The Best Resource for Physiology​

The Best Resourse for Physiology

Physiology can be a challenge. Though the concepts may be simple, understanding and applying them is the key. That being said, during the basic science classes and USMLE Step 1 dedicated study period, Physeo was amazing for physiology.

Topics:

  • How to Study Physiology
  • Videos
  • Practice Questions
  • Textbook 
  • Anki
  • What Makes Physeo Different from Other Resources
  • My Daily Study Schedule for Physiology 
  • Supplemental Resources for Physiology

How to Study Physiology

Focus on understanding over memorizing. Physiology is different from studying other subjects like microbiology that require a lot of rote memorization. In physiology,just because you memorize a definition, it doesn’t mean that you can apply it. Do not make the mistake of memorizing all the concepts without understanding what each concept means. The key for physiology is asking the “why?” questions. For example, a good student would be able to explain what is happening in each step of the cardiac cycle and why it is happening the way it is. 

In addition, it is important to integrate physiology into your other subjects like pathology and pharmacology during basic sciences. Connecting all the subjects together will save you a lot of time during Step 1 dedication period. To further expand on this, a good student would be able to explain (depending on the cardiac pathology) what a change in the cardiac cycle and cardiac pressure loops would do and why.  

In general, physiology is one of the backbones to medicine. Understand physiology and you will not be lost. 

Videos

The Physeo Videos were super helpful. They are visual and give good explanations for the concepts. Plus, during the videos they ask questions which are good checkmarks to figure out if you understood the concept or not. Though a section of a video may seem long, each video is only about ten to fifteen minutes. It is super easy to listen to and follow along. In addition, I used Boards and Beyond videos to supplement the Physeo videos.

During pre-dedicated, I watched all the physiology videos before lecture as a preread. I usually like to watch them at normal speed or at 1.25 speed so that I can annotate in my First Aid without pausing the videos during my first time watching them. Although, when I would have a question about something I just watched, I would pause and write it down.. This is helpful because I was able to organize a list of questions I wanted to ask my professor either during office hours or right before or after lecture.

Practice Questions

I used the practice questions right after watching the videos to see how much I retained in a short period of time. I also used them after a lecture while I was in pre-clinicals. For example, if I learned about spirometry in physiology class, I did the practice questions after class for that specific topic. In addition, they give in-depth explanations and you can repeat the quiz as many times as you like. Also, the questions can give good insight into what you need to work on and can further solidify the concept. After reviewing the questions and answer explanations, I had a good foundation to do more practice questions on Uworld. 

During my dedicated USMLE Step 1 period, at the end of each day I would note which topics I missed and rewatch the videos for those specific topics.Over time, you will see a pattern in what types of questions and topics you need to work on. Then, I would use USMLE Rx for those specific topics. For example, if topics I needed to work on were cardiac PV loops, cardiac murmurs, and cardiac congenital defects, I can pick practice questions on those topics on Rx. This method worked really well for me because I focused on improving my weaknesses, which really reflected on my practice tests. 

Textbook 

The Physeo textbook was a good resource to read after watching the videos. They consist of thorough summaries of each section and it is great to use them as reviews. In addition to the Physeo textbook, I  annotate in my USMLE First Aid when I am reviewing practice questions. The Physeo textbook compliments the summaries in First Aid really well. My Physeo notes go in my First Aid book so that all my notes are together. As a visual person, it was a good way to organize all the information into one place.

Anki

At the end of a long study day, Physeo’s Anki deck was clutch. For each section there is a custom-made Anki deck you can download and use at your convenience. Plus, the Anki cards build on each other. As soon as you finish a new deck of cards, you revisit the old cards. These are great to practice active learning, helping you retain much better.

It is helpful to use the Anki decks as practice after watching the videos and doing the practice questions. Usually I use them at the end of the day before I go to sleep as extra practice. According to studies, it is suggested that repetitive active learning is best for retention. I also used the Yousmle physiology decks which followed the same philosophy as Physeo.

