Not all flashcard resources are created equal! If you’ve begun studying for the USMLE (or read our other posts in this review series), chances are that you already know the importance of flashcards. But which resource yields the best results? It depends what you’re looking for! That’s why we’ve sent some of our most experienced USMLE tutors to test out different flashcard sites and provide a complete review of their features. Today we are reviewing Zanki, a flashcard deck resource with more than 20,000 cards. But, does quantity mean quality? We’ll let you know.


Cost: Free

Our Grading:

Overall: A-

Thoroughness: A+

Fun: C+

Efficiency: B

Customizability: A+



  • Spaced repetition makes memorization efficient and effective
  • Familiar format for most medical students: if you know how to use Anki you won’t need to learn any new software interfaces.
  • Retrieval-based learning! Provides spaces for you to fill in the gaps, etc.
  • Broken into broad topics + subtopics so you can quiz generally or specifically
  • Efficient and effective images pulled from first aid and incorporation of sketchy images
  • Inclusion of all the top materials: First Aid, Pathoma, and Sketchy
  • Anki deck comes pre-divided



  • Too many cards (20,000+) to get through in a single dedicated test prep time frame (</= 10 weeks)
  • Could be more granular; decks tend to be fairly broad
  • Some students complain there is too much detail
  • Recent release (2017) means errata are not well developed, so watch out for errors


Where do I find them?:


Our Tutor’s Opinion

Zanki is a wonderfully thorough resource that sums most of the content from First Aid, Pathoma, and Sketchy Micro/Pharm into a series of clear Anki decks. Released in 2017, is a new take on the original, 2014, Brosencephalon decks. The cards are concise and specific, using retrieval-based learning in small enough doses to stay fast-paced. Take a look at the card below, for example:

This Zanki card gives you a concise question with a clear answer format: you know that you’re trying to remember which transporter brings Fe2+ into duodenal cells. When you get the answer you’re shown the transporter type as well as a diagram that can cement where that transporter falls in the big picture of duodenal absorption.

Another big plus of Zanki is the inclusion of Sketchy images. This is not offered with Brosencephalon, and allows the student to take full advantage of the Sketchy resource without spending a huge amount of time taking their own cards.

Downsides: There are two small ones. First, the topics of the Zanki decks are relatively broad: Biochemistry splits into Metabolism; Molecular, Cellular, Genetics; and Vitamins. This will be great when you’re reviewing at the end of a block, but if you’re only halfway through cellular biochem you’re sure to get a number of cards that reference material you haven’t learned yet. Here is an example of the layout of pre- divided decks:

Second, not all information is directly USMLE Step 1-relevant. For instance, take the card below on rheumatic heart disease:

This is again a concisely and clearly asked question, but the answer is not particularly high-yield for USMLE Step 1. Chronic rheumatic disease does indeed lead to thickening of chordae tendineae and cusps, but if you see this image on a test (which is itself unlikely) you would be given other information to work with. On the USMLE, you would never be expected to arrive at this diagnosis by a gross pathology (or radiology) picture alone.  Imaging and images are slightly overemphasized.


*Note of warning*

For Brosencephalon, Zanki, or Anki users: spaced repetition is only efficient and effective if you stay up to date with your cards. If you do 200 new cards each day, this means you will have ~200 new cards the next day, plus whatever old cards are new that day, so proceed with caution when choosing how many new cards to do a day. If you do not keep up with your Zanki cards each day, you are missing out on the ability to take full advantage of your efforts put into reviewing the cards in the first place! If you know you are the type of person that won’t be able to keep up with your cards, another resource is your best bet.

By | 2018-08-22T16:54:52+00:00 April 15th, 2018|Resource Reviews, USMLE Step 1|0 Comments

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