Choosing the Best Flashcard App: A Thorough Review of Anki, Quizlet, Flashcard Lab, Cram, and Brainscape

Admin - June 5, 2023

There are too many flashcard apps out there. Here are some of the most popular ones, and I tried them all so you don’t have to. This post will do a comprehensive comparison and review of 5 flashcard apps: Anki, Quizlet, Flashcard Lab, Cram and Brainscape. Read on to understand each ones strengths and weaknesses from these aspects:

  • User experience and learning curve 
  • Customization
  • Spaced repetition study (SRS)
  • Physical/printable flashcards
  • Mobile app
  • Multimedia support
  • Price

I’ll compile the results in a cool infographic as well for you to easily digest. Keep in mind, this information is accurate as of the writing of this post. Prices and features may change. For the video version of this post, watch it on YouTube:


In general, all the apps function as digital flashcards as you expect. You can use them to test language, vocabulary, technical knowledge, etc. You can edit the material to show some prompt or question on the front of the card and then flip the card to show the answer on the back of the card.

You can randomize the study so that you don’t expect what comes next. You can create the study material yourself if needed, and you can sync the material to a mobile app to study on the go.

Some of these apps do have extra functionality in addition to flashcards. This includes different study techniques like matching, testing, and even chat bots. I will only be comparing the flashcard function of each of these apps. 

Where applicable, I’ll use a rating system of 1 to 5, with 5 being great and 1 being poor, to characterize certain aspects of each app. So with that context in mind, let’s get started.

User experience and learning curve


Anki is the most difficult to learn by far. You can get started pretty quickly by downloading a deck of flashcards from the website here. The file type will be an Anki file type that can be loaded into the desktop app.

From there, you have many things you can do from adding flashcards, browsing the deck, seeing your study stats, and more. Once you start reviewing, it’s decently easy as you can either skip the card or show the answer. Once you show the answer, then you are greeted with 4 more buttons.

These buttons facilitate the spaced repetition study method that is the crux of Anki and why so many people use it. However, this is also where a lot of the learning curve is.

The numbers on top of the buttons are time intervals that are calculated by Anki’s customizable algorithm. You are able to tailor the algorithm to your learning style and by changing the settings in the deck options, you can make it work for you.

However, there are just many terms in the preferences that need a glossary. It’s very hard to tell how changing certain fields control how studying works. Similarly, every pop out window Anki has seems to have an overwhelming amount of options that require some learning to understand what they do.

The user interface isn’t the cleanest either. Browsing cards in a deck looks like the computer console at NASA.

There are entire YouTube channels dedicated to just Anki and teaching how Anki works. For this reason and all of the above, I would rate Anki a 1 out of 5 in this aspect.


Quizlet sports a super simple browser web app as well as mobile app. I can’t emphasize how well everything is designed from an ease-of-use standpoint. The controls are intuitive immediately and the interface is minimalistic.

In terms of getting started for studying with flashcards, you can study any of the sets already available from their online archive supplied by their users. You can customize the sets and make them yours as well.

There is no spaced repetition study so reviewing the flashcards on Quizlet is just like studying with physical ones: read the prompt, test yourself to see if you know the answer, and then flip to the back to get the answer.

Quizlet also walks you through the process of editing cards. Every action icon is supplemented by tooltips to inform you what and how to do certain things. This makes the UI uncluttered and not as overwhelming as Anki is.

For these reasons, Quizlet has the best user experience and learning curve. I give it a max rating of 5 in this area.

Flashcard Lab

Flashcard Lab is the most popular flashcard app that works with Google Sheets. As long as you are familiar with Google Sheets and/or spreadsheet programs, this will be very easy for you to pick up.

Getting started is very simple. You can choose to generate some sample flashcard sets to understand how the app works. This will pre-populate the spreadsheet with some formatted sample data that you can begin testing. In addition to this, you can copy existing spreadsheets users have shared from the browse page here.

To begin reviewing, click the “Start reviewing” and select the spreadsheet or set of flashcards to review. You will see an interface that is very similar to Quizlet’s where it is minimalistic and is easy to learn.

