The Leitner System
What is it?
The Leitner System is a popular method of studying with flashcards using spaced repetition. It was developed by the German commentator and author Sebastian Leitner who described it in his best-selling book Learning How To Learn (So lernt man lernen). It can also be found referred to as the Leitner Method, Leitner Principle, Leitner Cardfile System or the Leitner Cardbox System. Spaced repetition makes studying with flashcards much more efficient and effective.
How does it work?
The idea is that the easier it is to recall the material on a flashcard the less often that flashcard will be repeated in the future. The reverse follows. The harder it is to recall the material on a flashcard the more often it will be repeated. The repetition of each flashcard is scheduled, or spaced, in such a way that the learner spends most of their time studying material that is more challenging. Material that has been retained well is studied only occasionally to ensure it has not been forgotten.
The Leitner System's implementation of spaced repetition works like this:
- A container called a cardbox or a cardfile is set up to hold the flashcards. It is divided into multiple individual compartments. FlashcardDB calls the groups of flashcards in each compartment decks.
- All flashcards start in deck 1.
- When the material on a flashcard is recalled correctly it is moved forward by one deck. (See the green arrows in the diagram above). If the flashcard was already in the last deck then it remains there.
- When the material on a flashcard is not recalled it is returned to deck 1: regardless of what deck the flashcard came from. (See the merged red arrow(s) in the diagram).
- Each subsequent deck has a longer period of time before the flashcards it contains must be repeated. FlashcardDB’s default settings are:
FlashcardDB's Implementation of the Leitner System
Each card set you create using FlashcardDB is automatically added to your Leitner Cardbox. Card sets created by other users can be added to your cardbox by clicking the 'Save to My Flashcards' link at the top of each set. Your My Flashcards homepage has a graph showing the current status of your Leitner Cardbox:
Each deck is represented by a pair of columns. Deck 1 contains either flashcards that have never been studied (the yellow column) or cards that were marked as incorrect the last time they were studied (the red column). Decks 2 through 5 contain flashcards that were answered correctly on their previous repetition. The green columns contain cards that have not yet reached the time scheduled for their next repetition. The yellow columns show the cards that have 'expired' and are now scheduled to be studied again. The time until next repetition is shown at the base of each deck.
When studying, only flashcards represented by the red and yellow columns will be included in the study session. (To bypass the Leitner System and include all flashcards, regardless of their status, choose 'Review' rather than 'Study').
When drilling-down to view flashcards that have been assigned a particular tag the Leitner graph will automatically adjust to show only the cards that share that tag. See this blog post for further details.
(You do not need to log in to use FlashcardDB. However, in order to use the Leitner System study results have to be associated with a user. If you would like to try it out and do not have a login sign up here. It's fast and free!)