If you’re a premed that will be taking the MCAT in the future, you’ve likely heard about the power of spaced repetition. Between Anki and Memm, which is better? Let’s break it down category by category.
When it comes to memorization, spaced repetition with active recall is king – not only has this been demonstrated repeatedly in the literature, but increasing numbers of medical students have turned to spaced repetition software (SRS), such as Anki, to most effectively and efficiently memorize new information.
Learning from the studying expertise of medical students, increasing numbers of premeds studying for the MCAT have turned to Anki as well. Spaced repetition, after all, is the most effective way to memorize new information. But not all spaced repetition software is created equal. Will Anki remain king, or will Memm dethrone the beloved flashcard app?
Disclaimer: Kevin Jubbal was involved in the creation of Memm.
1 | Learning Curve of the Tool
The most common and severe impediment to Anki is the learning curve involved. It’s not easy to simply pick up, begin using, and quickly start studying for the MCAT. Rather, Anki requires technical knowledge to properly set-up including knowing which plugins to use and conducting research on either which are the best pre-made decks to use, or how to make good flashcards yourself.
This last point cannot be overstated. The overwhelming majority of students make poor cards, not following the established flashcard best practices. This is only natural – there’s a learning curve involved with making good flashcards. Yet the cost is tremendous. Reasons for poor flashcards are wide-ranging, such as making too many cards, or putting too much information on cards, or not testing discrete information. These factors result in minimal or even negative value from using Anki, causing students to drop spaced repetition altogether.
Memm, on the other hand, addresses the spaced repetition barriers to entry. There are no plugins to install, no flashcards to make, and no confusing interface between the user and studying for the MCAT. You simply log in and begin studying. There’s a minimal learning curve, and the flashcards are comprehensive and follow best practices.
This round easily goes to Memm.
2 | Cost
Next up, the cost. Anki is an application you must download to use on your computer, with both macOS or Windows being supported. On Android, the app is free to use. On iOS, you must pay a one time fee of $25 to install the app. If you’re on a tighter budget, you can always opt to use the web app interface on your phone, although this may be laggy, less customizable, and less robust than buying the dedicated Anki iOS app.
This just provides you access to the actual spaced repetition software, without any of the MCAT related content. Creating cards is free to do – it simply requires a large amount of time and effort. You can also download pre-made decks for free, which are decks of flashcards created by other premeds studying for the MCAT.
Memm is an online study tool that doesn’t require installation of any additional software – it’s optimized to work smoothly and seamlessly in your web browser, whether on your computer, phone, or any device with a modern web browser. Memm also offers a free 7-day trial, after which pricing is based on the subscription length purchased.
While Memm is reasonably priced, it’s hard to beat free, so the winner in this round is Anki.
3 | Learning New MCAT Content
Third, let’s talk about learning new MCAT content. With Anki, you’re presented with a series of flashcards in random order. If you are using a pre-made deck, this presents a significant issue as it’s not easy to memorize information if your content review and flashcards are out of sync. Tags can help, but it’s far from a perfect solution. You may find yourself reviewing the biology tag, but looking at cellular bio or metabolism when you wanted to reinforce molecular biology instead.
You can get around this by making your own cards. That way, you can simply create cards relevant to the topics you are studying at any given moment. However, the added time and effort spent creating cards could be better spent memorizing.
With Memm, you are first presented a Sheet, which includes condensed, well organized, and high yield information that you need to know for the MCAT. It’s interactive, such that you can toggle keywords and phrases to practice active recall. After studying a Sheet, you’ll be assigned Cards that test you on the information you just reviewed. On the answer side of any Card, you’ll also see an excerpt from the Sheet that highlights the information you were just tested on.
This way, you aren’t studying facts in isolation, but rather are provided context to every fact. You also don’t need to waste energy deciding what you should or should not memorize – Memm already handles that for you.
The winner in this round is clear – Memm takes it hands down.
4 | Quality of MCAT Content
Next up, the quality of MCAT content. Anki allows users to create their own cards. However, unless the user is well versed in card creation and best practices, the card quality amongst most Anki users is highly compromised and as a result, learning requires significantly more time and effort. For this reason, many users turn to pre-made decks. There are multiple popular pre-made decks, such as premed95, ortho528, MilesDown, Cubene, and others. Each deck has its respective strengths and weaknesses, but no deck has all three aspects of a killer deck:
(2) high yield (without extraneous fluff)
(3) consists of high-quality flashcards through and through.
Memm is a pre-made professional resource, whereby you cannot create cards (although you are able to add notes and images to Cards for customizability). The important distinction is that two physicians who scored in the 99.9th percentile on the MCAT, including yours truly, and who have successfully tutored dozens of students on the MCAT to achieve stellar results, designed the product from the ground up, and made all the content from scratch.
These advantages hold substantial weight. All pre-made MCAT decks contain errors, and because of the design of Anki decks, these issues are not easily resolved or updated. Memm, on the other hand, is a continuously updated web app with a built-in reporting mechanism, allowing users to submit feedback.
Additionally, after studying each of the pre-made MCAT decks in detail, the Memm team identified significant weaknesses in each and how to overcome them. Some decks place far too much information on each card, reducing the effectiveness of spaced repetition with active recall. Others are overly reliant on cloze deletions, thus reinforcing pattern recognition rather than a true understanding of the underlying concepts.
In short, the Memm content is more comprehensive, doesn’t rely on shortcuts, and includes exclusively high-yield information without low-yield fluff.
The winner in this round is Memm without question.
5 | Effectiveness in MCAT Memorization & Score Improvement
At the end of the day, the aforementioned factors pale in comparison and fade away when we ask the most important question: Which tool will most effectively improve your MCAT score?
The answer to this question is, unfortunately, far from clear-cut. You can attain a top MCAT score in record time using either tool, but the question is which one will more reliably and predictably produce high-quality results.
Anki is a powerful tool that is highly user-dependent. If a student is masterful in card creation (which is no easy task), is impeccable in not missing any scheduled flashcards, is somehow able to overcome the issues with missing context, and is a power user who is comfortable constantly tweaking settings, plugins, and options, then he or she may be able to achieve a stellar MCAT score.
But from our hundreds of user interviews, plus years of students reaching out to me about Anki due to my popular Anki YouTube playlist, it’s clear that it’s far more likely that you’ll either (1) get sick of Anki and drop it, limiting its potential benefit, or (2) use Anki improperly, resulting in suboptimal memorization and poor return on investment for your time.
Memm, on the other hand, provides an elevated experience with an equally sophisticated spaced repetition algorithm, pre-made expertly curated Sheets and Cards, an easy-to-use interface, and flexible scheduling options that adapt to each student’s particular needs. It addresses the issues with Anki in a single, purpose-built solution for students interested in accelerating knowledge acquisition for the MCAT.
The winner here is Memm.
So Who Won Overall?
In short, Anki is a powerful tool that proved the concept of spaced repetition is powerful and worthwhile. Memm evolved the promise of spaced repetition with active recall to something much greater and purpose-built. If you’re a premed student looking to rapidly accelerate your MCAT knowledge and memorization, the answer is clear – there’s no tool built like Memm.
Memm offers a 7-day free trial, no credit card required. You can sign up at Memm.io and use the coupon code MSI2020 for 20% off your plan.
Have you tried out Memm yet? What was your experience like? Let me know with a comment down below. If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like my post on Your Problem Studying for the MCAT or 7 Evidence-Based Study Strategies. Much love to you all and happy studying!