Anki for exams

The computer science exams I take usually heavily rely on understanding. Learning for those exams means doing tasks that require applying the knowledge acquired. Memorizing facts almost never plays a big role. Quite a few exams are even "open book" — bring as much non digital material as you want.

Last semester I took two psychology classes with exams that were more or less the opposite. Being used to memorize stuff (kanji) with Anki, I thought it might be most efficient to use it for exam preparation. Because I was curious how much time I'd spend I recorded the whole process. Here's how to pass a 5th semester psychology class (Occupational and Organizational Psychology) as a CS major:

The challenge
The lecture consists of 386 slides. The exam can be passed with a very good grade solely based on the information given on the slides plus what is being said during the lecture, but students are advised to also look into referenced books and papers (I didn't). The exam consists of (iirc) 50 multiple choice questions, each of which has 5 answers of which between 0 and 5 are correct. Choosing a correct answer or not choosing a wrong answer results in 1 point. Not choosing a correct answer or choosing a wrong answer results in -1 point. The overall points for one question are reset to 0 in case they're negative. Example questions given for the exams go as deep as asking for names of authors or effect sizes of specific studies.

The solution

  • Attend all the lectures, annotate the slides (yellow boxes in the image above)
  • Start preparing for the exam about 3 weeks in advance, within these 3 weeks:
  • Spend a total of 14 hours to write a summary of the lecture's content (25 pages)
  • Spend a total of 9 hours to create Anki cards (477 cards)
  • Spend a total of 12 hours reviewing these Anki cards (2775 reviews)
  • Squeeze in 5 days of preparation for another exam with less material to learn
  • Pass with a not so great result, having spent a total of 35 hours on exam preparation (not counting lecture attendance)

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