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  • Gazala Hitawala

What was Anki with S2S all about?

If you have been following me for a while, you must be aware of the free Anki with S2S session that I conducted recently. In this article, I will give all the insights and behind the scenes for the session. Before we get into the detail, let me just give a brief about what is Anki? Anki is a free flashcards application that uses spaced repetition for a long-lasting memory. You can find a lot about Anki on various forums and Youtube videos. On one hand, it is a blessing to have all the information available in a single click. However, on the other hand, the same reason makes it complex to get started with anything. The same goes for Anki; you can use it up to the coding level or keep it plain and simple. To give a break to the endless noise around Anki, I thought to take a stride further.

Why I started the Anki with S2S session?

I am using Anki for almost 3 years now. When I started using Anki, it was very overwhelming for me… VERY overwhelming, to the point that I almost gave up on it. The cards I was making were not helping much, it was taking a lot of time to create cards, and furthermore, I did not know anything about reviewing cards. Reviewing the Anki cards was stressful for me, and in the end, even after all that, I was not getting any results. So, why spend time on it?

Eventually, when I started preparing for the USMLE exams, I learnt that countless people swore by Anki. In fact, some people only used Anki as their resource to prepare for the USMLE. This was promising to me, and I did not want to lose out on something so valuable.

Thus, my Anki journey restarted. I slowly and gradually learnt a lot about Anki through my trials and errors and from the internet, of course. Finally, when I started using it correctly, I saw a spike in my scores. Yes, l mean it. This was the substantial motivational factor for me; when you see results, there is no turning back.

However, there was one thing that was stuck in my mind. I knew that none of my friends in medical school was using this resource. Even when I talked to anyone about it, it was considered as “the USMLE resource”. So, I did not put much effort to discuss Anki with anyone and continued with my flow.

Finally, during the lockdown, I thought to try it myself. I took a subscription from Marrow and started using Anki to know if it works for NEET too. I prepared a few subjects and then took some tests to make sure if it was working. I was not surprised to find out that it SURELY was working. I was getting good results, and at the same time, the scores were improving with time.

I was also sure that this can be used for university exams or any exam which expects you to write essays. As I had prepared Community medicine with Anki. I believe if you can study Community Medicine, you can definitely prepare for other subjective exams too.

This gave me the verdict, Anki can be used for any exam.

Since I had experienced a slow learning curve with Anki, I wanted others to get Anki easy and simplified. Moreover, I recalled my time when I got overwhelmed and gave up on Anki. I wish I had not wasted those days, which went by without using Anki. I believe that if this resource was popular here (India), my learning curve had been better. I could discuss my challenges and take help from my friends or my seniors. But that was not the case; hardly very few people knew about it. This was my motivation to start this session. Even if I could simplify Anki for one person, this session was worth it.

What went behind the scenes?

This is my first slide from the session.

Once I was sure that this is something that I want to move forward with, I posted a story on Instagram to see if people were interested. I was surprised to see the responses. Many wanted to explore this application.

The next step was to create a registration form. I wanted to make sure that with this session I am addressing all the difficulties people were facing. So, I designed a form. Copious thoughts were put in to create this form because I had to think of the relevant questions to know more about the candidates. I also wanted to ensure that the dates for the session were comfortable for the candidates.

My plan was to create a personalised session where I am just talking to a maximum of 3 people at a time. But oh well! I just forgot that I have limited time in a day. I can not keep aside everything else that requires my time which includes my study too. I did not want to burn-out myself. Although I wished to help everyone, I did not want to compromise on my commitments. So, I decided to pick one of the most preferred dates from the forms, which will also suit my comfort.

Let’s take some steps back… before fixing the date, I started preparing the slides. From the forms submitted, I had an idea that since this is the typical exam season in India, students might not dedicate a lot of time to this session. So, I had to pack up everything in one presentation. This was the tough part for me. At one end, I wanted to simplify Anki. On the other end, I was about to bombard all the hefty details in a single presentation. Well, we have to find a way in every circumstance. I did my best to create a presentation that could cover all the necessary details and still would not get boring for anyone. In the end, I just assured myself that even if they get bored, they can look at my beautiful face on the screen to light them up (Just Kidding!).

The presentation was prepared, the dates were fixed, but there was one thing that was not yet addressed. Spending 2 hours of your day in a presentation, with a complete stranger, does not guarantee your consistency with Anki, let alone using it correctly. Thus, I planned to follow up with all the candidates for the next 4 weeks by designing 4 simple assignments for them. These assignments are targeted to ensure that they can implement everything they learnt in a step by step fashion. At the same time, I assured to answer all their questions for the upcoming weeks. This was a mammoth promise from my end; to be honest, I was a bit scared to come up with this decision. This required investing my time which is already split into plenty of things that I am doing every day. Needless to say, I jumped in; God will help.

What was the real day like? – Anki with S2S session

I had full-fledged professional planning and set-up for the day. Firstly, all the emails that I was sending to everyone were few of the best emails that I had ever written. I wanted to make the emails personalised and professional at the same time. (I really don’t know why I went so extra here!?). Next was scheduling the meeting over Zoom. I also had one person in my team for coordinating everything.

Was the session exactly as I wanted? No, we exceeded the time limit. I was expecting it to be over in an hour, but it got stretched. Considering the amount of information I had packed in, I should have expected that. Another difficulty was to intermittently remind the candidates when they were breaking any rules. And some unexpected calls on my phone in the middle of the session. (Why God, why?)

I guess I was just thriving for perfection. Apart from these small things, everything went by really well. I was super thrilled to finally see the faces for real. I have been in conversation with these wonderful people for a while but seeing the ‘real face’ and actually connecting with someone was a completely different experience. When I could see them taking notes, getting deeply involved in the session, I was satisfied. It looked like my efforts were not wasted. In the end, I had a Q and A session with few of the candidates, which was even more rewarding. I saw the real interest and efforts and some really well-thought questions. If you are spending your Saturday night on a Zoom call, there is definitely some dedication there.

Finally, when the session ended, I was content. Then the explosion of joy came in with the messages I received from everyone. I had an ear to ear smile, my DMs were flooded.

I actually exceeded my target for the number of candidates that will join the session.

I was worried that my presentation was packed with information, which might get boring; on the contrary, everyone could see the efforts. In fact, they liked how the slides were designed. From the slides to my future plans with the session; everything was noticed and appreciated. It makes me happy to see that I could be of help. My goal is to help as many people as I can, and this was a small step in that direction. I take a moment to acknowledge that within few hours I have come to a point where I am sending assignments to the candidates, this is all real. I can not wait to see their results after the end of the 4 weeks.

Just like I told the candidates,

Your results will be your biggest motivation to continue Anki.

The same held true for me. Receiving this response from everyone turned into a big motivation for me to stick by this.

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