What Makes Physeo Different from Other Resources

Physeo is different because it combines all of its features and resources into one. Plus, along with physiology, it offers other subjects like biochemistry, anatomy, pathology, etc that you can connect the physiology concepts with. For Step 1, it is the all-in-one package to success. 

My Daily Study Schedule for Physiology

This is my schedule for how  I used Physeo and other study resources during pre-clinical and dedicated USMLE Step 1 period. 

Pre-clinical schedule:

  • 8am – 11:30am: Lecture
  • 11:30am to 12:30pm: Lunch
  • 1pm to 2pm: Discuss today’s physiology lecture with study buddy and do associated practice questions
  • 2pm to 4pm: Discuss today’s lectures with study buddy for other classes and do associated practice questions
  • 4pm to 5pm: Yoga Class or Zumba Class
  • 5pm to 7pm: More practice questions
  • 7pm to 8pm: Dinner
  • 8pm to 9:30pm: prewatch Physeo videos for tomorrow’s lecture

Dedicated USMLE Step 1 study period schedule:

  • 5:30am to 6:30am: Gym
  • 7:00am to 9:00am: Breakfast
  • 9:00am to 12:00pm: Physiology Uworld
  • 12:00pm to 1:00pm: Lunch
  • 1:00pm to 4:00 pm: USMLE Rx Physiology questions (topic specific)
  • 4:00pm to 7:00 pm: Physeo and Boards and Beyond videos and questions (topic specific)
  • 7:00pm to 8:00pm: Dinner
  • 8:00pm to 9:00pm: Physeo and Yousmle Anki Decks

Supplemental Resources for Physiology

As mentioned previously, in addition to Physeo’s resources, I used other resources for physiology. In no particular order, here is a summary of the supplemental physiology resources I used: 

  • Boards and Beyond Videos
  • Yousmle Anki Decks
  • USMLE Rx practice questions
  • Uworld practice questions
  • USMLE First Aid
  • Class Lectures

 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, physiology is one of the foundations to medicine. You have to understand it in order to integrate it well with other subjects. With Physeo, you are set up to start exactly that process.

If you have any questions or want to see my life through medical school, find me on Instagram @future_artist_md

What are the Best Premade Preclinical Anki Decks for Medical School?

What are the Best Premade Anki Decks for Medical School?

Anki is quickly becoming a mainstay learning tool in medical school. The powerful spaced repetition algorithm offers students a means to both learn and retain information like never before. With all this said, have you chosen a deck to start using? Whether you are in your first week of medical school or entering your dedicated board exam study period, there are decks that will be right for you. Let’s start off by describing what the differences in decks are, and then lets discuss how you can go about choosing the right deck.

Decks for Step 1

  • Zanki (Anking’s updated version) – Step 1

This deck has quickly become one of the most popular among which to choose. It was created by a medical student with the reddit username, u/ZankiStep1, and later expanded upon by many more medical students. It toutes a card count of over 25,000 and attempts to comprehensively cover most facts found in First Aid for the USMLE Step 1, Costanzo Physiology, Pathoma, and Sketchy Pharmacology/Microbiology. It has been meticulously revamped several times to include missing high yield information from all medical school subjects. As far as preclinical decks go, this is very clearly the most popular one you can choose from.

There are two main drawbacks you should know before jumping on this deck – its card count and its focus on high yield information. Don’t get me wrong; these “drawbacks” can very easily be perceived as strengths. However, for the uninitiated, medical school can be very demanding, and keeping up with daily reviews can easily see you exceeding a thousand cards a day. Furthermore, the focus on high yield information mostly stems from the source material. If your medical school exams require you to know detailed information not found in First Aid, you may find insufficient detail in this deck to carry you to an A.

Lastly, it is worth noting the format of this deck. It is meticulously tagged, making it easy to search topics in the sidebar of Anki’s browser. It also adopts a cloze-style format, in which a sentence will be shown with a key word missing. An example is shown below.

  • Lightyear (Cheesy update)

 

This deck has a very clear target audience: Users of Dr. Jason Ryan’s video lecture series Boards and Beyond. It is a deck that closely follows this resource video by video and is extensively tagged to enable ease of use. For example, you can simply watch a Boards and Beyond lecture and unsuspend the corresponding cards. This streamlined workflow has garnered wide popularity among students and attracts many would-be Zanki users.

