Anki Medical Reddit

  • The most comprehensive, epic anki deck in history. The anki deck to rule all anki decks. No but in all seriousness someone at my medical school gradually and painstakingly re-made Zanki (both for Step 1 and Step 2) but this time with citations / screen shots from First Aid, Atlas of Human Anatomy, Robbin's Pathology, Goljan's Lectures, UWorld, and Step Up to Medicine, PLUS added.
  • Add-ons are a great way to customize Anki to your needs. Sometimes you can’t find all the features you need with the officially shipped versions of Anki. Add-ons are created by independent developers and work seamlessly with the native app.
  • Reddit for Anki in medical school. Smashing that spacebar. Created May 22, 2017. Top posts march 19th 2018 uworld anki deck reddit.

Image Occlusion Enhanced. This is an absolute MUST have add-on for anyone studying a subject.

Latest Update: 20 July 2020.

This short guide pertains directly to the use of Anki with pre-clinical coursework, although some principles may apply to medical training more broadly. This guide also assumes some working familiarity with Anki. If you are looking for a primer on Anki, please access this guide before proceeding further.

Table of Contents

  • Principles
  • Utilizing Anki for Lecture Content
  • Utilizing Anki for Early Step Studying
  • Principles for Anki
  • Recommended Add-Ons
  • Additional Resources


The use of Anki during pre-clinical training depends entirely on one’s study objective, which can be conceived of as lying along a spectrum:

At one end, the priority is placed entirely on studying for Step 1 and shelf exams, while on the other end, learning lecture material is the sole focus. (Increasingly, fewer medical school curricula “teach to the test” and thus may omit several topics that are relevant for board examinations from lectures.)

The majority of pre-clinical students likely find themselves in the middle of this spectrum, aiming to establish a good grasp on lecture content while also steadily preparing for Step (see Approach 3 below).

Approach 1: Early Step Studying

You are already planning on pursuing a competitive speciality; you are particularly Type A and like being “ahead of the curve;” you enjoy standardized examinations and are comfortable with less-than-perfect performance on pre-clinical assessments

  • Learn content from a comprehensive commercial resource (listed in “Resources” below) in conjunction with First Aid.
  • Study using the pre-made AnKing deck (increasingly the gold standard), unsuspending cards from tags as supplemental videos are viewed (see “Utilizing Anki for Early Step Studying” below).
    • Fill in gaps, as needed, using your preferred comprehensive resource.
  • Test yourself with a commercial question bank (listed in “Resources” below)
  • Reinforce the material by consistently reviewing your Anki cards and watching lectures provided by your medical school, taking notes on any material not covered in the above comprehensive resources.
    • To save on time, I recommended not making your own Anki cards for any lecture material not found in the AnKing deck. You might instead utilize short-term memory before assessments by reviewing/cramming your notes.

Approach 2: Learning Lecture Material

You are not currently planning to pursue a competitive speciality; you are not currently too focused on standardized exams; you want to focus on learning material rather than just being “taught to the test,” which might bring on some undue stressand not bode well for performance on pre-clinical quizzes and exams

  • Learn content from lectures provided by your medical school, taking diligent notes
  • Study by creating all of your own Anki cards (absolutely not recommended) or searching the AnKing deck for cards that align with lecture content in addition to making your own cards for material not covered in AnKing (see “Utilizing Anki for Lecture Content” below)
  • Test yourself with the study objectives provided by lecturers, if available, as well as a commercial question bank, if desired.
  • Reinforce the material by consistently reviewing your Anki cards and reviewing your notes, if helpful

Approach 3: Middle Ground Between Step and Lecture

You are considering a somewhat competitive speciality; you don’t want the stress of studying for Step years in advance or the stress of having to catch up during the Dedicated period by not chipping away at some of the material now

  • Learn content from lectures provided by your medical school, taking diligent notes
  • Studyby unsuspending cards from the AnKing deck
    • As suggested above, I also recommend not making your own cards for lecture material not covered in AnKing
  • Test yourself using a commercial question bank
  • Reinforce the material through watching some supplemental videos from a comprehensive resource to fill in gaps and deepen knowledge.
    • Utilize short-term memory before assessments by reviewing/cramming your notes for any material not covered in AnKing.

