Anki Cloze: Speed Up Your Studies (Beginners Guide)

If you’ve been using Anki to help memorize facts or concepts, you’re probably aware of the time it can take to get through all your reviews.

Some days? The cards just seem to pile up!

Introducing Anki Cloze…

Anki cloze is a digital flashcard format that drastically help speed up your review time. It works like the fill-in-the-gap sentences from your elementary school homework. You’re presented with a sentence, you just have to recall the missing fact or concept. Simple!

But in this article we’ll go deeper. We’ll explain just how useful this format is when it comes to making (and learning from) digital flashcards.

You’ll learn:

  • Why anki cloze is so powerful
  • How it speeds up your study sessions
  • How to make best use of it
  • Limitations of the format
  • What other students say about it

As a med student who’s been using this format for over four years, it’s safe to say it’s helped me massively!

Ready to find out why? Let’s get started.

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What is anki cloze?

Anki cloze is just a way of formatting your digital cards in Anki to blank out an important piece of information. This blank then becomes the key part of your recall. The information around it helps you conceptualize (or guide) you to the answer.

Here’s a really simple example using the following piece of information (I snagged this from Wikipedia page for ‘Hospital’)…

“Medical knowledge was transmitted into the Islamic world through the Byzantine Empire.”

Say I needed to learn this information for an exam on medical history and really needed to know how medical knowledge was passed through the Islamic world. Here’s how I’d format it for cloze…

“Medical knowledge was transmitted into the Islamic world through the __________”

“Byzantine Empire”, the fact, becomes the blank. This is the “gap” that needs to be filled to test my recall of that concept.

The format in Anki is the same. You need to a small line of code (more on this later) to create this gap.

So how does this look in Anki?

The best way to show you how Anki cloze looks in the app itself is to show you an example card from my favorite Anki deck; Anking/Zanki (a must-get for med school).

Here you’ll see there are actually two gaps (called multiple fields – more on this later), indicated by the blue brackets.

The key here is to identify the numbers (indicated by the succeeding clue from “days”) and remember this fact.

I get the answer (“2-5”) correct and then I hit the “good” button to see it again the next day.

This saves time in having to remember or recall the whole fact (nesseria gonorrhoeae causing neonatal conjunctivitis) to instead allow me to make the association quickly with the time frame.

Imagine powering through a deck like this compared to the traditional back-to-front cards you might be used to. Efficient!

If you’re still not clear on what Anki Cloze is check out Kealan Hobelmann’s video below…

There are some great pointers here!

Why use anki cloze for studying?

So here’s why I feel Anki Cloze is really great for studying:

  • Tests concepts rapidly
  • Contextualizes concepts/facts more deeply (i.e. you have clues/indicators like you would in real life to help you recall the answer)
  • Great for condensing and memorizing summary sections/review books
  • Speeds up your review time
  • Varied: you can test information gaps in different ways; visualizing, typing, via image occlusion and overlapping (more on this later)
  • Faster card creation: copy, paste and then select what to cloze/blank

What also makes it great is that it’s easy to do (free, no add-on etc) and applicable for a whole range of subjects.

The example above is from medicine but it lends itself just as well to other information and math-based subjects (formulas etc.) too.

Anki cloze hint

Another thing that makes cloze format cards powerful are cloze hints.

Hints help you better identify a cloze (helps when you’ve got a lot of them) without revealing too much that it spoils you learning the concept.

Here is a good example of Anki cloze hint in action…

You’ll see the hint is enclosed on the front of the card in brackets (in this case “rash pattern”). That helps identify the type of information you’re supposed to recall while still reinforcing the concept.

This is great for helping your reviews “flow”, keeping your speed consistent.

You can add Anki cloze hint by adding a “::(hint)” (without quotations) to the cloze answer.

Here’s how the code looks for the card example above…

How to make anki cloze cards

Making cloze cards is easy in Anki.

