Flip, flip, flip: Who is king of online flashcards?

Flickr: koalazymonkey

Flip. Flip. Flip.

Countless hours are spent every year by students trying to memorize through repetition. (Rote learning, by the way, isn’t a dead art, according to this Edutopia article.)

But many students are substituting “flip, flip, flip” with “click, click, click” or “tap, tap, tap.”

The options for online flashcard websites are numerous, and it seems that each site is a little different. If you’re new to online flashcards, here’s what’s similar across the board for most online flashcard sites:

  • You can create their own flashcards (term and definition) and often can add audio and images to them.
  • Flashcard decks created by others are searchable and can be studied if you don’t want to make your own.
  • Most sites offer a basic “flashcard flip,” where you view the card and can flip it to see if you got the answer right. Most also offer some sort of quiz or test feature, where you can check your progress after you’ve studied the terms.
  • Sites will often log which cards you struggle with and provide feedback or additional learning opportunities.
  • Mobile apps and/or mobile web versions of the site are often available.

Beyond that, many sites have provided their own brand of innovation to stand out from the competition. Below, I’ll review the unique points of several sites and give my personal recommendations for which ones to use.
Study Blue

StudyBlue (www.studyblue.com)

StudyBlue has some creative features that stand out. It will send you a text message to remind you to study and you can customize the kinds of tests you take. Its clean, simple and classy design is inviting. But its best features aren’t available for free ($30/year or $5/mo. premium), which turns the penny pincher in me off, especially when so many alternatives exists.

Flashcard Machine

Flashcard Machine (www.flashcardmachine.com)

Flashcard Machine is your standard online flashcard site. Options are limited to flipping through cards and taking multiple-choice quizzes. Users can flag trouble cards themselves for more practice. An advanced search (by title, author, description, subject and level) is free, which is a paid option for StudyBlue. iOS and Android apps are available, but they’re not free.


Quizlet (www.quizlet.com)

Quizlet offers a nice mix of polish and options. Learning options include a fill-in-the-blank test, a test where terms are read aloud and spelled, and a test with a variety of questions. Learning games include the catch scatter (match scattered terms together) and space race (type the answer before it crashes). Its iPhone app includes a fun tactile twist on the scatter game.

Flashcard Exchange

Flashcard Exchange (www.flashcardexchange.com)

Flashcard Exchange boasts two unique features: cram mode and three-sided cards. In cram mode, students engage in a structured practice where trouble cards are repeated and mastered cards (those correctly answered five times) are set aside. Three-sided cards include a term, a definition and a hint. Flashcard Exchange integrates its card decks with other flashcard mobile apps.

Study Stack

Study Stack (www.studystack.com)

I developed a quick love/hate relationship with Study Stack. It easily has the best variety of learning games, including matching, hangman, crossword, unscramble, bug match (a spider chases and eats the bug matching the correct answer) and hungry bug (a caterpillar gobbles correct answers and grows, making the game more challenging). However, the site is laden with ads and is glitchy.

Brain Flips

Brain Flips (www.brainflips.com)

Brain Flips appears to be the online flashcard site geared toward the younger crowd. Its fun design uses cartoonish characters, flashy animations and lots of color. It’s also the only flashcard site I found that allows users to add video to flashcards (which may or may not be a great option). Its practice features are pretty standard, though.

examtimeUPDATE (5/20/14): ExamTime (www.examtime.com)

As of this update, ExamTime has undergone a design overhaul, and the results are beautiful. Its full-screen flashcard study option is simplistic and elegant. It provides an I know/I don’t know option for studying only the cards you need to. It also offers quizzes and mind maps as additional useful features. It doesn’t have games or other options for studying flashcards, though.

The final verdict!

Flashcard Exchange’s cram mode is somewhat unique and would be a useful feature, and I love Study Stack’s great selection of games for practicing vocabulary terms. However, Quizlet appears to be the overall total package to me. Quizlet’s free iOS app, its addicting learning games and huge network of users and existing flashcard decks offer the array of options that no other site can rival. Plus, users playing the learning games can battle for top scores on a leaderboard for each created deck.