Utilizing Anki for Lecture Content

If you’re planning to use Anki in conjunction with lecture material, you will likely spend some time simply navigating the AnKing deck before you begin reviewing cards. Here are a few tips:

  • When starting fresh, suspend all of the cards within the AnKing deck and then judiciously unsuspend cards as related material is covered in lecture or a supplementary resource
    • The AnKing deck tags utilize the Hierachical Tags add-on. This is a necessity for ease of use.
  • Use the operator “w:TEXT” in your search to refine the results. For instance, if you’re learning about the antibiotic TMP (trimethoprim), searching for “TMP” will bring up thousands of cards unrelated to the medication. Searching for “w:TMP” returns fewer than 100 cards, all of which concern the antibiotic.
  • Tag the cards that you’re unsuspending instead of moving them into their own deck. You can then use the powerful filtered decks functionality within Anki to specifically study those cards.
    • The Hierachical Tags add-on allows you to be more precise in tagging cards, using the notation “::” in between tags to nest them within parent tags. For instead, I tagged my cards, “M1::BLOCK::Week_#::LECTURE” for each lecture, which would then be contained as M1 → BLOCK → Week_# → LECTURE.
    • I would then use a filtered deck to study each week of lecture material.
  • There is a dedicated field for “Lecture Notes” in the AnKing master card type. Here, you may consider including a screenshot of lecture slide(s) or text that detailed a particular topic in lecture to better reinforce material.

Utilizing Anki for Early Step Studying

The extensive tagging within the AnKing deck makes reviewing cards in conjunction with supplemental review videos (in particular, those from Boards and Beyond, Pathoma, Physeo, Pixorize, and Sketchy) a piece of cake.

  • When starting fresh, suspend all of the cards within the AnKing deck.
  • The AnKing deck tags utilize the Hierachical Tags add-on. This is a necessity for ease of use.
  • As you watch specific supplemental videos, unsuspend all of the cards that have that specific tag. You can then begin to review them in the AnKing deck itself or utilize the filtered decks functionality.
    • There is a special field in the AnKing master card type for “Missed Questions” for images of questions you have missed in question banks. You might also consider tagging cards that align missed questions so that they can be reviewed in a filtered deck. The AnKing team put out an excellent video detailing this approach.

Principles for Anki

Although Anki can be a powerful means of memorizing vast amounts of material, some specific hurdles still remain:

  1. Loss of context. Anki can give you piercing clarity of “trees” in lieu of the “forest.” You may memorize very particular details about conditions/pathways/etc, but lose the context in which that information is found and is useful.
  2. Passivity and pattern recognition. If you’re not careful, Anki becomes nothing more than pattern recognition (I see this string of words together and I know which words fill in the blank), preventing any actual learning or retention of material from occurring.


  1. Loss of context
    1. Utilize built-in features. Almost all of the AnKing cards link to relevant excerpts and screenshots from First Aid, Sketchy, Pathoma, and Costanza. Although it adds a bit of time to reviews, clicking through and skimming these extra resources helps to reinforce the material and understand its relevance. (In addition, I also add screenshots of lecture slides to my cards to further develop these connections.) These features also help to correct for the passivity and pattern recognition problem specified above.
    2. Utilize the pop-up dictionary add-on or the AMBOSS add-on. The pop-up dictionary add-on allows you to instantly see other instances of a given term or concept in your deck, further forming connections. The AMBOSS add-on provides a streamlined definition for specific concepts or terms and provides a link to the relevant article on the AMBOSS website.
    3. Edit cards. Although there can be a slight learning curve involved in editing cards, adding your own notes and mnemonics to Anki cards can better your grasp on the material in question.
      1. For example, this card didn’t immediately make sense to me and I added this short explanation to the “Extra” section:
  1. Passivity and pattern recognition
    1. Maintain a high degree of concentration when doing Anki reviews. Anki is valuable insofar as it allows you to actively recall previously learned material. Anki shouldn’t be treated as your primary source of information (lecture or Boards and Beyond/Pathoma/Osmosis videos should be, ideally). More, if reviews are approached passively–you’re just clicking through cards without trying to actually remember information–the exercise is almost futile. Thus, you should aim to be as focused as possible when using Anki.
      1. Using a pomodoro timer or a similar time-block system can give you that “under the gun” feeling and potentially help with focus.
    2. Be (a bit) hard on yourself. Although it can be so easy to press “Good” when you “kinda” remember what a card is asking, get into the practice of repeating cards when you don’t yet have a firm grasp on the material. Properly evaluating your performance makes the act of reviewing cards more active and has the potential to increase your long-term retention.
    3. Advice from Reddit:
      1. “Read the card out loud to yourself & slowly. Reading it in your head is fine for test questions but make sure you are consciously answering the card & not just blurting it out. Even if I know the card immediately I still read the sentence then actively try to recall facts about the answer & associated information. A weird phenomenon I noticed was that sometimes I could rapidly answer a card only on instinct but once I started to slow down & answer trying to consciously think about it I wouldn’t be able to answer it.