The card count is necessarily on the higher end at more than 25,000 cards, but can seem shorter when done in chunks after every video and over the span of your preclinical years. While the reddit user u/Lightyear2k is the original creator of this deck, u/Cheesy_Doritos revamped it to include tags for every video module, screenshots, and even additions from the Zanki deck to improve or cover missing topics. What resulted was a near comprehensive deck for Step 1 that will undoubtedly also help prepare you for class. An example of the tagging system is shown below.

Decks for School

 

  • Dope Basic Science, Clinical & Anatomy

To fill in the lack of in-dept medical content left out by other decks, the reddit user u/Dope_MS created his Dope 1: Medical school Science deck. It also toutes a card count of over 25,000. However, this medical school student wanted a deck that would include both the high yield information found in First Aid and Pathoma, as well as content from other popular preclinical textbooks. Notable examples include Ganong’s Physiology, BRS Biochemistry and Genetics, and Nolte’s Neuroanatomy.

While less popular than Zanki, it has quickly earned itself a reputation of being a powerhouse of preclinical content that can help you prepare for difficult inhouse exams, while also helping you prepare for boards. Of course, the similar issue of card count is created with a deck this large. Furthermore, many medical school students are turned off by the fact they are committing so much time to learn facts some may deem to be lower yield for USMLE or COMLEX board exams. Nevertheless, this remains a good option for the textbook-oriented students who want to incorporate anki.

Subject Specific Decks

If you want a deck focused on physiology, then Physeo’s official Anki deck will be your best choice. Just as Lightyear creates an easy workflow for Boards and Beyond videos, our deck makes it easy to watch one one of our physiology lecture modules and then work through the corresponding cards. It also adopts the popular cloze deletion-style format, and the deck is sufficiently tagged to allow for ease of use.

  • Pathology – Duke’s Pathoma

This deck is a fan favorite for those overwhelmed with the high number of cards in Zanki or Light year. It contains about 2000 cards, but only covers content from Dr. Husain Sattar’s video lecture series Pathoma. There are about 100 cards per Pathoma chapter, making it a popular deck for those in dedicated that desire a quick way to reinforce Dr. Sattar’s high yield notes.

Aside from the fact that only pathology is covered, many find these cards to be slightly more difficult to work through than Zanki’s cloze deletion style. This is because most questions are in a question-and-answer format, thus necessitating active recall of entire concepts. This style lacks the similar priming you may have with a cloze deletion cards. On the other hand, others consider this a strength of the deck. An example of the content you will be expected to recall is shown below.

 

  • Pharmacology – Pepper Deck

 

This deck is meant to be used hand in hand with Sketchy Pharmacology. While Zanki also includes a pharmacology section that incorporates Sketchy Pharmacology images, the Pepper Pharm deck does it in a question-and-answer format that forces more remote recall. It also has less cards, at around 1300 cards total. The best way one can use this deck is to unsuspend the corresponding cards after watching a sketchy video. It creates an appealing workflow that lends itself to better recall of Sketchy’s memory hooks during the first two years of medical school or during your dedicated board study time. An example of a card is shown below.

 

  • Microbiology – Pepper Deck

 

Pepper also has a microbiology deck that is formatted in the same way their pharmacology deck is. The deck totals approximately 950 cards, making it appealing for those who do not wish to use the main alternative to this deck – Lolnotacop’s Micro deck, which has more than 5000 cards. The main drawback to this deck exists in the fact that it is less comprehensive and misses a few microbes. However, it still includes the vast majority of bugs that will be asked in Step 1, and allows you to follow along with Sketchy Microbiology. If the question-answer format is more to your liking, you should pick this deck. See the example below.

