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How to Use Anki Custom Study to Create Filtered Decks

  • Sean 

In this article, I decode how to use Anki Custom Study, offering insights on personalizing your study sessions for targeted and enhanced recall.

If you are like me, you had no idea what Anki’s custom study even was for a long time. However, it’s actually a very useful (and often underused) feature.

For instance, imagine you just added 15 new cards to a deck you are learning while studying for an exam. With custom study, you can target just those new cards in your next session.

Keep reading to learn how to use Custom Study.

What is Anki Custom Study?

Anki's custom study menu

So what even is Anki’s custom study feature?

Anki custom study is a feature that allows you to study a deck outside of the Anki algorithm. For instance, you can review ahead, go through cards in a random order, or new cards only, etc. This done by creating a new filtered deck where the cards are shifted into. The original deck is called the home deck.

All these features have in common that they are not the standard ways to study cards in Anki. This is all good, but what is custom study actually useful for?

Anki’s Custom Study feature is extremely useful for a number of specific things. Here’s a list of the top 3 things that I have found find it’s especially useful for:

  1. Cramming: This is the most recognized use. If you have an exam or a presentation the next day, Custom Study can help you review specific cards quickly. If you want to learn more about cramming, I have an article on How to Cram For an Exam in Just 24 Hours where I explain my strategy for this, yes Anki plays a role too.
  2. Reviewing Ahead: Even if you don’t have a looming exam, you might want to get a sneak peek at cards that are scheduled for the future.
  3. Reviewing Forgotten Cards: You can focus on cards that you’ve forgotten and lapsed recently to ensure they’re solidly in your memory.

What is The Difference Between Filtered Decks and Custom Study?

You have probably heard both the terms ‘filtered deck’ and ‘custom study’. Despite these phrases being completely different they actually are words for the same thing.

Anki Filtered decks and custom study are the exact same thing. When you click ‘custom study’ and create a filtered deck. There is no such thing as having a filtered deck without custom study and vice versa.

So now you know what Custom study is (and isn’t) and why you would want to use it. The rest of this article is going to be about how to use it.

How to Use Anki Custom Study to Create Filtered Decks

1. Access Custom Study

  • Click on the deck you wish to study from.
  • Click on the “custom study” option at the bottom of the page.

2. Custom Study Options

Anki's custom study options menu

A menu will appear with the following options. For more details check out Anki’s Filtered Deck Page. Here are the basics of the different options.

  • Increase today’s new card limit: This allows you to incorporate more freshly introduced cards into the deck you’re actively working on. This doesn’t make a separate filtered deck but updates the current one.
  • Increase today’s review card limit: This allows you to view more of the review cards scheduled for today if they haven’t all been displayed due to the day’s review cap.
  • Review forgotten cards: Present all the cards on which you’ve clicked ‘Again’ within the timeframe you determine.
  • Review ahead: Displays cards set to be due shortly (based on the number of days you choose). This helps revisit older cards, but it won’t assist with freshly learned ones.
  • Preview new cards: Provides a glance at the cards you’ve recently included, without transitioning them into review cards when you answer them answering. This is essentially seeing your cards without counting them as being studied.
  • Study by card state or tag: This lets you pick a specific number of cards from the present deck for studying. Options include focusing on just new cards, cards due for review, or all cards in a random order. By clicking on “Select Tags”, you can further narrow down cards by their tags. If you want to review the entire deck, say, in preparation for an important test, specify a card count higher than the deck’s total.

3. Start Your Custom Study Session

Your session is now ready. Dive in and study the cards you’ve chosen. After you review you will see that you can click “Rebuild” and “Empty”, as pictured below.

Anki's 'rebuild' and 'empty' buttons after a filtered deck is completed.

Below you can see an illustration of what these build and empty buttons actually do. They essentially shift cards between the home deck and the filtered custom study deck. Below is an image that visually illustrates this.

Illustration of how filtered decks work in Anki
  • Empty: Clicking ’empty’ moves all the cards back from the filtered deck to the home deck.
  • Rebuild: Clicking ‘rebuild’ essentially puts all the cards in the home deck that (fit the filter) back into the filtered deck.

4. Concluding Your Study Session

Once I’m done using a filtered custom study deck I usually just delete the custom deck in the main menu. Here are the steps for this.

  • Once done, navigate back to the main page.
  • Click options, then select delete.
  • This action will reintegrate the cards into their primary decks.

The Takeaway

Anki’s Custom Study is a great tool for those looking to customize their study sessions with filtered decks. Not only does it offer flexibility beyond Anki’s traditional algorithm, but it allows for targeted review sessions, whether that’s cramming for an exam, revisiting forgotten cards, or getting a glimpse of what’s on the horizon.