Recommended Add-Ons

*Highly* recommended add-ons are listedwith a blue background.

AMBOSS pop-up definitions

Automatically detects terms within an Anki card and provides a streamlined pop-up definition. Requires a subscription to AMBOSS.

Anki Killstreaks

Adds some gamification to make Anki reviews more palatable. Works well in conjunction with Hitmarkers.


There are a number of medications, bacteria, fungi, among other topics that have particularly hard-to-pronounce names. Using this add-on allows for text-to-speech output within Anki cards, automatically pronouncing whatever term you desire.

See the instructions on the add-on page. There is a bit of a learning curve.

Batch Editing

Seamlessly paste text or images to fields in multiple cards, which is especially helpful when utilizing screenshots from lecture slides.

See the instructions on the add-on page. There is a bit of a learning curve.

Browser Resizer

Makes the margins in the Browser smaller (or larger) for ease of use.

Allows for quicker searches in the Browser. See the instructions on the add-on page.

Browser Side-by-Side Editor

Allows the editor in the Browser to be viewed on the right side of the screen, instead of at the bottom.

Create Filtered Decks in Browser

Create filtered decks using tags within the Browser.

See the instructions on the add-on page. There is a bit of a learning curve.

Custom Background Image

Change the background of the Decks screen in Anki. See the instructors on the add-on page.

Customize Sidebar

Condenses the sidebar in the Browser and makes it easier to navigate.

Deck Stats

Adds additional information to the Decks screen.

Edit Field During Review

Allows fields within a card to be edited during review, which can helpful if you spot a typo or want to add additional details or images.


Adds buttons to the top row of the Browser.

Frozen Fields

Maintains text within a field or fields when creating successive cards.

Hierarchical Tags

As noted above, allows for better organization of tags and ease of use of the AnKing deck.

BetterTags uses the same notion and includes other functionalities, but required Patreon support of Glutanimate, a renowned Anki creator.

Hint Hotkeys

Allows for hints to be revealed by hitting “H” (or another specific key) during reviews. Especially helpful in conjunction with right-handed reviews.


Adds some gamification to make Anki reviews more palatable. Works well in conjunction with Anki Killstreaks.

Image Occlusion

Useful if you will be making cards involving diagrams, such as metabolic pathways or anatomical representations.

Accredited Billing And Coding Programs

King of All Button Add-ons

Customizes the answer buttons when reviewing cards.

More Deck Stats and Time Left

Adds additional information to the Decks screen.

Opening the Same Window Multiple Times

Allows multiple instances of a window (e.g. Browser or Editor) to be opened within Anki.

Progress Graphs

Adds additional information to the Stats screen.

Resize Images in Editor

RedditAnki Medical Reddit

Special Fields

Allows tags to be shared between students without overwriting other elements of cards in a pre-made deck. See video tutorial.

Spelling Police

Reddit Medical School Anki Clerkships

Spell-checker for Anki.

Rebuild All Button

Adds a button to rebuild all filtered decks to the home screen.