 

 

  • Microbiology – Lolnotacop

 

This deck is the product of a medical student’s attempt to fill in the missing information from Pepper’s microbiology deck. The deck follows Sketchy Microbiology, but adds many more details, including foundational concepts found in Jason Ryan’s Boards and Beyond lecture series. The deck is also formatted to have cloze deletion cards, making it easier to review cards more quickly. For these reasons, this deck has earned itself a reputation as the most comprehensive microbiology deck available. Know that the card count is necessarily higher at over 5000 cards, as this can help you factor in what microbiology deck you wish to choose. You should also know this deck is included in the updated versions of  Zanki’s Step 1 deck. However, you can also download this deck separately. An example of one card is shown below.

 

So, how do I pick a deck?

The first question you should answer is ‘how much time do you have?’

This may seem like an easy one: “Very little – I’m in medical school.” Ask any Anki veteran, and they will tell you Anki demands a tremendous amount of commitment. You have to figure out how you wish Anki to fit into your study schedule. For example, do you have assigned readings that take up most of your day? If so, choosing the right Anki deck to use will come down to how quickly you are able to review old cards and go through new ones.

Generally speaking, quick Ankiers are able to answer around 1 card every 10 seconds. This will average out to about 1000 card reviews in around 3 hours. If you find this pace to be manageable, you should think of using Zanki, Lightyear, or Dope’s deck. If you find yourself to go more slowly, then think about using a combination of Physeo, Duke’s Pathoma, and Pepper’s pharmacology and microbiology decks.

Another factor you should consider is when you are starting Anki.

If you are starting in your first year of medical school, you’ll need to do fewer cards to finish the deck within the next two years. This is where Zanki, Lightyear, and Dope’s Basic Sciences can really shine. You should also know many students start these decks in their second year, but will invariably have a much higher time commitment due to having to go through more cards in order to finish the deck before board exams. If you are in your dedicated study period, or a second-year who prefers to leave more free time to study class material, then the shorter decks can be preferable. Again, this would be a combination of Physeo’s, Duke’s Pathoma, and Pepper’s pharmacology and microbiology decks.

Lastly, ask yourself what you want out of anki.

Do you want a deck that will help you cover the detailed concepts found in lecture and in-house exams? If so, you should consider Dope’s Basic Sciences deck can help cover your bases while also including high yield facts from board resource material.  Do you want the most consistently updated, high-yield deck that many, if not most, medical students use? The Reddit user u/AnKingMed’s update to Zanki’s Step 1 deck may be for you. Do you want a way to follow and spatially review content found within Boards and Beyond? If so, Lightyear’s deck is the most appealing choice. Do you want a quick review of a single subject? Consider one of the subject-specific decks.

As you can see, there are decks that fit into many categories, regardless of where you are in medical school or what you want out of Anki. Sometimes, the only way to truly know for sure is to try a deck that you think sounds like a good fit and see if you like it. So, do not feel bad if you find one deck does not work for you, and you decide to jump ship to another.

Medical school is a time of trial and error. It may even be that you find no existing deck has the exact flavor you are looking for. In this case, it may be in your interest to create your own deck. This is, after all, how we have so many options to choose from – a medical student’s dissatisfaction with one deck leads to them creating and selflessly sharing their idea of a better deck. So, if you decide to go down this route, make sure to share your deck with the rest of the medical school community by posting it on the medical school subreddit. To do this, and to download or read more about these decks, visit this Reddit forum. Good luck!

How to use Anki for Step 1 success

How to use Anki for Step 1 success

As a self-proclaimed An-queen, I have perfected the art of spaced repetition and I’m here to make your Anki journey a little easier than mine was. Zanki, Lightyear, Anking. These might be random words to most people and if they feel random to you, I guarantee it won’t feel so strange by the end of this article. Here are some tips and tricks that I wish I knew before starting my Anki journey.

 

  • What is Anki?

Anki is a flashcard app that uses spaced repetition to make memorizing all the tedious bits of medical school a little easier. So you and I know that learning each enzyme of the Krebs cycle probably doesn’t determine if you will be a great doctor or not, but unfortunately that’s not what the Step 1 is looking for.

 

There are many things we have to learn as medical students and although some of them require understanding, discussion and thought; a lot of them are memorizing the facts which is a lot harder than it sounds.

