the greatest thing to happen to learning since the printing press. Since I discovered it, I have scored 2.5 - 3 standard deviations above the mean on all standardized tests that I used it to prepare for (Step I, Step II, ASA/ABA Anesthesiology ITE). By contrast, I used a more conventional UW + review book reading strategy for Step III and was only within 1 SD of the mean.

I started using it before Anki came out so I haven't tried that one.

I looked into the differences. Anki uses the SM-2 algorithm which is from the 1987 version of supermemo. The supermemo algorithm has changed since then (http://www.supermemo.com/english/algsm11.htm) and I think some of the changes are significant. The main difference is that the Supermemo algorithm will adjust its spacing algorithm according to your performance, where the SM-2 algorithm has a preset spacing algorithm based only on the difficulty of study items and is inflexible. Supermemo thus allows for customization of a "forgetting index" - which basically means you can say exactly what percent of facts you want to have memorized - I think this is a feature worth paying for.

On the other hand, even the SM-2 algorithm is a huge advance compared to the old-fashioned flash card or repetitive reading that is still used by the majority of medical students today. Anki has the advantage in that it is free. Anki also supports synchronization between machines, which must be done manually (by copying folders of files) with Supermemo. It also can be used on portable devices.

On the whole, and admitting that I haven't tried Anki, I would recommend Supermemo to everyone. I have used the 2004 and 2008 versions, and I don't think the newest updates are particularly useful (not worth $50). All versions since 2002 use the newest algorithm (SM-11). 2002 costs only $5, although I haven't tried it. Supermemo 2004 is $15, works great, and that's what I would recommend.

I am planning on using Anki (or SuperMemo) extensively next year and am happy to see someone use it so successfully!

I am about to finish M1 and used Anki in the beginning but I failed at continuing to use it throughout the year. I would fall behind in making my cards. I ended up LITERALLY copy-pasting cards from our notes online and then just running the deck on CRAM-MODE a few days before my exams :) This worked okay but definitely defeated the purpose of the program and I wasted a lot of time copy-pasting as opposed to learning. I found it difficult to STAY ON TOP of making cards which led to me making them in bulk in the end.

I wanted to know what your process was for making cards? Did you do this daily and review them daily? Did you put ALL details that you did not know into new cards? (I feel like this could be insane with subjects like anatomy/physiology). Also, what sources did you use for note cards? I was thinking of using JUST First-Aid and a few other HIGH-YIELD books for deriving my note-cards for preparing for the USMLE. I did not want to get bogged down with extra details. I also wanted to know how you tested conceptual things in physiology via note cards. For example: How would you test 5-step mechanisms in physiology that explain the impact of hormones/drugs/disease? And how would you test lists... such as the symptoms of disease X?

I am a big fan of anki/SuperMemo and want to have a process going THAT WORKS throughout next year!

***
For people who are interested in Anki/SuperMemo I wanted to note something from my own experience. 1) MAKE YOUR OWN CARDS. It is very tempting to download 500 cards online and feel like you are being productive but the first 2-3 passes will be SLOW and unnatural. You will not end up gaining time/knowledge. 2) KEEP YOUR CARDS VERY SIMPLE. This helps you break up facts you know, from facts you don't know.
 
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jejun

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For someone just starting their dedicated prep time (~5 weeks until the exam), is this something you'd recommend spending time doing? It sounds great, in theory. I just don't want to get caught up in making flashcards and get way behind.

5 weeks is not a whole lot of time, but I think it could be very useful for facts that just arn't sticking! If you get something wrong 2-3 times make a NOTE CARD... and run the program a lot :)

It takes maybe 30-40 minutes to get comfortable with the program (there are instructional videos for Anki) and its pretty simple to use in my opinion.
 

jejun

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Hey I don't know much about Anki's database.

I am pretty sure you can download cards from:
http://www.flashcardexchange.com

But you probably won't save a lot of time that way (I think you would likely lose time as I described above) unless you type very slowly.
 
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Laughing Fish

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See the bottom of the following page: Whoosh

I really like the concluding paragraph: Teachers may be right when placing the emphasis on the value of knowledge. Yet students, to avoid frustration, must also understand the limitations of the human mind. Anyone who hopes to cover the entire material required in medical school exams in SuperMemo will face a breaking point sooner or later. This breakdown should not be interpreted as a failure, but as an incentive to make a reasonable selection in what is absolutely necessary to know, and what can be left to the unreliable traditional way of learning. And yes, the traditionall learning carries the benefits that include the basis for the selective survival of the fittest students. The present message is not targeted at schools to de-emphasize the value of knowledge, but to students to plan early for material overflow and for the resulting need to prioritize.

Therefore, while it is within the realm of possibility to learn everything in the various medical tests, it might not be doable in the short amount of time you are given to cram it. So the only option (At least when using Supermemo, Anki or any other flashcard program) would be to select only high-priority knowledge to remember first, then remember the rest after testing is complete.

Here is an FAQ on the Supermemo site about knowledge formulation (Basically smart wording for flashcards). The more I used Supermemo, the more I began to see it as less of a simple flashcard tool, but more like a new way of thinking. You ask yourself "What makes this information valuable?" and try to boil it down to as simple an answer as possible. No matter what you are studying, these same principles can be applied. Medical knowledge is a very different beast, but I have no doubt it could be done.

