We all have our tricks

How to remember programming knowledge: Flashcards are making a comeback

Gabriela Motroc
Memorization card image via Shutterstock

Have you ever used flashcards? Sure you did! We’ve all been there and it seems like they are making a comeback. Programmers can remember programming knowledge they don’t use on a day to day basis using spaced repetition.

Code Cards promises to help you remember programming knowledge you don’t use on a day to day basis using spaced repetition.

According to the official website, “when you learn something new during your day, create a minimal example. A good question has all the boilerplate but leaves out the interesting part.”

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When you feel done, look at the answer and decide how well you did.

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Seems easy, right? Turns out it’s also efficient. Spaced repetition is a good way to make sure you remember information you don’t use on a daily basis. This technique incorporates increasing intervals of time between subsequent review of previously learned material in order to exploit the psychological spacing effect.

If this technique sounds familiar, that’s probably because CodeCards is similar to Anki, a program which makes remembering things easy.

How to learn a programming language with spaced repetition

Nicola Paolucci, Developer Advocate at Atlassian, explained in a blog post that he used flashcards and spaced repetition to learn Go. He revealed that the idea shared by Derek Sivers in his article Memorizing a programming language using spaced repetition software convinced him to try it out.

Step 1: Flashcards must be created only after you’ve learned and understood the language

Spaced repetition will help you remember but you must learn and understand the language first. According to Sivers, you can look at someone else’s deck but it’s not really helpful.

Step 2: Convert knowledge into small facts

One essential trick is to break down key facts into smaller pieces of information and transform them into questions. Sivers advises programmers to turn prose into code and save the cool tricks (for example turn them into the answer of a challenge). It’s more helpful to make the answer require multiple solutions (when there is more than one way of solving it) and use examples to remind yourself of a concept you wish to remember.

Step 3: Run through it on a daily basis

Sivers claims that if you want efficient results, you should use the spaced repetition technique once a day.

If you’d like to find out more about this technique and how to use it, check out these articles:

Have you ever used the space repetition technique? Share your experience in the comments section. 

Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc was editor of and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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