 

This is where Anki comes in. The algorithm is very advanced and shows your review cards just as soon as you would be forgetting them, making sure you hold on to those bits of information right up until test day.

 

  • Why is it worth it  

I’m not going to lie – when I first started doing Anki cards everyday, it felt like such a chore. Clicking the space bar for hours felt way less productive than ticking off the videos or questions I had on my to-do list; but about a month into consistent anki-ing I finally saw the results paying off. 

 

I was answering questions during lectures and tutorials that I didn’t even know I knew; I was getting question bank blocks correct just from remembering the Anki card. It felt like sorcery and sometimes it still does. 

 

Using spaced repetition to memorize information has been a proven technique for examination success and in recent years, thanks to our good friends Zanki and LightYear, there are specific resources made to improve Step 1 scores. 

 

The biggest qualm most people have with Anki is how time-consuming it is. And it is! There have been days where my Anki time count has been over three hours, but putting that time in is what led to my success in board examinations, and hopefully yours too! 

 

  •  Using pre-made decks

 

Zanki/Anking – this is the main deck I used through my study and I found it to be the most comprehensive. It has a good mix of basic facts and also breaks down concepts into smaller, more digestible pieces of information. The Anking deck is an updated version of Zanki which is edited and checked for errata constantly. Among current M2s, it is the gold standard for Step 1! It covers pharmacology and microbiology too so no additional deck is required. It serves as a one stop shop for all of Step 1 (and some Step 2) needs. The Anking team also upload helpful videos on their YouTube channel on the most effective settings and add ons to use –Anki Youtube

 

Physeo – our team has been working hard integrating Physeo with the Zanki deck. This will be most helpful for students who prefer the cloze style of Zanki/Anking and use Physeo as their primary study tool. Along with that, we also have a deck that goes with each video which can be used as a memory tool or in custom study mode to test what has just been learned.

 

Lightyear – this is a popular deck based on the ‘Boards and Beyond’ videos. It has 22.5k cards and so it is definitely another long-term deck that requires time investment. The best thing about this deck is the tagging. The deck creator used hierarchical tags which makes it easy to navigate and especially good for Anki beginners.

 

Lolnotacop – a solely microbiology deck based off Sketchy Micro. This deck covers just about everything you could be tested on in the microbiology realm. It includes screenshots from Sketchy and First Aid which makes it particularly convenient if you are anything like me and hate flipping through huge textbooks. It is also organized very well into sub decks, so if there is one area of microbiology you struggle with you can choose that sub deck to work on.

 

These are my favorite premade decks but of course it is not feasible to do all of them. My tip would be to pick one and dive in to the deep end. If after a few weeks, you feel that it is not working for you, it may be helpful to look into another deck.  

 

  • Keeping up with reviews

 

This is the most important rule to making Anki work. You have to do your reviews every single day! For the spaced repetition technique to be effective, the ‘due’ cards need to be reviewed on time. This is the main challenge in Anki – to have the motivation to keep going and going and going. 

 

I have found the best way to balance Anki with other school requirements is limiting the number of new cards I do every day. Capping between 80-100 new cards allows me to complete my reviews, do question banks and still get some me-time at the end of the day. 

 

Another helpful trick I use is completing my reviews first thing in the morning. Once they are out of the way, it feels like much less of a chore than if I am completing them half asleep before bedtime. 

 

 

  •  Personalizing cards

 

As you have probably figured out yourself, no two medical students are the same. There are different strokes for different folks and that is why I have found that personalizing your Anki cards is so important!

 

I edit my cards to add information from my lectures, question banks and other resources. Because anki is my primary tool for learning, I find it helpful to have all my cards fully annotated with all the information I need.

 

I use different font colours to remember where information is from e.g. using blue for UWorld and adding the relevant question ID to the card.

 

Personalizing the premade cards allows you to really shape the Anki experience and make it right for you.

 

  • Staying motivated

 

Day to day, doing reviews feels monotonous and dull. But if you choose to go steady with Anki, you have to realise that this relationship really is for the long term. You won’t see benefits within a week or even a month, but the benefits do come eventually!

