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How To Make Vocabulary Flash Cards


So you have a vocabulary list a mile long and are wondering how to learn the words, right? Flash cards are always an easy way to get some of those vocabulary words stuck inside your head, where they need to be when the big test rolls around. And yes, there is a right and wrong way to make a flash card. (Or at least an effective and ineffective way.)

More Study Skills of Successful Students

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 20 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Assemble your materials. There's nothing worse than starting a project without everything you need.

  2. On the front of the flash card:

    Write a vocabulary word, and only the word, neatly on the front of a 3 x 5 card in pencil. Center the word both horizontally and vertically, and be sure to keep the front of the card free from extra markings, smudges or doodles. Why? You'll see why in a minute.

  3. On the upper left corner of the back of the flash card:

    On the reverse side, the information side of the flash card, write a definition for the word in the upper left corner. Make sure you write the definition in your own words. This is key. If you write a dictionary definition, you will be less likely to remember what the word means!
  4. On the upper right corner of the back of the flash card:

    Write the part of speech in the upper right corner of the info side. Make sure you understand what the part of speech means before writing it down. Then, color-code it. Highlight the part of speech with one color. When you make another flashcard with another part of speech, you'll use a different color. Make all the nouns yellow, all the verbs blue, etc. Your mind remembers colors really well, so you'll start to associate color with the part of speech, and you'll have an easier time remembering how the word functions in a sentence.

  5. On the lower left corner of the back of the flash card:

    Use the vocabulary word in a sentence you will remember. Make the sentence steamy, hilarious, or creative in some other way. If you write a bland sentence, your chances of remembering what the word means go way down.
    Example of a memorable sentence: My pompous ex-boyfriend used to think he could get any girl he wanted, until he met my friend Mandy, who laughed at his conceited self in front of the entire school.
    Example of a non-memorable sentence: The king, whose pompous heads-of-state were trying to dethrone, decided to flee the country to save his own life.

  6. On the lower right corner of the back of the flash card:

    Draw a small picture/graphic to go with the vocabulary word. It doesn't have to be artistic – just something that reminds you of the definition. For the word "pompous," or "conceited", maybe you'd draw a stick person with his nose in the air. Why? You remember pictures much better than words, which is the reason you can't write anything on the front of the card besides the vocabulary word – you'd remember the design and associate it with the definition instead of associating the word with the definition.

  7. Repeat this process for every one of your vocabulary words, until you have a deck of flash cards.

  8. Punch a hole in the middle of the right side of each flash card, and then hook all the cards together with the key ring, ribbon or rubber band. You don't want to lose them all over your book bag.


  1. This process works well for remembering Greek roots, too. Learning Greek roots is a great way to learn vocabulary, by the way. You can learn five or six words just by learning one root!

What You Need

  • 3 X 5 index cards
  • Highlighters - at least four different colors
  • A keyring, ribbon or rubber band
  • A dictionary or Dictionary.com
  • A list of vocabulary words you have to know
  • A hole puncher
  • A pencil

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