Settings for using Anki to prepare for a large exam

If you have started using Anki to help prepare for a large exam some weeks or months in the future, you may wonder how you should best configure it to get you ready for the test. Anki’s default settings are primarily configured to be useful for learning and remembering information over the long term, but this is usually the best way to prepare for an exam as well – you just need to make sure that you finish the material in enough time to be ready for the exam when it comes.

How many new cards per day?

The most important question is how many new cards you need to study every day in order to be ready by the time the test comes around. A very simple way to calculate this is to divide the total number of cards you have by the number of days you have to study, but before doing this, you should usually make a couple of modifications to the number of days you have to study:

  • If you have the time, generally it is a good idea to leave 2–4 weeks between the time you will study the last new material and the time you will be tested on it. This way, you have time to consolidate all of the material so you will feel confident on it, as well as some time to do extra review right before the test. So you should subtract somewhere between 14 and 30 days from the number of days you have left.
  • If you’re like most people, you probably will miss a few days of study now and then, so it’s a good idea to plan to subtract a few days for this so that you won’t get further behind when you do.
  • If you anticipate adding more cards between now and the exam, you will need to account for the amount of extra material you plan to add.

After making these modifications, you can divide the total number of cards in your deck by the adjusted number of days to get the number of new cards per day you should study; you can set this number on the new cards tab of the deck options screen. You can find out how many new cards are in the deck by selecting it in the deck list, choosing Browse at the top of the window, pressing Enter to search for the current deck, and looking at the title bar.

Doing extra review

If you get through all of your new cards with time to spare and your exam is in a couple of days, you may wish to run quickly through all of your cards or some subset of them to brush up on the ones that you’ve forgotten since your last review. You can use Anki’s custom study feature to study extra cards; please see the linked section of the manual for instructions and available options.