Anki

February 23, 2011

Given my current job has plenty of downtime (half time in a department focused on service development/provision and the rest of the time in an Indigenous health centre where the bookings and attendance is fairly sporadic), I’ve found ample time for studying.

Although I can still back out, I’ve mentally committed to sitting the Written exams in August this year. There’s a few kinks to iron out in terms of booking leave and such, as well as a small matter of being interestate for my 10 year high school reunion and that all but clashes with the exam dates. Given I was quite looking forward to this event, it’s annoying that it’s been lumped together with a general annual reunion dinner instead of being in isolation – that would have made it later in the year. I’m not sure what I’ll do, but it’s certainly not the best preparation having to catch two rapid fire interstate flights prior to what is hopefully my last major set of written exams ever.

But I digress. In the last few weeks I have begun compiling the EMQs from a selection of mock papers into Anki software which I’ll comment on below. EMQ stands for Extended Matching Questions, kind of like a MCQ (multiple choice question) with about 10+ answers and 3-4 question stems referring to those answers. With recent exam format changes, the written SAQ (short answer question) section have been removed, leaving 140+ marks allocated to EMQs instead. Given that SAQs are a traditional favourite of mine, and MCQs are not, the fact that the first paper has been altered in this way is daunting.

Fortunately, I have recently stumbled upon Anki. The official website is here: http://ankisrs.net/
ANKI is Japanese for ‘memorising,’ and quite frankly is a revelation. In short, it’s flash card software and it’s something I wish I knew about a few years ago. One of the problems of just doing mock papers (of which I have 10 years worth!), is that you end up memorising patterns instead of information. Say a question has 4 parts has an answer key of A. C. D. G. and the first part begins with “John, a 33 Balinese male…” the next time I want to review those questions, I alreadly will know what the answer will be, making it a pointless exercise in subsequent exposures. By inputting the questions into Anki, the 4 parts can be mixed with countless other questions (400 currently!), breaking the memory link. Also, if the “John” card is appearing too often, I can edit the name, age or other clinical details on the fly.

There are other benefits I have noticed which I will outline in future blog posts.

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