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
Definition flashcards should answer with an elliptical sentence. You
can use the word in a sentence to make clarify the definition. Consider
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
You do not need to use quotation marks around a word you are defining.
Use italics. Click here for more about
Wrong: What is a "bacterium"?
Right: What is a bacterium?
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.
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:
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
*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
What is an atom?
A: The fundamental building block of all matter.
is the fundamental building block of all matter?
A: An atom.
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.
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
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
Q: What is a good way to remember the parts of the central nervous
See Cool Brains! (CSCB - Cerebrum, Spinal cord, Cerebellum, Brain stem)
is the silliness that makes it memorable. Another
Q: If UDREW a picture of your daily activities, what would
A: Use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs; Diet and elimination;
Religious observances; Exercise and sleep; and Work and leisure.
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.
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
This is also acceptable:
Q: The term orthopedics is derived from the Greek words for “straight” and
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.
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 _______.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 _______.
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.
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?
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