Anki deck for IB Mandarin Ab Initio


Spaced recall (SR) is the most efficient way of retaining knowledge, and I find the open-sourced software Anki to be the most robust and flexible of systems I have tried.

Even though experts recommend everyone to create their own decks — and I concur — I found that this recommendation creates a large initial barrier.  The difficulty in learning the craft of building notes, and the initial time investment required, prevents students from starting at all.

Of the minority that did build their own cards, their initial cards would lack correct formulation, technical skill, and aesthetic flourish; the ineffectual cards would then deter all but the most determined.

Principle: We must not let Perfect prevent the Good from happening.

Good is often good enough; my teenage students have a whole lifetime to learn to build decks — should they want to.  However, if they have never had a taste of the open sea they would never sail again.

So I make decks.  Chemistry decks, exhaustively.  In the last few months I have also created and refined decks for other IB subjects, so that students can have a “one-stop” study technique that helps build habits.  The following is a description of the Mandarin ab initio deck, and instructions for used.

The . Deck

Comprehensive vocabulary from IB Syllabus

This deck contains all 1,266 words suggested in the IB syllabus.  Each of these words are quizzed from 漢字 Hanzi to definition, and back from definition to identifying the Hanzi, for a total of 2532 cards.

Fully Categorized

Each card is tagged with the theme, topic, and category.  This information is available from the browser so you can easily choose what to study with, as well as creating filtered decks.

Read it, See it, and Hear it

All cards have pronunciations attached.  These sounds are contained in the Anki media library and is available even if you are studying offline.

All cards have Pinyin attached to ensure you can read it correctly.

In the answer view, the Hanzi is colored by their tone for easy identification (once you built the recognition).

Taking the next steps

If you are online, the answer view links you to dictionary, Baidu searches, and imagery of the term.

How to Use This

Download and install the base Anki app for your desktop.  Test if you can open the app; you should see a screen like this:

Start up interface of Anki


If you have not yet downloaded the deck from the above green button, now is the time to save the deck from this Google Folder.  (Your browser will say “No preview available”; Google Drive doesn’t know what to do with Anki files.)

After downloading, double-click to open the .apkg in Anki.  Your screen should flash and then say 2532 cards added.

To study your first card, click on the active (learnt) sub-deck.

Click on sub-deck to study
After clicking the “Study Now” button, you will see your first card.  Do you know what that means?  After you have thought about it, click on Show Answer to check your response.
Click this button to show answer

Depending on whether you know what 你好嗎 means, you may choose Again, Good, or Easy.  This changes when the card will be next presented to you.

Choose a button corresponding to your knowledge of the vocabulary.

…since I don’t know what you know, I have only placed one card into you “active (learnt)” deck.  Next we will learn how to transfer other words that your teacher have already taught you from the standby deck to the active deck.

To transfer additional words you’ve learnt in class to the “active” deck, click on the Browse button:

Browsing cards

Click on the Standby deck from the sidebar:

Choosing the standby deck to see all the available cards.

To find the words you already know, you can type in the search bar to find the words.  The search works for the Hanzi, the meaning, as well as theme / topic / category (try “education”).  Click the cards and drag them to your Active deck.  I recommend you do this after every lesson.

searching for known cards

Next steps

Now that you have studied a card, learnt how to transfer cards as you learn them, you should commit to 5 minutes every day with this technique, for at least the next month, to build a habit.

If you want to develop your Anki skills further, consider reading up on

If you noticed errors or omission in the deck, you can leave a comment here.  (However, I am unlikely to follow up on this until next summer.)

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