Leitner Flashcard Learning System

In the early 70’s a German psychologist named Sebastian Leitner devised a learning system that makes selective learning possible with less effort than the traditional method of studying a set of flashcards sequentially.

Leitner’s system consists of a cardboard box separated into a number of compartments. The compartments are filled with flashcards and the flashcards are moved from one compartment to another, according to the current level of knowledge. When a flashcard is answered correctly it is promoted to the next compartment. When a flashcard is answered incorrectly it is demoted to the first compartment.

How It Works

  • When studying the flashcards in a given compartment you examine the flashcards sequentially and indicate success or failure.
  • When all of the flashcards from the compartment have been answered you are presented with a summary of the results and allowed to make modifications. When the summary accurately reflects your study session you save the results to the system.
  • When the results are saved all flashcards that were answered correctly are promoted to the next compartment. Flashcards that were not answered correctly are demoted to the first compartment.
  • A cardfile is complete when all flashcards are in the highest compartment. Each flashcard needs to be consecutively answered successfully the same number of times for all flashcards to be in the final compartment.

The result of the Leitner system is that you are allowed to prioritize your studying, focusing on the flashcards that are troubling you when you are keen and reviewing the easier flashcards when you want a lighter study session.


  • Selective Learning: Prioritize your studying by focusing on the proper compartment—each compartment represents a degree of knowledge. This allows you to learn what you need to learn, when you want to learn it.
  • Staggered Learning: Using the review scheduling system allows you to maintain properly spaced review sessions. Staggered learning minimizes the amount of time required to complete a cardfile and maximizes information retention.
  • Assessment: By examinining the distribution of flashcards within the various compartments you can easily gague your mastery of the subject.

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Alvin Poh lives in Singapore, and is interested in marketing, techy stuff, and likes to just figure out how the two can work with each other. He can also be found on Google+.

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