Anki For A-Levels – The Ultimate Guide (Decks Included)
Anki started as an app for learning languages and slowly got taken over by the medical school community. However, it can (and should) be used by people doing their A-Levels. That’s why I created this guide to take you through the best ways to use Anki for your A-Levels.
Here’s a quick summary of everything I talk about in this article.
- Anki is a software that uses flashcards that are spaced over a long time
- You may need to get together with friends to make cards as there are not many pre-made decks available
- The sciences are subjects that work well with Anki
- Ensure to use other resources like past papers
What is Anki?
This is the section to read if you don’t know what Anki is.
I have already extensively covered what Anki is and why you should use it, but let me give you a summary so you don’t have to read that whole article.
Anki is a flashcard app that repeatedly shows you flashcards over time. It is scientifically proven to help you learn facts.
Some of the things that you can learn with Anki include:
- Scientific facts
- Historical facts
People have been using Anki for a long time now, but it hasn’t found its way into the A-Level world. So now let’s find out if you should be using Anki in your A-Levels?
Note: if you want to know how to use Anki, then check out this complete Anki guide which I made.
Should You Use Anki in Your A-Levels?
Anki is popular for learning languages and medical school exams. But, should you use it if you are in your final years of high school?
If I were to answer this simply, I would say yes, you should use Anki for your A-levels.
But there is a lot more nuance to this answer than it first appears.
Firstly, you need to know where Anki’s strengths lie.
What Anki is Good For
- Factually based subjects like the sciences
- Helping you remember stuff you learnt at the beginning of the year
- Studying over time (no need to cram before exams)
However, all that being said, I wouldn’t rely solely on Anki for your exams. That’s because it has some disadvantages that you should be aware of.
Disadvantages of Anki
- Hard to use for more essay-based subjects
- Can result in memorising facts without any context/understanding of what it means
- Does not help with “exam technique”
- It takes time to get used to Anki
Therefore, alongside Anki, I would always do past paper questions.
Past paper questions, or just any form of testing yourself, is a good way to connect dots between topics. Some of the concepts in A-Level subjects can be abstract, and the questions that appear in exams difficult to understand.
Just doing Anki will not help you prepare for those more challenging questions.
Consider the Degree You’ll Be Doing
Another important factor to consider is what degree you will be doing at university.
For example, medical students use Anki all the time as it is a great resource for learning facts. Therefore, if you are thinking of getting into medicine, it might be worth getting used to Anki as you will be using it a lot at university.
On the other hand, if you are going to go into more essay-based subjects like English, it might not be worth putting your time into it.
It’s your choice and something you should think about before getting into the world of Anki.
Making Cards vs Pre-Made Decks
Pre-made decks are much easier to use as someone else has done all the work for you. However, are there any good decks out there for A-Level students?
It is much easier to use pre-made decks than it is to create cards from scratch.
That is because the amount of time it takes to make cards is simply not worth it. Some people say that making cards yourself is better as you are more likely to understand the cards which will lead to better long-term retention.
However, testing yourself is the best way of studying, and so making cards for hours a day is not going to be as beneficial as it may seem.
Of course, that is not to say making cards is useless. I make cards when I feel there is something that I need to know but isn’t in the deck.
However, the problem with your A-Levels is that there aren’t a lot of pre-made decks available.
They are few and far between, and you will likely find that if you want to use pre-made decks, there may be heavy adjustments that need to be made to make the cards fit your board and specification.
In fact, it may be better to make the cards with your friends.
Making Cards Yourself
Getting together and everyone in your friend’s group making fraction of the cards is very doable. Just make sure you trust everyone in the group to do the work. If you feel like one of them isn’t going to contribute, then consider not involving them in the project (but don’t be harsh about it!).
I will be going into depth about which decks are best for each subject in the next section.
Tips For Making Cards
Making cards is hard and long, so here are some tips which will help you speed up the process ensure you remember everything you need to.
Don’t Make Too Many Cards
Making hundreds of cards for each topic is not going to serve you well. You will get overwhelmed with the number of cards that need to be made.
Only make flashcards that are important and you are likely to forget. Do not make a card for every sentence in your textbook.
Get the Frozen Fields Add-On
The frozen fields add-on allows you to create cards faster. You are given the option to “freeze” a card field after adding it. If you want to learn more about it (or about any other add-ons you might find useful), then make sure you check out this article about the best add-ons for medical students.
Use Cloze Cards
Coze cards are the “fill in the blank” cards. These are different from the “basic” cards which are just your standard flashcards with a front and back.
Cloze cards are more flexible and allow you to break down longer cards into smaller. more manageable pieces.
Best A-Level Pre-Made Decks
Here are some of the best A-Level decks that I could find while scouring through the internet.
I am going to be giving you examples on the best Anki decks I have found while going through dozens of pages of the internet.
They may not be relevant to you, but you can always download them and edit the cards as you see fit. Just because the deck is not made for your board doesn’t mean it’s useless.
In the end, I also discuss why I haven’t been able to cover every subject.
