posted by Kevin Jubbal, M.D.
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 SRS?
The most common impediment to effective use with 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, knowing which plugins to use, and conducting research on either which are the best premade 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. 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.
Anki is an application you must download to use on your computer (macOS or Windows are both supported). On Android, the app is free to use. On iOS (iPhone/iPad), 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 premade decks (decks of flashcards created by other premeds studying for the MCAT) for free.
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 (macOS or Windows) or phone (Android or iOS). Memm offers a free two week trial, after which pricing is based on the subscription length purchased. For one month, the cost is $99, whereas for three months, the cost is $66/month.
With Anki, you are presented a series of flashcards in a random order. If you are using a premade deck, this presents as a significant issue as it’s not easy to memorize information if your content review and flashcards are out of sync. If you make your own cards, they are likely highly relevant to the topics you are studying, however this time creating cards could be better spent memorizing.
With Memm, you are first presented a Review Sheet, which includes condensed and high yield information that you need to know for the MCAT. It’s interactive, such that you can toggle key words and phrases to practice active recall. After studying a Review Sheet, you’ll be assigned Cards (or flashcards) that test you on the information you just reviewed. On the answer side of any Card, you’ll also see an excerpt from the Review 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.
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. For this reason, many users turn to premade decks. There are multiple popular premade decks, such as premed95, ortho528, MilesDown, Cubene, and others. Each deck has its respective strengths and weaknesses, but no deck is (1) comprehensive, (2) high yield (without extraneous fluff), and (3) consists of high quality flashcards through and through.
Memm is a premade professional resource, whereby you cannot create cards (although you can add notes and images to Cards). The important distinction is that a team of physicians who scored in the 99.9th percentile on the MCAT (equivalent to 525), 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 premade 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 webapp with a built-in reporting mechanism, allowing users to submit feedback. Additionally, after studying each of the premade 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 true understanding of the underlying concepts.
In short, the Memm content is simply more comprehensive, doesn’t rely on shortcuts, and includes exclusively high-yield information (without low-yield fluff).
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 produce high quality results.
Anki is a powerful tool that is highly user dependent. If a student is masterful in card creation, 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 they may be able to achieve a stellar MCAT score. But from our hundreds of user interviews, 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 provides an elevated experience, with an equally sophisticated spaced repetition algorithm, premade expertly curated Review 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.
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, and you can sign up here. No credit card required.