By default, spaced repetition learning is off so you will be learning just as you would with physical flashcards. To turn on the spaced repetition learning mode, you need to click the settings (or gear icon) in the sidebar. Here, you will be asked to set the time intervals for reviewing your material. This isn’t the same as Anki though and Flashcard Lab sports a much simpler version of spaced repetition study. Tooltips help you quickly understand the settings.

With Flashcard Lab, there are no unnecessarily complicated options or parameters to set like Anki but it doesn’t offer some more customization than Quizlet. The UI is decently simple and intuitive to use so for these reasons, I will rate the user experience and learning curve of this app a 4 out of 5.

Cram’s flashcard functionality is easy to get started with. It works directly in the browser just like Quizlet. They also have an extensive collection of almost 200 million flashcards to get you started. Subjects span from computers to language to military.

Cram’s UI is just slightly cluttered with buttons and controls when reviewing flashcards. The website also has a good amount of ads so make sure you’re using an ad-block extension to declutter the interface.

Other than that, Cram is as advertised, simple and straightforward when reviewing flashcards. You can choose to shuffle the deck, alphabetize it and choose from a couple of formats on how the cards are displayed. The controls and hotkeys are intuitive. It’s not fancy but it’s practical.

Overall, in terms of user experience and learning curve, it’s pretty easy to use with a decent UI. I give it a 4 out of 5.


Brainscape is the last app on this list and is also a browser-based flashcard review platform. The UI is decently slick and modern compared to Cram. However, it does take some getting used to.

For example, editing flashcards can happen in multiple places with different pop up modals to allow editing. Both places have different UIs. Also, a lot of the teacher information inputs are mashed in with the students so if you are a student, it’s not immediately clear why some forms and input fields exist. 

Similar to Quizlet and Cram, there are a lot of readily available flashcard decks to study. Study from entrance exams to languages to tech and engineering.

There’s a simulator to show what your flashcards would look like on a desktop computer or on mobile. I’m not entirely sure why that is necessary besides informing the user that there is potentially a mobile version of the app.

I know I might sound nitpicky with Brainscape but I feel that many small things add up to steepen the learning curve. For this reason, I would give it a slight disadvantage compared to Cram and Flashcard Lab: 3.5 out of 5.


If you’re a student that likes to take control of their learning material and customize how you study to make it work for you, these apps have varying degrees of how well that can be achieved. Let’s talk about it.


Anki is hands down the most customizable app there is when it comes to flashcards. This is the trade off of the high learning curve. For example, you can add cards from 5 different starting types. Each type of note has its own set of fields and card types. Taking it one step further, you can create and style card templates. This allows you to style the front and back of your cards however you like within the limits of HTML and CSS and apply it to every card in a deck. Math equations are also supported using LaTeX and MathJax.

Spaced repetition study is also very customizable. Each deck has options you can set to customize the learning interval or what Anki calls “steps”. There are also other parameters you can set called “graduating interval”, “easy interval”, and “lapse” parameters that control what happens if you’ve missed a bunch of studying.

This is just a very superficial overview of the customization ability of Anki. There are so many things you can do with this app that their documentation is almost like a novel. For this reason, Anki is a solid 5 out of 5 for customization.


Quizlet is far less customizable than Anki and is on the other end of the spectrum. You can set some ways of studying like whether the answer of the flashcard is the definition or the term. You get to “star” cards to indicate that you need to review them more.

You can add images and audio and use rich text formatting. There aren't any spaced repetition settings to change. That’s basically it.

Quizlet is very straightforward so if you’re looking for customization, it is decent. For this reason, I’m rating it a 3 out of 5 for customization.

Flashcard Lab

Again, Flashcard Lab operates in a spreadsheet environment but does have a certain format you have to follow in order to generate flashcards that you can review. Currently, there are 5 headers labels that are customizable. The first 2 columns can be labeled anything but the first column defines the front of the card and the second, the back of the card. In addition, the next two columns can be for notes/tips on the back of the card like synonyms and mnemonics. The last column is reserved for images.

Spaced repetition study customization is limited to a single setting to make it relatively simple: a series of numbers representing the time intervals (measured in days) corresponding to the difficulty of each card.