Therefore, Quizlet receives the Ditch That Textbook seal of approval for online flashcard sites!

I’d love to hear which sites your students are using or which ones you feature in your classroom. What are the best features? What could be added to flashcard sites? Please leave your thoughts in a comment below!

(For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links, “like” Ditch That Textbook on Facebook and follow @jmattmiller on Twitter!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

17 thoughts on “Flip, flip, flip: Who is king of online flashcards?

  1. Thanks for commenting about StudyStack last March. StudyStack has a link at the bottom which will allow you to “Hide Ads”. You can also subscribe to a PRO plan which has no ads for $1.50 per month or $10.00 per year.

  2. I agree with Quizlet. It has the best mix of open, sign-in, or paid features, the matching columns (although it has an annoying column mismatch when you want a lot of terms: half of one column will extend way below the screen forcing a perpetual up-and down fiddling to find the correct answer; the longer column should be split in two) as I was saying the matching columns isn’t just the best ‘test’ technique, it’s the best study option, although scatter is pretty good also.

    The selection is huge; it has become the default site for students. Many of my own courses, even the current ones, already have flashcard sets ready to use, even without signing in.

    Its search function for sets is somewhat primitive but with some smarts. You can get a vast array of totally useless returns, but the most likely candidates will usually be near the top.

    Study-blue is ridiculous. You have no idea what’s available unless you register, let alone pay. That’s bad advertising they should fix. With the other sites you can browse around. Much of my study on Quizlet is without even signing in now. I just go to my publicly-displayed sets.

    • Postscript: A preselection of categories is available on the site, and it appears to be more fully searchable via Google site search function. Of course, the card answer portions are fuzzed-out. That’s as far a you get without signing in.

    • Dan — Thanks for your comments. I use Quizlet very similarly: I create sets and then embed them from my class website. Students can choose the study mode they want to use without even leaving my site, or they can click through to Quizlet. The leaderboard for the games is a very popular feature too.

  3. I especially like Quizlet and Cram (used to be Flashcard Exchange). Cram allows for 3-sided cards (especially good for non-romanized languages like Japanese, so you can have kanji/reading/meaning entries, for example), and has added a nice game.

    Quizlet doesn’t have a lot of progress tracking (thought they have added ‘starred items’ recently), but you can use the Quizlet sets with the online/mobile games I’ve designed at http://www.lexwordgameapp.com and http://www.phrasemazeapp.com which track progress with colored ratings depending on how you did in the game. Phrase Maze is good for not only single words but also phrases/sentences.



  4. I love Quizlet, but was looking to compare StudyBlue and Quizlet (that’s how I found your site on Google). I think your article was so helpful. I decided to stick with Quizlet (even though StudyBlue has integration with Evernote) because I can embed in my website. I also enjoy the games – it appears you do too!

    Off to look through your site – I’m writing an interactive eBook to eventually replace my custom lab manual that I currently use for my Biology lab. Can’t wait to see your tips!

  5. I don’t agree. I presently use Quizlet for the connection to FLashCards Delux and since Quizlet has decided to drop their association I began looking at Quizlet’s cards. I don’t like the texture and think Flashcard again remains the best. And what’s this Learn mode in Quizlet? Didn’t work on my ipad at times. Missing part of the written question.

    No… I will tie into CRAM and drop Quizlet as my home base for Flashcard.

  6. I have been using the paid version of quizlet to memorize things in biology, chemistry, and physics for the past few years. I use it with the Flashcard deluxe app on my android phone (phenomenal app btw). I’ve found quizlet frustrating and limiting because it has extremely limited or flakey advanced text features (bullet points, numbering, etc), it doesn’t employ symbols used in math/science. I worked around this by using the upload image function. However, quizlet won’t let you post an image on the front of a card, I’ve emailed their support with no response, commented on the forums, but it seems they have no intention of adding that feature. I think I am switching to Cram, it seems to be a much more sophisticated online flashcard service that addresses all of my current concerns.