By: Erica L. Whiting, PsyD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist & AATBS EPPP Coach
People either love or hate flashcards. Critics often say flashcards focus on memorization over understanding the material, and in some ways, they’re right. However, to fully understand and manipulate the content efficiently, you have to master key terms and foundational concepts with speed and accuracy -- this is called fluency. When you have greater fluency with the material, you’re better equipped to build on this foundational knowledge and quickly apply these concepts to new and different scenarios, making short work of those applied questions. After all, the EPPP is timed, and when you can recall concepts quickly and easily, you’re buying yourself more time to work through the question.
So what is SAFMEDS?
It’s an evidence-based approach developed by Ogden Lindsley and has been used by behavior analysts and educators to improve learning and retention. SAFMEDS stands for Say All Fast Minute Every Day Shuffled and it’s a form of precision teaching, setting itself apart from the “typical” uses for flashcards. When you integrate flashcards into your study plan using SAFMEDS, you’re maximizing your learning and increasing your ability to retain information over time – basically, you learn the information more efficiently and it sticks, even under pressure!
How do I use SAFMEDS to study for the EPPP?
Get your flashcards together and a timer. Your flashcards should have the term or key concept on one side and the definition or explanation on the other – less is more when it comes to how much text is on your flashcard. Start with a set of flashcards for the domain you’re studying currently and layer in additional sets of flashcards as you study more domains. As you answer each card, put correct responses in one pile and incorrect responses in another. Slower responses, tip-of-the-tongue, or skipped/ “I don’t know” responses can go in the incorrect pile or a third pile to help you determine your study needs. Ultimately, the goal is to respond quickly and accurately, which is the hallmark of being fluent in the material.
See the front of the card and then say the answer out loud before flipping the card over. Yes, you read that correctly, it said “out loud.” Unlike typical flashcards, this isn’t a silent exercise and saying the answer out loud helps with consolidating the information. Once you say the answer out loud, flip the card over to see if you answered correctly.
Practice with the whole deck or entire set of cards for a domain. Start with the first domain you study and add flashcards for each domain as you study them until you have all domains in your deck.
The goal is to respond quickly and correctly. Go through the content at a brisk pace as this promotes faster learning.
Complete these drills in short bursts. Limit yourself to 1 minute drills or less and respond to as many flashcards as you can in that minute. You won’t get through all your cards, but the goal is to get through as many as possible.
Do these brief drills daily, at least once a day. Assess your progress, noting number of correct vs. incorrect and watch the number of correct responses increase exponentially as you continue to do these drills.
Mix up the cards before every drill so you don’t memorize them in order and have the opportunity to see all the cards.