Comprehensive Step 1 Resources

  • Boards and Beyond
  • Osmosis
  • Pathoma
  • Physeo
  • Pixorize
  • Sketchy

Question Banks for Step 1

  • USMLE-Rx
  • Kaplan

UWorld and NMBE practice exams are considered sine quo non in Step 1 prep for more than 90% of American medical students; as such, they should be reserved only for your dedicated Step 1 studyperiod.

Reading Time: 4min

Medical School Reddit

I’ve been a heavy user of Anki for a few years now, and it’s changed my life quite a bit. This post from late 2016 explains it quite well, and you should probably read that first if you’re not familiar with Anki and these kinds of learning systems.

Earlier this year I dug into Tinycards, but I was fairly unimpressed and Anki was still tops for me. However, over the past few weeks I’ve been playing with Brainscape quite a bit and now I’m making the switch away from Anki.

They’re very similar systems; in both cases you can download or create your own decks (including text, images, sound, etc), and then review the flashcards (with varying algorithmic “spaced repetition systems”) to begin to learn them.


Why switch?

It was a tough decision to switch over, as there are some things I prefer with Anki. In particular, while Brainscape’s algorithm is great for many kinds of learning (here is a bit about their algorithm, and this white paper goes very deep into it), Anki’s is better for others. I kind of wish I could combine the two systems; I even considered using both side-by-side for different kinds of content, but decided that was overkill.


Another thing I like about Anki is the tagging system it uses. I can have one card with multiple tags, so I can view it in different scenarios (such as people that I know from our #meetup, but also might be a #client). Brainscape forces each card into their own deck, so I’ve had to decide where to put certain cards.

Lastly, Anki wins on price. It’s free for most systems (and $25 on iOS), whereas Brainscape pricing goes from $9.99/mo up to $79.99 for lifetime. For me it’s a pretty easy call to just spend the $80 and have it forever, and their pricing is certainly affordable, but Anki is certainly lower priced.

Where Brainscape wins

All of the above items aside, I’ve found Brainscape to be a better solution for me, for reasons such as:

Look and feel

Anki works well, and that’s the most important thing, but Brainscape just feels so much better. Anki feels like Windows 98, whereas Brainscape feels like a modern app.


This was a big one for me. While you can share decks in Anki, you’re really just giving a copy to someone. If you make changes, they don’t see them. With Brainscape, you can truly share decks and continue to refine them. For us, this means we can have a few GreenMellen-focused decks (clients, messaging, etc) and always be tweaking them for the team.

Available decks

While Anki has a large collection of user-generated decks, Brainscape seems to have many more. Further, because Brainscape is a paid service they’re able to create quite a few “official” decks that are nicely curated. In particular, their knowledge rehab set (consisting of 33 decks and 2099 cards) is an awesome way to improve your general knowledge. Below are some of their available subjects; some are available to everyone, and some are locked to premium users only. Once you’re a premium user, though, every deck is available (no one-off purchases required):

Open-ended study

I went back and forth on which method I prefer on this, and there are advantages to each, but I’m liking Brainscape’s open-ended study method more than Anki’s strict repetition system.

  • With Anki, you have a set number of cards to review each day, based on the calculated “spaced repetition” that you need to see them with. I kind of liked knowing I needed to review x cards each day, as it gave me a goal. However, studying extra was kind of a pain and seemed to be discouraged by the app.
  • With Brainscape, it’s more open-ended. You’re always trying to get to 100% “mastery” of each subject, but that’s it. If you want to study for 10 minutes or three hours, that’s up to you. You can see in the screenshot below some of my various subjects on the left (with the gray bar showing mastery of each) and then the mastery level of each deck inside of “Knowledge Rehab” in the center.

My only wish is that Brainscape would add some kind of “decay” feature, or something to slowly lower mastery over time. If I study a subject hard and get 100% mastery, that’s great. A year from now, though, I certainly will have forgotten parts of it. Brainscape says you should simply review subjects periodically, but something that automatically slowly diminishes the mastery score over time would really help.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with either. I’m on board with Brainscape now, and I’m hoping to drag some GreenMellen colleagues with me. If you prefer Anki, I can totally see that too.

If you’re wanting to dig into Brainscape, here are a few video tutorials on Brainscape to get you started.

Anki Med Reddit

Do you use a system like Brainscape or Anki? Which system works best for you?