Let's do an experiment: Someone find a fact, passage, paragraph, etc. from your medical resources that you would ideally put into Supermemo (If you were using it), and we'll try to make some sample flash cards. Much like learning grammar for another language, once you get used to the patterns that go into making flashcards, it can become relatively easy to replicate.

As far as lack of a Mac version, you are correct. The author of Supermemo seems to be very stuck in his ways, and he will likely not create a version for the Mac OS. For a long time I used a Windows desktop computer, but eventually I bought a Netbook (ASUS EEE PC) for the sole purpose of using Supermemo. Now I use a Mac for my desktop, and the Netbook for Supermemo. I love it.
Again, don't get the impression that I'm anti-Anki/Mnemosyne/etc., all of them are likely good products, my only experience is with Supermemo. The rules used in making flashcards can be applied across-the-board to all other flashcard software (Unless it involves a feature specific to Supermemo, such as incremental reading)
 

metalrex

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This seems like a really great tool. Can anyone attest to the quality of any usmle decks currently in the anki database?

I'll cosign this.

With 4 weeks left until D-day ,I doubt I'll be able to make and review those cards.If the program has a pre-made deck which is credible enough ,I would be happy to use it.
 

HTxFrog

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I started making cards for one of the iphone apps with a spaced repetition algorithm a few days ago after reading some stuff on here about supermemo. I guess supermemo doesn't have a mac version as far as I can tell. The iphone app is just called flashcards I think. This seems like it would have been really awesome if I had known about this six months ago but with 3 weeks to go I'm thinking it might be kind of pointless b/c I already have made like 350 cards just over Endocrine and GI and so I don't really have time to actually practice all my cards. I'm probably just wasting time right? I'm definitely going to use this for rotations though. You could put all the common pimp questions on here and then sounds like a genious when your attendings ask you stuff haha
 

jejun

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I started making cards for one of the iphone apps with a spaced repetition algorithm a few days ago after reading some stuff on here about supermemo. I guess supermemo doesn't have a mac version as far as I can tell. The iphone app is just called flashcards I think. This seems like it would have been really awesome if I had known about this six months ago but with 3 weeks to go I'm thinking it might be kind of pointless b/c I already have made like 350 cards just over Endocrine and GI and so I don't really have time to actually practice all my cards. I'm probably just wasting time right? I'm definitely going to use this for rotations though. You could put all the common pimp questions on here and then sounds like a genious when your attendings ask you stuff haha

If you are thinking about the material while you are making the cards you are still learning at the same time. It's definitely slower than just reading over something but it will also me be more active, giving you a higher retention first time around. With limited time it might be more efficient to only make cards for concepts you miss on practice questions as opposed to everything. Good luck!
 

sosarah

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I'm currently working on making a deck of all the questions in USMLE Step1 Recall: Buzzwords. Pretty much straight copy out of the book, only in Anki deck format. I can upload it as a shared deck when i'm finished if anyone would like it. I'm putting tags for each subject area so you can review only "anatomy" cards for example if you want. I figure if I make the cards this summer, when it comes time for Step1 next summer all I'll have to do is study and not waste time making the cards. :)
 

jejun

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I'm currently working on making a deck of all the questions in USMLE Step1 Recall: Buzzwords. Pretty much straight copy out of the book, only in Anki deck format. I can upload it as a shared deck when i'm finished if anyone would like it. I'm putting tags for each subject area so you can review only "anatomy" cards for example if you want. I figure if I make the cards this summer, when it comes time for Step1 next summer all I'll have to do is study and not waste time making the cards. :)

I was thinking of doing something similar! but I don't know if I will be able to keep with it. I am still debating between staying with Anki or switching to SuperMemo. lord_jeebus clearly has used the program with a lot with success and the algorithm seems more efficient. I haven't seen anyone seen anyone reflect on their success with Anki's (probably because its much newer).
 

Brainious

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5 weeks out, probably 4 by now, I think is better to concentrate on studying only. The easier to use is not Supermemo, even worst to learn, but the most valuable in efficiency and long term learning.

Get a piece of sheet an mark down what you suck at, and cram that the last days.

Study, study, study, only study medicine, no learning some flashcard program.

If on the other hand you had some time left, make your questions on Anki, and start learning SuperMemo, many people go back to supermemo after a while (http://alturl.com/2v5y).

Anki for Iphone was released yesterday, that might be interesting to try out, only if you have time. Else, study, study, study.. cram.
 

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I used mnemosyne to learn Spanish and really enjoyed it. I started out using it for Anatomy, but found it difficult to learn heuristics and complicated processes and then translate them into flashcards. It was much easier for me to just use the program for drugs, path and anatomy. The volume of information is just too much. These are long term study tools and there needs to be some absorption time.
The learning curve is steep on SuperMemo. The GUI is a nightmare so I would stick with one of the simpler programs mentioned above. I am considering doing the DIT method along with usmlerx flashcards or self-made flashcards in mnemosyne as a way to digest and memorize First Aid but I'll have the summer to decide on my approach.
 