As mentioned above, you need to add a small piece of code to create the card with the cloze/blank of your choice.

You do this by:

  1. Adding a new card
  2. Writing the information you want to see to the front field
  3. Selecting the word/fact you want to recall and wrapping it in the following: {{c1::word}}
  4. Hitting add to let Anki create a new card using this cloze

Anki With Anthony explains (very simply) exactly how to do this…


Anki Cloze deletion image occlusion

Also note that you can also make cloze deletion using the image occlusion plugin. This is great for trying to memorize information from slides for example.

Check out Med School Insiders’ video below if you’re interested in doing this…

Anki Cloze Overlapper

Anki Cloze Overlapper is an add-on that takes the cloze format further and helps you memorize lists and sequences (things very difficult to study with flashcards).

It works by giving you prompts from these lists and not giving you all the information before and after the cloze you’re studying.

The video below, from add-on creator Glutanimate, explains exactly how it works and what it can do for you…

Anki cloze multiple fields

Anki cloze multiple fields help you create one or more cards from one “note”.

This can help ensure you only recall one fact at a time (something that’ll help avoid disrupting your review “flow”) from information where you want to test multiple things.

One of the important rules in SuperMemo’s famous articles; Effective learning: Twenty rules of formulating knowledge (a must read for anyone who makes their own flashcards), this ensures you don’t violate “The Minimum Information Principle.”

It’s best explained here in this tutorial by Eric Wulff. You use the anki code “c1”, “c2”, “c3” etc to create multiple cards from one note…

Compared to information dense front/back flashcards that ask you to recall multiple sentences or facts, cloze multiple fields is so much more effective.

Anki cloze template

Cloze templates help ensure you stay consistent with your card formatting.

Creating a template involves keeping the same fields for each card and saving it as a “note type” that can be re-used whenever you’re making new cards. You can also style them using customizable CSS.

You can create these yourself or download templates from the web.

For beginners just getting started, it’s not something you really need to worry about.

What are the limitations of anki cloze?

Anki cloze, although thousands of students swear by it, isn’t always the most effective flashcard format.

Without knowing what to test (what to blank out or cloze in this case) it’s use is no way near a magic bullet when it comes to helping you crush exams.

That’s why it’s important to understand material first before making cloze-style cards or learning from shared decks.

But here’s where else I see Anki Cloze possibly falling short:

  1. Not great for language learning (it’s hard to replace the front/back format when it comes to learning new vocabulary etc.)
  2. Doesn’t solve the problem of “card familiarity” (i.e. you’re able to guess/recall the answer because of the sentence structure/cues etc. rather than understanding it)
  3. They give away too much context (similar to the point above – you might not have this much context when it comes to applying the information!)
  4. The copy/paste card creation process avoids rewriting things in your own words (thus skipping one vital part of active recall)

Of course one way to counter some of these limitations is not to lean too heavily on cloze format cards. Mix-up your study; use different card formats and other active recall strategies alongside cloze card reviews.

But it still doesn’t take away from some peer-reviewed studies that suggest “free recall self-testing beats recognition or Cloze deletions” (Source).

So it’s good to use a mix of approaches!

Anki cloze: Reddit’s top tips

Finally, if all the above still hasn’t convinced you on why cloze cards might be the way forward for your studies, here’s some wise words from other Anki-loving students…

It comes down to cloze deletion being much more effective than “forcing your memory to remember the whole block” because it’s breaking it up and making it more effective…If you boiled a pumpkin, would it cook quicker & more even as a whole or in pieces?

u/Quandyl

In my opinion, cloze deletions are superior because you can have all of the functionality of a basic card, but you are able to occlude (and thus are required to recall) more information

u/twanski

Summary

Anki Cloze, although perhaps not the most effective method of active recall, is still supremely useful when used alongside other study techniques.

Hopefully this guide has helped explain how it can help speed up your reviews and help you better recall your subject material in time for important exams.

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