Anki VS Memory Palaces for subjects

Hello everyone,

Somehow I have the feeling Memory Palaces are not really suitable for school subjects.
Isn’t Spaced Repetition with Anki a better way of learning? I’ve been doubting about these two methods for a while. The idea of a Memory Palace is great, but isn’t it more applicable when you need to memorize abstract information like a shopping list or a lot of numbers in a certain order? With Anki I have the idea you get a more structurized way of learning in the long term. The program plans out when you need to rehearse material and that way you build a strong memory. Besides, creating flash cards takes less time than creating whole Memory Palaces.
Is Anki the best way to learn long-term information or am I completely wrong now?
I’d like to hear your opinion!

2 Likes

Spaced repetition isn‘t exclusive to Anki. You have to review memory palaces with spaced repetition, too, if you‘d like to remember them for long term.

I don‘t think it‘s necessary to choose either Anki or memory palaces. I use both extensively: memory palaces where I have lots of keywords to memorize and where accuracy is vital. I use Anki on the other hand when I need to memorize short definitions or just pieces of information with 5 keywords or less.
From my experience, I retain the information with much more accuracy when I put the information in a memory palace.
My spaced repetition schedule for memory palaces is a bit different than the standard one in Anki.
Here‘s the schedule I use:

6 Likes

Silvio is correct. You need to do spaced repetition with memory palaces if you want to remember long term. Head to head, I can’t imagine anki would lead to better stability and retrieval of information in the long term. You could just use memory palaces for particularly difficult information, and Anki for other stuff.

In my experience, with Anki it can take several times before you remember a piece of information well. I can literally read an Anki card and then 2 minutes later I can’t remember it. Then I might get it right, or 2 minutes later still get it wrong. The next day after having gotten the information right, I still might get it wrong, and get it wrong AGAIN 2 minutes later before I get it right again.

With memory palaces, once you make it, it’s usually is stuck the first time, and almost certainly the second time you review. From there spaced repetition is about keeping it from fading rather than getting it stuck in your brain in the first place.

6 Likes

If I had to bet my life on remembering something, I would use a memory palace.

Think about what memory palaces do: they create an orderly retrieval system for your memory. Like a library of the mind with a catalogue system. Anki helps you remember things more by brute-force, it doesn’t create a retrieval system. It’s more like a library with books randomly strewn about and the only reason you remember where your books are is because you pick them up and put them down a lot.

2 Likes

@QiJitsu, you are emphasizing one aspect of Anki and @SilvioB highlighted something for which Anki has gotten a lot of negative attention - especially from oxbridge students.

It is my opinion that you should make extensive use of mnemonic devices when making your flashcards in Anki.

This is a very basic one for a Greek word συ (su)


The reason you forget the piece of information is because you didn’t make it memorable. Anki is capable of so much more than just brute force.

Then to address @SilvioB. Just because it is recommended that you only include one item per card does not mean it can only be one word or a phrase. Sticking to one concept is a much better approach.

An example would be that you are preparing for an essay type question. The front of the card might be the question, but on the back you can go nuts. As long as it makes sense to you.

This is Ali Abdaal and in this video he briefly explains the approach that he uses.
Ali Abdaal - How to use Anki.

One of his friends described his use of Anki like this: “I only put things in Anki if I want to remember it. Once it’s in Anki, I know it will be uploaded into my brain.” (Cambridge medical student - top of class)

Unfortunately that interview is part of a Skillshare video.

My point is, combine Anki with everything you know about the Art of Memory. Use mnemonics, use the Feynman technique, and capitalize on the spaced repetition algorithm(but also change the algorithm so that it only switches to long-term memory after you really know it)

4 Likes

Hi Silvio, how do you work out your review days? Are they all measured from day one, for example 6 months from day one, 1 year from day one, 2 years from day one. Or are they 24 hours, then 3 days after the second review, then 7 days after the third review?
How do you keep track of all your reviews? Thanks for your time.

2 Likes

I may not have been very clear in the post I made about my review schedule, sorry for that. I do it like this:

If I learn something today, I review it immediately after memorizing (1st review). Then I add 24 hours from that 1st review. From the 2nd review I add 3 days. The time is always added from the most recent review.

Here’s an example
Review 1: Immediately after memorizing
Review 2: 24 hours after Review 1
Review 3: 3 days after Review 2
Review 4: 7 days after Review 3
and so on.

I hope this helps :slight_smile:

4 Likes

Thank you all for the answers!
Perhaps it’s a better idea after all to combine both Anki and Memory Palaces. But two problems I can think of are:

  1. In a Memory Palace you need to navigate a certain route, while Anki mixes everything up (which may mean you need to navigate along 300 other loci’s in your Memory Palace to get one answer for a question in Anki).
  2. Constructing Memory Palaces takes loads of time which I don’t have (therefore I’m definitely NOT going to use it for learning vocabulary, unless reusing one palace works).

Are these common problems or am I whining too much now? :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

(1) That’s not true. I can go immediately to a loci and see what’s there and skip all around within a palace.