Tanalark

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I used SM 2004 extensively through MS2 and found that my strategy of taking notes in class using OneNote (through the MS Office suite) synched well with my style of making flash cards in SM.

I also found that my grades almost directly correlated with how consistently I used SuperMemo on a daily basis and how well I kept up with my quizzing. During my last semester of basic sciences, I made dean's list and attribute this almost exclusively to Super Memo, as that's pretty much the only study method I used. Once I had made the cards from my notes, I never really needed to look at them again. Once I surmounted the initial obstacle of data entry, my study time was essentially halved. I could review my cards and, once I was done with them, I was finished for the day. Since all of my subjects were in the same pile, I knew that there was nothing else i needed to study until tomorrow, and I could go about my business. If I really felt like I needed to study more, I could create tests for certain groups of questions, and that was nice. That said, I rarely did that, and I found that I had a lot more time to focus on other things once I got SuperMemo down to an art.

One caveat: As effective as SM 2004 is, there *is* a learning curve, and it is *hugely* frustrating if you don't keep up with it every single day. At some point, the program decides that the questions it has pending for you aren't things you want to learn anymore, and so it deletes them without warning, undoing potentially a week's worth of work. Before I learned to keep a consistent backup of my work on a separate hard drive, I lost about 3-5 days worth of work (representing, in some cases, 20 hours worth of composing flash cards and reviewing them) on two separate occasions, usually with only days before the big exam.

If you decide to use SuperMemo, do so with caution. It's a powerful learning tool, and I believe that anyone who uses it early and consistently for review can accomplish a tremendous amount of learning in a relatively short amount of time. I don't know about Anki, but I have started using Mnemosyne (and honestly wish I had found it before SuperMemo). It's a free program, and it does pretty much the same thing as SM, but it's got a nicer interface and more and easier-to-use options. It has versions available for all three major OS. Also, it doesn't delete your work without warning.
 

unsung

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Have any of you people tried this program? There seems to be a lot of scientific research behind it and its supposed to make memorizing "effortless". I'm thinking about using this to memorize the insane amount of bugs and drugs for this exam. If it works I may even use this for all the systems. Has anyone has any experience using this?

Thanks.

Yes, I use it. I have about 800 cards on it so far, including both med school & non-med school stuff. It's really great, and very powerful (a lot of features IF you want to spend the time to use them.)

I don't know about Anki, but the free "rip-offs" of Supermemo aren't as powerful, and I don't know what algorithms they are using, if any.

Supermemo is neat in its ability to select cards specifically honing in on your weaknesses. It's good for raw memorization (IDing pics) or conceptual learning or whatever else you want to use it for... it all depends on how you make the card.

Also, as someone else noted, making the card itself is a great form of learning.

It's worth the $$ to me. I haven't explored many of its features yet, but it's working for me even as it is, right now.
 

unsung

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I used SM 2004 extensively through MS2 and found that my strategy of taking notes in class using OneNote (through the MS Office suite) synched well with my style of making flash cards in SM.

I also found that my grades almost directly correlated with how consistently I used SuperMemo on a daily basis and how well I kept up with my quizzing. During my last semester of basic sciences, I made dean's list and attribute this almost exclusively to Super Memo, as that's pretty much the only study method I used. Once I had made the cards from my notes, I never really needed to look at them again. Once I surmounted the initial obstacle of data entry, my study time was essentially halved. I could review my cards and, once I was done with them, I was finished for the day. Since all of my subjects were in the same pile, I knew that there was nothing else i needed to study until tomorrow, and I could go about my business. If I really felt like I needed to study more, I could create tests for certain groups of questions, and that was nice. That said, I rarely did that, and I found that I had a lot more time to focus on other things once I got SuperMemo down to an art.

One caveat: As effective as SM 2004 is, there *is* a learning curve, and it is *hugely* frustrating if you don't keep up with it every single day. At some point, the program decides that the questions it has pending for you aren't things you want to learn anymore, and so it deletes them without warning, undoing potentially a week's worth of work. Before I learned to keep a consistent backup of my work on a separate hard drive, I lost about 3-5 days worth of work (representing, in some cases, 20 hours worth of composing flash cards and reviewing them) on two separate occasions, usually with only days before the big exam.

If you decide to use SuperMemo, do so with caution. It's a powerful learning tool, and I believe that anyone who uses it early and consistently for review can accomplish a tremendous amount of learning in a relatively short amount of time. I don't know about Anki, but I have started using Mnemosyne (and honestly wish I had found it before SuperMemo). It's a free program, and it does pretty much the same thing as SM, but it's got a nicer interface and more and easier-to-use options. It has versions available for all three major OS. Also, it doesn't delete your work without warning.


Hmm... I'm confused. I've never had Supermemo delete my work. It has deleted stuff pending in my final drill queue, when I've let myself get behind too much... but the cards themselves were still there (??)

I agree though, keeping up is essential. If I miss a week, that queue gets intimidatingly long. But, if I do it every day, I almost never have more than 20 Qs to answer... and often a lot less.
 
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