 

So whenever you feel like breaking up with Anki, think about your long term goal – Step 1 success.

 

 

  • What if I can’t do cards everyday?

 

As I mentioned, the one rule of Anki is ‘no days off’ which means for spaced repetition to work effectively, every single day of reviews should be done.  However, sometimes life just happens and there really is no way to complete reviews that day. For days like those, I have discovered an add on that can accommodate for those unforeseen circumstances: postpone cards.

 

Be warned – this add-on comes with a major black box warning! If used once, it is very tempting to use this again and again, lessening the benefits of spaced repetition. To even have this add-on downloaded requires a lot of self discipline. It must be used sparingly!

 

One example of when I used this was when I was attending my sister’s wedding and I knew in 24 hours, I would get no spare time to complete reviews. That was something relevant to me, but everyone has their own circumstances, and that is why having the discipline of completing reviews is vital.

 

 

  •  Making Anki work with lectures

 

Along with preparing for Step 1, Anki can also be used for class lectures. Most of what you will cover during medical school is essential for Step 1, but if your professors are like mine, I’m sure you are also taught a lot of information that isn’t tested on Step 1 – but is essential for passing in-house exams.

 

What I found helpful for this is adding additional cards and details in the ‘extra’ section of the premade decks. For example, I used the Zanki deck during my ophthalmology rotation and added extra cards to the deck based on my class material. Once my end of rotation test was completed, I suspended those cards.  

 

Additionally, if you are taught material that you think might be relevant to Step 1, adding information to existing cards can also be beneficial. Just make sure to add a tag or color code the text so you can see exactly where it came from.

 

 

These were some of my favorite tips for using Anki. The algorithm can be complicated, but dedication and a little patience goes a long way. Anki was my secret weapon for doing well on Step 1 and I hope with these tips it can be yours too. Good luck!

  

Top 10 Anki Add-ons to Increase Productivity

Top 10 Anki Add-ons To Increase Productivity

If you didn’t use Anki before starting medical school, chances are a classmate convinced you to download it by the end of the first week. And with good reason: spaced repetition is one of the best ways to make sure you have your high-yield facts down. Still, even the most devoted Anki user knows that on some days, staring at your laptop screen while smashing your spacebar for hours is the last thing you feel like doing.

Unfortunately, the science behind spaced repetition means that skipping days will catch up with you quickly. The last thing you want is to blank on a test question that you know you made a flashcard for, all because you chose social or extracurricular activities over keeping up with reviews a few times too many. Read on to learn about ten Anki add-ons that will make your flashcard use easier and more productive — and will help you leave time for the activities you care about.

  1. Review Heatmap
  2. Anki Simulator
  3. Clickable Tags
  4. Custom Background Image and Gear Icon
  5. Fastbar
  6. Frozen Fields
  7. Pop-up Dictionary
  8. More Overview Stats
  9. Advanced Browser
  10. The Anki app

Review Heatmap

 This add-on is one of my personal favorites because it helps me see patterns in my reviews over the past few weeks or months. Each square represents one day, so if I miss a day, it will show up as a blank spot in a sea of colors. When I first started using Review Heatmap, I noticed that I often skipped Thursdays — my busiest day of classes. With that information, I started shifting half of my Thursday reviews to Wednesday or Friday, and I got much better at planning my reviews around my school and work schedule.

I also like this add-on because the streak feature motivates me to keep up with my reviews. When I first installed it, I was shocked to see that I only used Anki on 68% of days. I knew I wasn’t great at keeping up with my reviews, but I didn’t know I was that bad. After I started using Review Heatmap and got better at disciplining myself, it was satisfying to see my “days learned” percentage start creeping upwards.

Review Heatmap

 

Anki Simulator

This add-on is great for when you have an exam coming up and want to know how many new cards you should plan on doing every day. Just plug in the deck, a suggested daily number of new cards and a timeframe. Anki Simulator will tell you when you’ll finish going through a deck and how many reviews you’ll have to do every day on top of your new cards.