Flashcard Lab is definitely not as customizable as Anki and offers similar capability and modularity compared to Quizlet. The resulting rating is a 3 out of 5.

Cram is also very similar to Quizlet: no SRS to customize, similar settings. It gives you an ability to organize your decks into folders but that’s about it. No formatting or custom styling. I’ll rate Cram a 2.5 out of 5 for customization.


For Brainscape, I would say it has all the things Quizlet has but with some extra bells and whistles. When studying, you can choose between random or progressive order. And you can enable continuous study or leave it at the default setting. Continuous study just means that you are reviewing the cards with no end.

One really cool UI that Brainscape has is the “Advanced cards” editor. It is a user-friendly template that allows you to add footnotes, clarifiers, and other “sections” to your card. It’s very similar to the template and styling used in Anki but with WAY less learning curve and also limited customization.

Taking these few things into account, the rating for Brainscape’s customization is a solid 3 out of 5.

Spaced Repetition Study

If you aren’t familiar with SRS, it is a way of studying that involves reviewing and recalling information at varying time intervals to more effectively and efficiently help you retain material. For this aspect of the apps, I’ll only go over 3 of them since the other 2 don’t have SRS available. (Note: Cram does indicate that they have a SRS mode but I could not find a way to set that mode in the app.)


Anki uses a modified version of the SM-2 algorithm. You can read all about it here but essentially, it is touted by its users as effective, backed by studies, and extremely customizable. 


Brainscape uses its proprietary SRS algorithm that allows you to select a metric from 1-5 after every card corresponding to how well you knew the material.

Flashcard Lab

Flashcard Lab uses a simple Lietner system that graduates cards according to time intervals that you have set. After each card, there are only 3 options to choose from: move the card to the most frequent time interval for very difficult cards, keep the card at its current time interval, and graduate the card to the next time interval making it reviewed less frequently.



Physical/Printable Flashcards Support

Only Flashcard Lab and Cram have this support. If you learn better using physical flashcards or want a tool to easily create a ton of physical cards, these two apps will allow you to create the deck in their respective online platforms and then generate a PDF file (Cram) and Google Doc (Flashcard Lab) that you can print out and cut the cards from.

Flashcard Lab's Google Doc of printable flashcards

To use this feature, you can have either a printer that prints both sides OR a printer that only prints one side. For printers that print only one side, all you have to do is print odd pages first, flip those pages, insert them back into the printer, and then print the even pages.


Ranging from subscriptions to one time purchases to free, all the apps have different pricing in order to access all the features. Remember, these prices are accurate as of the writing of this post.


Made by enthusiasts and a community of tech savvy individuals, the desktop version of the Anki app is completely free and comes with all the functionality, features, SRS, etc. The mobile version is a one time cost of $24.99.


For the premium version of Quizlet, you get the ability to add audio recordings, custom images, visual cues, rich text formatting, no ads and offline use. This will set you back $3.74 per month billed annually or $7.99 per month billed monthly.

Flashcard Lab

The Flashcard Lab Google Sheets add-on has no ads, has SRS, reverse flashcard (switch back to front) studying that is great for languages, allows you to import/export CSVs, and printable cards support all for a one time purchase of $10.99. If you don’t need SRS, then this version would be $6.99. In addition, you get access to the mobile Android app (and iOS app) as well as the Chrome extension.


About 95% of Cram's features are completely free but has ads. To add extra card design features like formatting and font manipulation, it is $5 per month.


Brainscape ranges from $19.99 to $7.99 per month depending on if you want to be billed monthly or annually. With the premium version, you get to study unlimited flashcards, import/export CSV, add multimedia, use the advanced editor, and more.

Wrap Up

The comprehensive summary of this post can be compiled into the easily-digestible infographic below. Every app has its benefits and drawbacks. It is up to you to decide what is important to you and what you are willing to pay for. I will say if you are willing to learn Anki, it is probably the best system for long term learning. If you don’t want to spend the time and effort to read that Anki documentation, Quizlet is the way to go. For the best bang for your buck, Flashcard Lab is the absolute best choice for you. What do you think?