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Enhanced Learning and Retention of Medical Knowledge Using the Mobile Flash card Application Anki



As medical schools condense the basic science phase of undergraduate medical education, it has become increasingly important to identify methods and tools that facilitate learning, mastery, and application of medical knowledge. One increasingly popular tool that promotes engagement with content is Anki, a web-based flash card system. Using Anki, medical students can access pre-made flash cards specifically tailored to prepare students for the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) Step 1 exam. The objective of this study was to identify Anki use and its association to USMLE Step 1 performance.


In March 2020, medical students in years 2, 3, and 4 who had completed USMLE Step 1 were administered a survey to measure Anki usage. The survey was locally developed and was reviewed by survey experts on campus. Survey responses were paired with USMLE Step 1 results for analyses. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used for analysis.


Anki usage was associated with higher USMLE Step 1 scores. Additionally, amongst those who used Anki, those with more consistent use had higher USMLE Step 1 scores and higher perceived levels of knowledge retention.


This research suggests that Anki is an effective educational tool that should be recommended to medical students alongside other evidenced-based study tools, such as the popular question bank USMLE World. Future research should attempt to identify a relationship between Anki usage and future clinical performance to demonstrate the implications that Anki has on clinical skills.

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Data is available upon request from the corresponding author.

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The authors would like to thank Dr. Neva Howard for providing input on the content of the survey instrument.

Author information




Mr. Lu, Mr. Farhat, and Dr. Beck Dallaghan actively participated in the conception and design of the study along with analysis and interpretation of the data. Each author contributed to the preparation of the manuscript and has approved the final submitted version.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gary L. Beck Dallaghan.

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This study was reviewed and approved by the institutional review board.

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Participants provided consent when they agreed to complete the survey instrument.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Lu, M., Farhat, J.H. & Beck Dallaghan, G.L. Enhanced Learning and Retention of Medical Knowledge Using the Mobile Flash card Application Anki. Med.Sci.Educ. 31, 1975–1981 (2021).

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  • Anki
  • USMLE Step 1
  • Spaced retrieval
  • Medical students
  • Flash cards