For example, this picture shows a simulation of the whole Zanki deck with 40 new cards per day over the next 700 days (in red). Since this person has already started the deck, Anki Simulator takes their existing review load into account, meaning that they’ll have a fairly consistent daily load of around 500-600 cards for the first year or so. The steep dropoff in October 2021 shows when this person will have seen every card in the deck and their reviews begin to decrease. The orange line represents an alternative simulation with 60 new cards per day. As you can see, the dropoff point occurs several months earlier, but it comes at the cost of more daily reviews.

This is a large-scale example, but of course you can use Anki Simulator for much smaller decks and timeframes, like an anatomy deck for an exam that’s only two weeks away.

Anki Simulator

Clickable Tags

Clickable Tags is especially handy if you’re using large premade decks like Zanki or Lightyear. The AnKing Overhaul deck makes particularly good use of tags, with separate categories not only for various topics, but also for different study resources like B&B and Physeo.

This add-on works by making each card’s tags interactive. When you look at the reverse of a card, you’ll also see the tags listed at the bottom. Let’s say you had trouble answering the question on the card below — or maybe you got it right, but realized you weren’t familiar with the other characteristics of orotic aciduria and wanted to refresh your knowledge. Clicking on the yellow tag would take you straight to the Ammonia section of the Metabolism chapter associated with Physeo, all within the AnKing Overhaul’s Step 1 deck.

Clickable Tags

As you can see below, the Browse window will open immediately and show you all the other cards with this tag. You can then scroll through them to remind yourself of the context of orotic aciduria within ammonia metabolism more broadly.

Custom Background Image and Gear Icon

At first glance, it might seem strange to include a purely aesthetic add-on in this list, but you may be surprised at how helpful a custom background image can be. The default Anki app comes with a plain gray background — not distracting, but not exactly inspiring either. Switching to one of the background pictures included with this add-on, or choosing one of your own, can make it just that much more pleasant to sit down to Anki at 7 am. As an added bonus, you can choose from a range of icons to replace the default gear, including a dragon, a flower, and even the AnKing logo.

Here’s an example with one of the nature shots included in the add-on, along with the fire icon, but the add-on’s configuration makes it easy to add your own photos if you prefer. See this AnKing video for a runthrough of how to get the most out of the custom background image add-on.

Custom Background Image and Gear Icon

Fastbar

 Finishing your daily reviews is the most time-consuming aspect of Anki, but you shouldn’t neglect all the smaller tasks that are involved in organizing and getting through a deck. If you frequently need to unsuspend, mark, or move cards, Fastbar can save you valuable time. Essentially, this add-on takes several of Anki’s most useful features and puts them in one handy and easily accessible toolbar.

If you’re like most casual Anki users, you’re probably not familiar with some of the app’s less prominent features, like “clear unused tags,” “change note type,” or even “reschedule.” After I installed Fastbar, I learned about many of these helpful tools for the first time. Even features I already knew about and used frequently, like “mark” and “suspend,” became much easier to use after downloading this add-on. With all the options laid out in front of me, I never have to waste time searching through the menu bar again.

Fastbar

 

Frozen Fields

This addon is a must-have for people who make their own cards, especially if you need to make several related cards about the same topic. Copying and pasting the top field from one card to the next is tedious and can lead to careless mistakes. Frozen Fields allows you to freeze the top field in place as you go from one new card to the next, letting you make as many cards as you want before you unfreeze it and move on to the next topic.

Take this example from my Medical Chinese deck. Here, I’ve put both the Pinyin romanization and the Chinese characters on the reverse of this card, but let’s say I wanted to make two separate cards for each of them. I still want to keep “yellow fever” on the front of the card, so I simply click the snowflake to freeze the top field in place. Now I can create one new card with the romanization and another with the characters, all without having to type the English translation twice.

Frozen Fields

 In this example, Frozen Fields wouldn’t have saved me a ton of time, but you can imagine how quickly this adds up when you’re making cards with a lot of complicated information.

Pop-up Dictionary

Similarly to Clickable Tags, Pop-up Dictionary is another great add-on from Glutaminate that can help you draw connections among different but related topics. Just double-click on a term you’re unfamiliar with, and a list of cards containing that term will pop up instantly.