Deck 1 – “AQA A Level Biology”
Size = 20.97 MB
Last updated – 3rd July 2019
Notes = 730
Deck 2 – “AQA Biology Flashcards”
Size = 1.18 MB
Last updated – 15th Jan 2019
Notes = 1183
Deck 1 – “AQA A Level Chemistry”
Size = 20.34 MB
Last updated – 3rd July 2019
Notes = 796
Deck 2 – “A-Level Chemistry Edexcel”
Size = 0.59 MB
Last updated – 14th June 2018
Notes = 334
Deck 3 – “Edexcel A-level Chemistry New Specification”
Size = 2.01 MB
Last updated – 15th June 2019
Notes = 978
Deck 1 – “AQA A-Level Physics (+ Astro Option)”
Size = 2.06 MB
Last updated – 23th May 2019
Notes = 810
Deck 2 – “Physics A-level OCR”
Size = 0.01 MB
Last updated – 27th Feb 2017
Notes = 74
Deck 3 – “AQA Physics A level (Updated)”
Size = 3.33 MB
Last updated – 15th June 2019
Notes = 203
Deck 1 – “Edexcel Maths New Specification”
Size = 3.31 MB
Last updated – 15th June 2019
Notes = 372
Deck 2 – “A Level Maths (Edexcel, 2017)”
Size = 0.27 MB
Last updated – 20th Sept 2019
Notes = 286
Deck 1 – “Psychology Paper 1 A level (AQA)”
Size = 1.02 MB
Last updated – 8th June 2017
Notes = 105
There is also a second deck called Paper 2 A-Level psychology AQA but it doesn’t have as many cards and they don’t appear as well-thought-out as the first deck.
Languages – Spanish, German and French
Note that these language decks are not specific to the A-Level but will simply build your vocabulary knowledge. I also suggest doing flashcards where you have to learn a sentence rather than flashcards in which you only memorise words.
Deck 1 – “Spanish Top 5000 Vocabulary”
Size = 75.86 MB
Last updated – 14th Oct 2017
Notes = 5001
Have a look here for more Spanish decks.
Deck 2 – “Deutsch: 4000 German Words by Frequency”
Size = 45.94 MB
Last updated – 24th June 2015
Notes = 4214
Have a look here for more German decks.
Deck 3 – “5000 most frequently used French words”
Size = 156.36 MB
Last updated – 13th Sept 2020
Notes = 33474
Have a look here for more French decks.
Subjects With No Decks
If you are wondering why I didn’t mention a subject you were looking for, then it’s because I couldn’t find any good decks for it. Here are the subjects which I have omitted:
Here is some specific advice when you are using Anki for certain subjects.
Biology, Chemistry and Physics
The sciences are the easiest subjects to use with Anki.
You can have cards which have facts like “What is Newton’s Second Law?” which will help you memorize those definitions and facts that examiners like to ask.
- Keep cards to facts – don’t have questions which require long answers
- When you get questions wrong in past papers, turn them into Anki flashcards (only if they are simple facts though!)
- Use pictures to help with more difficult topics
- It’s fine to memorise equations as long as you know how to use them
- If you find a flashcard challenging, make several other similar cards which ask the question from a different angle
Anki and maths don’t go as well as some other subjects, but you can still make it work.
Of course, the main thing with maths is to keep on practising. Do loads of questions and work on your weaknesses.
Some topics in maths may be more suited for use with Anki than others. For example, things like the differential of Cos and Sin can be easily made into a flashcard so you don’t ever forget.
However, if you feel that it’s not working for you, then stop using Anki. There’s no point wasting time if you aren’t gaining any value from it.
Languages (Spanish, German, French etc.)
Languages work excellently with Anki, but you need to know what you are doing.
Spending hours a day memorising vocabulary is unlikely to be beneficial if you are still struggling with the grammar.
Therefore, try and find decks which have more sentences in them than simple words. Memorising common sentences is likely to be a lot more useful than words.
However, you need to be careful with the decks you choose. Although there are a wide number of decks for each language, they are not going to be suited to your exam board. The way you need to learn the language will be different from how the deck is trying to teach you.
So as with the other subjects, keep on using other resources. Watching movies in the language and talking with native speakers will help put the vocab you learn using Anki into practice.
English, History and Other Essay-Based Subjects
Unfortunately, these essay-based subjects are unlikely to work well with Anki.
You could get away with learning historical facts and case studies. However, anything more than this is unlikely.
Acing Your A-Levels With Anki
Here I will be talking about some general tips you should consider when doing Anki.
Get Together With Friends
There isn’t always going to be a deck available for you to use.
Therefore, try and get together with your friends and make a deck for the class.
Split up the work. If there are 10 chapters than need to be covered, then get a group of 5 of you to do 2 chapters each.
Start Making Cards Early
Starting earlier will always be better. If you are in Year 12, then great! You have plenty of time to create your cards and perfect them.
If you are nearer to your exams, then you will have to prioritise the chapters and cards.
Do chapters which you know are going to have a lot of facts in them and don’t make useless cards that are either too easy (e.g. “What is the powerhouse of the cell?”) or too hard (e.g. Explain how a mitochondria works)
Keep On Doing Anki in Your Summer Holidays
Do you want to stand out from your peers? How badly do you want that A*?
If you want to truly ace your A-Levels, ensure that you keep on doing your reviews every day after Year 12.
You have 6 weeks between your Year 12 and Year 13, so make the most of it.
To stay motivated, do at least 1 new card a day. I realised that if I didn’t have any new cards then I would not be motivated to do Anki at all.
Do Anki Every Day
Ensuring that you do Anki every day is important.
There is an algorithm which determines when you see your cards. Therefore, regardless of if it is a weekend or a bank holiday, you should be aiming to do all your reviews.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed
Anki is a complicated software.
It takes time to get used to its features.
Therefore, don’t give up because you feel you will never understand it. You don’t need to understand it! Keep on doing your cards every day and you will feel the benefits of Anki after a few months.
If you are relatively early in your A-Levels, then you will almost certainly get the hang of it before your exams.
It took me a long time to get used to Anki, so know that everyone is in the same boat.
Let’s conclude everything we have been talking about.
Anki is as an incredible app that you should be using for your A-Levels. Just ensure that you don’t use it for topics that require a deep understanding of complex material.
On top of that, keep on researching articles like this to get a more complete understanding of how to use Anki. The more knowledge you have about this software the better you’ll be able to use it.
If you enjoyed this article then share it with your friends and colleagues who might find it useful.