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How to Make and Use Flashcards to Improve Real Estate Licensing Exam Performance

Note card on a desktop of someone preparing for their real estate exam

Posted by: Ted Highland, Product Manager
Published: January 24, 2019

Technology has transformed the way we learn. Yet flashcards are still one of the most efficient and effective educational tools available to break down new subjects, like real estate, into basic bits of information, terminology, and concepts. Flashcards enable you to commit the facts to memory with minimal effort.

In order to pass a state real estate licensing exam, it is estimated that an individual must remember approximately 1,000 new definitions and concepts in order to successfully pass such an exam.

Most students approach this memorization process as a haphazard event that occurs by chance. By utilizing the techniques below, you will vastly improve your capacity to remember what you need to know to assure state exam success.

Why Flashcards Work

Our memories work like a filter. Most information is discarded within a minute after we hear or see it. Researchers have studied memory for over 100 years and have determined that one of the most effective techniques to get information into a person’s long-term memory is known as “spaced repetition.” Memorization takes place more effectively when the information is repeated over and over again, and there is time between the repetitions for reflection. This is the secret of flashcards’ success. When used properly, flashcards employ two powerful mechanisms of human memory—repetition and spaced timing—to move information from short-term to long-term memory.

How to Build Flashcards

Use your notes, textbooks, or practice questions to identify key concepts that you want to master for a specific category or topic that appears on the state real estate licensing exam. On one side of a piece of paper, or a 3 X 5 index card, write the description of the concept. On the other side, write the term that goes with the description. 

Once you have made the flashcard, you are ready to study. Look at one side of the flashcard and try to visualize what is on the other side. While different people have different rates of retention, most people require 3 to 6 repetitions over a period of days before information is retained in long-term memory. The following techniques will help to assist retention.

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Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Flashcards

Add pictures for better retention. A lot of people are visual learners. Draw or copy an image on a card that will help you to remember the words. For example, if you were using a flashcard to remember the definition of "agent," you might draw a simple stick figure holding a briefcase and another stick figure in front of a simple line drawing of a house with a “for sale” sign—this will help to trigger the memory of the description, “One who represents another.”

Mix up the order of your flashcards. If you go through the flashcards in the same order over and over again, your mind will get bored, and studying will not be as productive. Put your cards in a hat and mix them up, and then draw cards out to break the routine. It also helps to ensure you are recalling the material as a standalone definition, not just in relation to the cards that come before or after it.

Keep your study sessions brief. Studying for short periods (30 minutes or less) is more effective for memorization than laboring for long periods of time without breaks. Short intervals are the key to retention. One of the major benefits of flashcards is that you can carry a few of them with you wherever you go in a way that you can’t or won’t do with a textbook or computer. That way you can study them while you are waiting in line at the supermarket or in other circumstances where you can transform a few minutes of spare time into productive study time.

Remove cards that you have mastered. When you are certain that you have retained the information on a particular card, you can remove it from your deck of flashcards and spend more time on the ones that require more repetitions. You can always add it back in for a final review.

Is it Better to Buy or Make Your Flashcards?

There are many real estate flashcards for sale on the internet. There are flashcard apps, physical (paper) flashcards, and electronic flashcards. While building your own flashcards is more effective in providing for retention, decks of flashcards created by real estate educators are more likely to focus on state exam content. To ensure you are memorizing the facts and information that is most likely to appear on the state exam, it might be beneficial to consider purchasing flashcards from a recognized real estate education provider.

Planning to Take the Real Estate Exam?

Explore pre-licensing education that can set you up for success. And if you've already started studying, check out these additional tips and techniques.