(2) If you are making a virtual memory palace from scratch then there’s some extra time involved. If you’re using a real place that’s ready to go then it’s not slow. It’s only slow if your imagination is slow.

3 Likes

Hi QiJitsu,

Does anyone use actual building plans to build a mental memory palace?

Are there available large memory palaces I can use?

If the topic you are learning expands do you build a mental extension to your memory palace?

Thanks for your time.

1 Like
  1. I assume that’s on the point where you really know your palace. And not just made it yesterday or so.

  2. I mean choosing the right loci’s when you’re constructing a palace takes some more time (although it is a physical location). But obviously that will improve when you have some experience.

It would take me longer to find a picture on the internet to put into Anki than to create an image in my mind, and the amount of time it would take me to create a unique picture in MS paint or where ever you got that (:wink:) is certainly far longer than creating an image in your mind. Although the act of physically drawing the picture is a great mnemonic itself.

But you are of course correct, using other mnemonics like adding pictures to Anki is an option which makes it more powerful than text alone. I didn’t mean to build a straw-man against Anki. :slight_smile:

2 Likes

I think we are talking about different methods that combine very well together. For example, let’s say you made an anki card that asks why something happens and you know how to answer this based only on direct deduction (like hormone X increases so it changes condition Y that results in situation Z). So you don’t need a memory palace, if you understand well the basics of the disease, then you will remember. Now not everyone can be deduced with logic.
Lots of things are brute force memorization. Let’s say you have another case:

Disease A: most common after menopause
Disease B: most common after 60 years old
Disease C: most common in the 30’s

Pretty common in medicine, and sometimes we just don’t know why this happens. You make 3 cards, in the first few days you will remember easily. But as soon as anki starts to increase the intervals and you add hundreds or thousands of other cards, many of which asking the epidemiology of different diseases, then your brain will make such a confusion that you will MIX this information. Hence you must try another thing like memory palaces.

But the important thing: you don’t need to create memory palaces for everything. I understand you should use it when the information is VERY RELEVANT to your purposes (high yield information) AND you can’t derive using pure logic.

But you also have other tools like acronyms that works pretty well in some situations:
a) Depression altered signs and symptoms (SIGECAPS = Sleep, Interests, Guilt…)
b) Differential diagnosis for abnormal uterine bleeding (PALM-COEIN = Polyps, Adenomyosis, Leiomyoma, Malignancy…)

So you can learn and apply different techniques.

1 Like

Very good point. I agree with this…I have the same experience. There are some topics that are easy to memorize with Anki alone. But there are some materials that just won’t stick to my memory. I need Memory Palace for these…

In fact,now I use Memory Palace for almost all subjects! I feel,it is very easy to understand and memorize something once I encode it with a Memory Palace…Then,after the initial encoding with MP, I use SRS technique to store the material in my long term memory…I combine mnemonics with SRS…

1 Like

I understand this and I think it’s a good way to learn. But do you think you need a Memory Palace when studying with Anki? Or are loose mnemonics enough?

I know you weren’t asking me, but the fact that most people have never heard of memory palaces and many get through school just fine shows that studying without them can be enough.

1 Like

Of course that’s true. But I want to make sure I’m using the most effective method! :slight_smile:

I kinda agree with @QiJitsu on this. But I’d like add that just the fact you are using something to increase the efficiency/effectiveness of your time already puts you in a different league.

As to which is better, I think that really depends on you. If you like the process of creating memory palaces and populating them more than creating flashcards, then you have your answer.

:grin: now on to some real advice, stop wasting time trying to find the best approach. Just study already!

2 Likes

I think this is a delusion. Using the palace of memory, you can memorize complete notes on a variety of subjects. Sometimes repeating this, you can keep it in your head indefinitely. No other method allows you to learn so fast.

1 Like

If that is the case then nothing beats MP. You see the problem is that we forget information, anki and mp are two methods the solve that problem. this thing is MP is a skill that needs more investment than anki, as a result, the pay off is multiple times. Most people are not ready to make that investment so they settle for anki.
There is doubt you have movies you watched years back that are still in your head, a great fight scene, a beautiful ending, a crazy plot twist, MP builds on those principles.
Compare that to what you were thought in early school years, much have been forgotten with bits and pieces here and there, but you had it when you needed it, that is more of how anki works.
MP compresses bulk info into pictures that are easy to retrieve, and depending on your skill level, extremely large info can be condensed, an apple can retrieve snow white, adam and eve, apple juice,etc. Anki can try but can’t beat Memory Palace.
But the mistake made especially by students is that MP is for info retrieval, if you lack understanding of the information, you will retrieve but it will be useless.
with anki, you can put the info in context so that when you want to retreive, you can do so with understanding, that’s why medical students like Ali prefered anki, cause he will put large info in the card and study it as he was recalling.
i can write more but am tired, hope that helps…but to summarise
Anki - study info in context
MP - compress info for retrieval.
lastly, if you don’t need to remember something for years and years, anki is a lot cheaper timewise, if you want to speed up info collection to remembering whatever you need to remember, invest in the skill of Mnemonics

3 Likes