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Anki vs Notion: Which One is Better for Studying?

You might be using both Anki and Notion for parts of your studying, but which one is truly the better app for students? That’s what I will be discussing in this article.

Quick Answer

If you are in a rush, here is a quick answer to your question.

Both are good for different reasons. Anki is great for consolidating information and retaining it for long periods.

Notion can be used for understanding the concepts and gaining an overview of the topics.

Here is a list of pros and cons for each:


Anki

  • Specially made flashcard app
  • Integrated spaced repetition software
  • Plenty of pre-made decks available
  • Difficult to convert notes into flashcards
  • Hard to connect cards in your head
  • Not ideal for understanding complex topics


Notion

  • Excellent for taking notes
  • Can easily organise and categorise information
  • Well designed layout
  • Pre-made templated available
  • Can be used for personal knowledge management
  • No spaced repetition
  • Making thousands of flashcards and going through them systematically is not realistic
  • No pre-made decks with ready-made flashcards


In the end, it is up to you which software you use.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg! There’s plenty more that I discuss in this article which I am sure you will find valuable.

What are Anki and Notion?

Let’s get us all on the same page by discussing exactly what Anki and Notion are.

Anki and Notion are two completely different software.

That is the most important thing to note straight away.

You can’t compare them in any fair way. Anki is a flashcard app that is ideal for learning lots of simple facts (which is why medical students love it) while Notion is a note-taking app that can store information in a plethora of different ways.

General similarities and differences between Anki and Notion

Let’s go a bit deeper and find out what makes each of them unique.

Anki

Anki isn’t just any old flashcard application.

It is one of the best flashcard apps out there with none coming close to its level of flexibility and power.

The default home page may look unassuming, but under the hood, there is a powerful algorithm that makes Anki so incredible

I have this article where I specifically explore what Anki is and why everyone loves it.

Here are a few of the key points from that article:

  • Anki repeatedly shows you cards
  • An algorithm ensures you see difficult cards more frequently
  • Pre-made decks save valuable time
  • Add-ons allow you to customise the Anki experience

Notion

Notion is also not just a typical note-taking app.

It is a way to manage your “second brain”. You can store all types of information from to-do lists to when your next holiday will be.

In this article I discuss how to use Notion for students (it is essentially a beginners guide), so check that out if you are interested.

Here are some of the key features of Notion:

  • Organise your notes
  • Toggles feature
  • Pages in pages in pages (it is a hierarchical system where you can have folders of notes within other folders. In Notion, these folders are called pages)
  • Tables that integrate
  • To-do lists

Anki – Pros and Cons

What makes Anki so amazing?

Anki has so many benefits that it’s unreal.

  • Pre-made decks which save a tonne of time
  • Built-in spaced repetition
  • Customise it with add-ons (see my article on the best add-ons for medical students)
  • Great for learning simple facts/lists and retaining them long term
  • Loads of online resources you can use to learn from
  • One of the best flashcard apps out there
  • Free to use!
  • Uses scientifically proven study techniques

These are the reasons people love Anki.

It is great at what it does.

That is why medical students and language learners love it so much.

However, there are some disadvantages that you should be aware of before going off and downloading it.

  • Steep learning curve
  • Challenging to use with essay-based subjects
  • Not aesthetically pleasing
  • Have to use it every day for many months before you see any long term benefit
  • Hard to just “go through” information at a glance (like is possible with a normal note-taking app)

Notion – Pros and Cons

Here is a comprehensive list of all the advantages and disadvantages of using Notion.

Notion is also a beast of an application. Here are some of the advantages of using it.

  • Organisation is simple and easy
  • Can be used simply as a note-taking app or for more complex tasks which involve integrated tables
  • Very little learning curve (especially compared to Anki)
  • Pre-made templates for hundreds of tasks are available
  • Can be used for personal use and school/university simultaneously
  • Can be made aesthetically pleasing
  • Toggle feature allows for active recall

It is a note-taking app that has taken the world by storm.

In just a few years, students across the globe have started to use it for their everyday needs, and the above reasons show some of the reasons why that’s the case.

Again though, like most things in life, there are always disadvantages.

  • No spaced repetition
  • Making thousands of flashcards and going through them systematically is all but impossible due to the way Notion is structured.

Some of the stuff which I highlighted in bold are particularly important points which I think you should be aware of.

Hopefully, this set of advantages and disadvantages for both these applications has given you a good idea as to what is so great (and not so great) about both of them.

Why You Should Use Both

Even though I gave you a list of pros and cons for each application, there are good reasons why you shouldn’t exclusively pick one over the other.

Although some people will want to have one app that will ruin their life, I would strongly suggest you use both applications simultaneously.

Here is my suggestion on how to use both apps simultaneously.

How to Use Them

I will assume that you will want to make notes for the content you are learning.

If that is the case, start in Notion. Create a page and write all your notes.

If you are fast enough, then try and hide all your notes behind the toggle feature while making notes for the first time. However, if you are listening to a lecturer which making the notes, that might not be possible.

If that’s the case, just convert them into toggles afterwards.

Make toggles for all your notes when you first make them

After this, you want to study to content and learn what you wrote. Actively recall the information behind the toggle before revealing the answer.

Do not turn them all into Anki flashcards.

All this will do is ensure you create way too many cards.

Rather, go through your Notion toggles. Once you have gone through it once or twice, you will start to understand the material you need to make proper flashcards out of.

That is when you start making Anki flashcards.

You make flashcards for the toggles which have certain “red flags” which indicate you don’t know it yet and need a more intense method of learning the material.

Here are the red flags for when you should be making Anki flashcards:

  • The answer is on “the tip of your tongue” but can’t remember it
  • The answer is complicated (i.e. it has many parts)
  • It contains difficult to pronounce words
  • You get confused between different answers

If the above points are happening to you, you should probably make an Anki card out of the toggle.

I have loads of content on Anki if you want to learn more about it.

So… Which One is the Best!?

All you want to know is which one is better if you’re a student. So that’s what I’ll do.

If I had to pick one to use for studying, I would probably pick Anki.

For me, I love Anki for one reason above all else: pre-made decks. It saves so much time as a medical student that makes the disadvantages worth it.

However, that doesn’t mean Anki is right for you.

There is a lot more flexibility when it comes to using Notion.

Luckily, you don’t have to pick between the two as they are both free. You can use Anki for any facts you need to memorise and use Notion for taking notes (although I believe Remnote might even be better than Notion for that).

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