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Flashcard Formats

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Definition Questions
Rather than defining every medical term as it comes up in your subject, we are now asking that you only define terms that have not been (or will not be) defined in previous subjects. This will require some judgment on your part. When in doubt please include a definition. Please look at our new curriculum for the chronological order of subjects in our medical school. From  this curriculum it should be evident that histology terms do not need to be defined if you are writing a pediatric subtopic. Conversely however, pediatric terminology must be defined if you are using it in the histology subject. Again, when in doubt include the definition and for groups of words, please contact the technical editor.

Definition flashcards should answer with an elliptical sentence. You can use the word in a sentence to make clarify the definition. Consider this example:
Q: Concerning anatomy, what does superior mean?
A: Above. For example, the shoulder is superior to the elbow.

This form is ideal because it is short and to the point. This is called an elliptical sentence and is grammatically correct (see Grammar Tutorial).

You do not need to use quotation marks around a word you are defining. Use italics. Click here for more about italics.
Wrong: What is a "bacterium"?
Right: What is a bacterium?

Short Answers
Almost all of your questions should require answers consisting of a single fragment of information (often one or two words).  A fragment, as used here, is a piece of information that cannot be reasonably divided further. After using several flashcards with one fragment of information in the answer, you may make a more complex flashcard. It is not always feasible to use one or two word answers.

Compound Questions
Do you have compound questions that can be broken down into two or more simpler and shorter questions? A common problem question we see takes the form of: "Name the four parts of A." For example:

Q: What are the four main parts of the central nervous system?
A: The cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, and spinal cord.

We avoid this kind of question because it requires multiple fragments of information in the answer. Instead, write the question like this:

Q: The central nervous system is composed of the cerebellum, cerebrum, brain stem, and _______.
A: spinal cord

You will need to write many more flashcards to cover the same material, but the result will be information that the student can assimilate more easily.

You may also write questions that take the form: The cerebrum is a part of what structure? It is OK to have a compound question after you have written the simple questions to provide the foundation. A key principle in our learning concept in that we present the student with the simplest and shortest piece of information possible at one time. The failure to subdivide complex questions is the second most common error that we find.

*Note: More complex cards are okay, provided all the fragments of information appearing in them have been used as answers in prior cards.

Flashcards Should be Written Forwards and Backwards
Q: What is an atom?
A: The fundamental building block of all matter.

Q: What is the fundamental building block of all matter?
A: An atom.

Grammatically Self-Sufficient
Each flashcard should be grammatically self-sufficient and not depend upon the previous flashcard. In other words, when you write a flashcard, it should stand alone and be a grammatically correct sentence.

Unique Answer
Questions should have one logical answer. They should be phrased using the best sentence construction. Where this is difficult, you can use hints: Name a benzodiazepine (a class of drugs) starting with the letters cl. Here we are trying to write a question in which "clonazepam" (the generic name of a drug) is the answer. Click here for more details about using hints.

Have you used any mnemonics in flashcards? A mnemonic is something that you invent, preferably silly or ridiculous, such as a verse or formula, to aid in memory. Example:

Q: What is a good way to remember the parts of the central nervous system?
A: Come See Cool Brains! (CSCB - Cerebrum, Spinal cord, Cerebellum, Brain stem)

It is the silliness that makes it memorable. Another example is:

Q: If UDREW a picture of your daily activities, what would it include?
A: Use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs; Diet and elimination; Religious observances; Exercise and sleep; and Work and leisure.

Mnemonics are most appropriate for remembering lists or memorizing facts. A derivation is not a mnemonic. A mnemonic is something that you invent. It is not useful unless it is easy to remember.

Derivation Flashcards
Rather than writing derivations for all terms as they are used in each subject, basic terms will have derivations in special Medical Terminology subjects at the beginning of school. If a term has a derivation in one of these subjects or in other subjects prior to your subject, DO NOT give the derivation again. Continue to derivate ADVANCED terms IF they are appearing for the first time. Use judgment and our search engine to make sure you are in fact making a derivation that is needed. Remember that derivations are memory devices, so once a student knows a word, he/she won't need additional memory reinforcement. The word or word part goes in italics.


Q: What is the derivation of erythr-?
A: From the Greek, meaning red.

The dash indicates that the word continues and the term is a prefix. These aid memory. If a word has more than one part, each with a separate derivation, make each part a separate question.

For consistency, please use this form:

Q: What is the derivation of  ad-? From the Latin, meaning toward the center. Do not cite the actual foreign word unless it has some English significance (for example, the Greek word pathos, meaning pain).

This is also acceptable:
Q: The term orthopedics is derived from the Greek words for “straight” and c_______.
A: child

Do not use True/false or Yes/no or either/or
If you want to use these formats, seek permission from the managing editor. Generally, true/false flashcards do not teach the student.

Numerical Answers
When asking for a numerical answer to be supplied, always begin your question with "How many."

Deliver Comprehensive Coverage of the Material
There should be a sufficient number of flashcards on a topic to insure that the student learns the information. Consider the flashcard:

Q: A consists of B, C, and _______.
A: D.

If A, B, C, and D are all unfamiliar, this flashcard does not sufficiently test the student's comprehension of A, B, and C. At least three additional questions will need to be made, with A, B, and C respectively being required as answers.

Too many similar flashcards
We do not wish to discourage anyone from writing flashcards. Almost always, the problem is a person does not write enough flashcards to cover the material. Nonetheless, there are rare times when someone will write too many. For guidelines and examples, please click here.

Flashcards must test for at least one fragment
We have extensive coverage of the "fragment" of information concept. However, there is a corollary that a flashcard must also test for at least one new fragment for it to be useful. Simply using one sentence to generate a fill-in flashcard for each word in the sentence IS NOT testing for new fragments.

Unfamiliar Terms
Every drug name, microorganism name, chemical name - indeed every term not familiar to a tenth grader - must appear as the answer to at least one question. Do not be concerned about producing too many flashcards unless they are truly identical. For an example of this, please click here.

Drug Names
Unless approved by technical editor, all drugs should be named by their generic names. This is because generic names are the same from country to country while trade names vary greatly.

Teach Pronunciation
If any flashcard contains a word that a tenth-grader would not be able to pronounce, a pronunciation flashcard must be added. Our pronunciation format is phonetic. The word is spelled like it sounds, and accented syllables are in all caps. Also, use only fill-in-the-blank for this:

Q: The pronunciation of benzodiazepine is _______.
A: ben-zo-dy-AZE-a-pene

Subscripts and Superscripts, Bold and Italics

A lot of chemical formulae use subscripts, such as H2O. Since the data for our files will be stored as text files, you can write the questions in HTML. You can also include bold, italics and underlining in your questions. You MUST use HTML codes to do this. You cannot use the bold and italic in your word processor. For simple instructions on how to use HTML and a list of symbols you can use, please click here.

Big Picture
Do you present the student with flashcards that cover the "big picture" before flashcards that cover the details? Can you look beyond the words on the page and capture the essence of the information in the most memorable fashion?

Tenth-Grade Comprehension
Are there any flashcards that the average tenth-grader couldn't follow? Anything in these subjects can be reduced to a tenth-grade level if it is properly defined.


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