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Use aText to Boost Your USMLE Anki Card-Making Efficiency

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by Alec Palmerton, MD in Uncategorized

As I’ve stated before, Anki has truly changed my life and my career trajectory, and boosted my USMLE score in ways that I could never have imagined. One thing that I never utilized effectively during my studying, however, was symbols, particularly Greek characters, and arrows. As regular readers of this blog know, a student I tutored alerted me to a program called aText, which has greatly boosted the efficiency of card making, both for me and for student said I work with.

Recently, I got a question from the students about an article I published on mastering pharmacology for the USMLE Step 1.  Here is the question:

Great post. So I downloaded aText but have no idea how to go about changing the symbols back to normal, if someone could point me in the right direction or share an article on how to do it I’d really appreciate it!

aText is a text expander application

The basic premise of aText is quite simple.  It is a text expander app, where an abbreviation you create is recognized and replaced with a predetermined phrase. For example, I have it set up so that anytime I type “,alp” it is replaced with the Greek symbol α.  This is worlds better than what I used to do, which is have an Anki card where I would save all of the symbols I would need, and copy and paste each of them into the Anki card as I was making it.  Here’s what that card looked like:

aText Anki card

I would literally have to open this card every time I wanted to make a new symbol, which was a major time-waster. With aText, I can generate the same symbols in a fraction of the time without having to change screens. To do so, first download aText (for Mac only; if you don’t have a Mac, here is an article I found on other text expanders for PC).

Next, open the program, and click “New”.

aText New

Then, in the “Abbreviation:”  area, type in the abbreviation you would like to use to generate the symbol/phrase of interest.  For example, to generate my α, I would type the following:

Alpha aText USMLE abbreviation

Note that I start my abbreviation with a comma,  so that I don’t accidentally type Greek symbols every time I try to type a word that contains “alp” in it.

You are not limited to symbols.  For example, common abbreviations that I use are for my home address, mailing address, as well as common phrases that I use in emails.   This shaves off seconds to even minutes, which added up over the course of a week or a month can really add up.

Here are some common phrases that I use in my everyday life:

Anki aText Abbreviations

BONUS: Free Anki aText Abbreviations

If you’d like to use my preset phrases, I’ve included a file of my Anki aText abbreviations. To access them, please support the site below!

What to do next?

Now that you’ve learned the basics of how to set up aText, here’s what to do next.

  1. If you haven’t already, download aText.
  2. Download the Anki aText file (link above), and open it using the program.
  3. Unsure of how to use Anki most effectively? Read my FAQ here.
  4. Read the guide on how to make effective Anki cards.
  5. Read tips on how to boost your Anki card making efficiency even further.

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Want FREE Cardiology Flashcards?

Cardiology is key for impressive USMLE scores. Master cardiology from a Harvard-trained anesthesiologist who scored 270 on the USMLE Step 1 with these 130+ high-yield flash cards. You’ll be begging for cardio questions - even if vitals make you queasy.

Subscribe