In the example below, let’s say you got the question right but want to remind yourself of what purines do in the body. Double-clicking on “purines” will bring up the list you see in the second picture. You can scroll through to refresh your knowledge on everything related to this topic, from purine structure and synthesis to diseases like Lesch-Nyhan syndrome that occur when purine metabolism fails to function normally.

Pop-up Dictionary

As an added bonus, all the information in the extra card fields will be visible as well, so you can take a look at any visual mnemonics that you’ve added from Sketchy, Physeo, or Pixorize to help jog your memory.

 

More Overview Stats

If you want to get the most out of Anki, you’ll need as much data as you can get about your decks. As the name suggests, More Overview Stats gives you additional information about the status of each card in your collection. Not only is it helpful to see how many of your cards in each deck are in the mature or young phase, but it also feels satisfying to see the percentage of suspended and unseen cards diminish as you move through your curriculum.

Here’s an example from my Medical Chinese deck. As you can see, I’ve learned 87 percent of the deck so far, but only 9 percent is mature. Rather than suspending any cards, I simply set the new card limit to 10 per day, so More Overview Stats tells me that it will take another 7 days to finish the remaining 13 percent of this deck at the rate I’m going. If I change the new card limit in the options menu, More Overview Stats will update right away to show me a new prediction.

More Overview Stats

 

Advanced Browser

The Advanced Browser add-on makes it much easier to maintain and organize your decks. As you probably know, the default Browse window shows you the contents (under “sort field”), card type, due date, and deck for each card. Advanced Browser lets you add several categories to the default menu according to your specific needs.

For example, I like to see the number of lapses for each card (how many times I’ve hit “Again” on a card that I had previously learned), so I added this category from Advanced Browser. As you can see below, I’m now able to sort my cards according to the highest or lowest number of lapses (although I could also sort by any of the other columns if I preferred). For some reason, I can never remember that pyruvate kinase is inhibited by alanine, so I’ve missed this card six times. That’s not high enough for Anki to mark the card as a leech, so I wouldn’t have known that I missed it so often if it weren’t for Advanced Browser. By seeing which cards have the most lapses, I can do additional practice on those topics before they hit the leech threshold.

Advanced Browser

I personally find “lapses” to be the most helpful category that comes with this add-on, but Advanced Browser has several other options as well. Some useful ones include “note” and “tags,” which give you information that you’d otherwise have to scroll down to find, as well as “ease” and “percent correct,” which I haven’t been able to find elsewhere in the app. There are also fun options like “fastest review” and “total time.”

 

The Anki app

 This may not technically count as an add-on, but the Anki app is the single best way to increase your productivity and make sure you finish your reviews every day. If you have an Android phone, good news — it’s free to download. If you’re an iPhone user, the $25 price tag may be a deterrent, but the investment will be well worth it over your time in med school.

Many of the add-ons listed here haven’t yet been configured for the app, so you won’t be able to install a flashy review heatmap or personalized background picture, but the Anki phone app has all of the key features included with the desktop version. If you make sure to sync your desktop and phone before heading out in the morning, you’ll be able to get the most out the minutes you spend commuting, waiting for a lecture to start, or even unwinding on the treadmill after a day of class. By the time you get back home in the evening, you’ll be surprised at how low your remaining review count is.

If you’re feeling inspired by the add-ons mentioned here, or if you haven’t found exactly what you’re looking for, it’s easier than you may think to design an add-on of your own. Anki is open-source, meaning that anyone can get access to the code behind the app. If you have even a minimal coding background, you can start experimenting with tweaks to existing add-ons right away or even develop your own. It’s always a good idea to check r/medicalschoolanki for the latest updates or to share your work — if you see a need for a new or improved add-on, chances are someone else has had the same idea.

Above all, remember that Anki doesn’t have to be one-size-fits-all, and in fact, the platform works best when you take the time to personalize it. Over your time in medical school and even beyond, you can install or create as many add-ons as you need to make Anki the most effective tool for you.