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Can I make my cards appear in a specific order?
Can I make my cards appear in a specific order?

You can’t force a specific order for all flashcards, but there are some exceptions, and most cards can be redesigned to work well alone.

Soren Bjornstad avatar
Written by Soren Bjornstad
Updated over a week ago

With traditional flashcards, such as paper flashcards, you may be used to placing cards in a particular order and always studying them in this order. This cannot work well in RemNote. That’s because RemNote uses spaced repetition to show you cards only at optimal moments, shortly before it expects you'll forget them. If RemNote committed to showing large groups of cards in a specific order – say, the 50 cards in a particular document – it would always have to show you all 50 of these cards at once, in order, every time a single one of them needed to be practiced, which would mean you’d have to practice all of the cards almost every day. That might work fine for one document, but RemNote is designed to scale to hundreds of documents and tens or even hundreds of thousands of flashcards, and this plainly can’t work at that scale.

There are two situations where this objection doesn’t apply, and RemNote accordingly provides ways to show some information in a particular order:

  1. Sometimes you might want to explicitly learn the order that things appear in, or memorize a short list in order. For this situation, RemNote offers multi-line flashcards, which turn several items into a single flashcard; the answers can be shown all at once or one by one.

  2. Sometimes you might want to flip through the cards you just created, or brush up on a document that you haven’t looked at in a while or that was created by someone else. In these cases, practicing all of the cards in a specific document as a one-off can make good sense, so a Practice all flashcards in order option is available to Pro users. You can find this option in the drop-down on the document’s practice button, or from the Flashcards submenu on the menu in the upper-right corner of the document. See Practicing Specific Flashcards for details.

In case you need one, there’s another good reason to avoid practicing most of your flashcards in the same order every time. Outside of specific situations (for example, an exam where you know in what order you’ll be asked to recall information), real-life situations generally don’t involve recalling the same series of facts in the same order every time. Instead, each fact is needed in a different context each time you want to remember it.

This is a problem because the human brain is extremely good at finding patterns and forming memories based on them. If question Y is always preceded by question X, chances are that you’ll have a much harder time recalling the answer to question Y when it, inevitably, doesn’t come after question X in real life. Randomizing the order of cards means that your brain will be unable to base its memory on nearby cards that don’t form part of your prompt in real life, and you’ll have to memorize the answer based purely on the question you actually intended to test yourself on.

Structuring cards to avoid requiring a specific order

If you’re not accustomed to making sure every flashcard you create can stand alone regardless of what order it appears in, it may take a little bit of practice before you can reliably create cards that you’ll understand later. It’s OK if you don’t get it right the first time and have to edit some of your cards – that happens even to expert users!

Here are several useful patterns.

Ask small, atomic questions with the Concept-Descriptor Framework

In many if not most cases, if you divide most of your notes into well-defined Concepts, each Descriptor, question, or cloze deletion you’re inclined to create for it will stand effectively on its own, without having to do anything special. Learn more about the principles of the CDF and how to create Concept-Descriptor cards.

Ask follow-up questions by indenting them under other questions

All ancestors of a Rem up to the document level are displayed on any flashcards created from that Rem, including other flashcards. This allows you to ask questions that build on one another but can be effectively reviewed separately, by simply indenting the follow-up question under the first question:

In this example, the second flashcard will look like this:

Note: When displaying flashcards that are ancestors of the current card, the back side is shown if the ancestor flashcard is a Basic card or Descriptor. It’s not shown if the ancestor flashcard is a Concept.

Learn details about items in a list by creating flashcards under a multi-line flashcard

Sometimes you need to learn a small number of items in a set or in order, then learn details about each individual item. It can be tempting to ask yourself to recall all of the details on the back of the multi-line flashcard, but this tends to make that flashcard slow and frustrating to review. Instead, create Concepts or parent items of other flashcards under the multi-line flashcard. Then you can practice the items in the set and the details of each item separately.

In this example, the “three causes according to @Gwern” flashcard shows only items 1, 2, and 3:

Then you practice the details of each of the three causes on separate flashcards:

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