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MCBs and Anki 2.0

This post is a reflection on my experiences with MCBs, mentioned by Jeff弁 over at his blog. You can read all about them here and in this follow-up post, both worth checking out in their entirety. MCB’s, to quote Jeff are:

The general idea with these cards is that, like MCDs, you have a card with some amount of context and a single element that you test yourself on. However, instead of cloze-deletion it uses bold to bring your attention to the piece of the card you are focusing on.
(emphasis added)

In that vein, the Jeff came up with MCBs, or Massive (or Moderate (or Minimal)) Context Bold cards.

In many ways it is basically a reverse cloze-deletion, where instead of trying to guess what the content is, you’re focused on trying to recall what the content is. I have to say, in my brief experience with it (about a week) that it seems two times more effective that MCDs ever were. I find my retention is much stronger and it is easier to recall the word actively rather than passively. This goes for grammar too, as Jeff mentioned he will mark certain points in blue, which I have done as well:

So, for example, I mark this specific sentence structure with blue so I learn to recognize it.

Now, how does this all play into Anki? After the huge update to Anki 2.0, I decided to give it a go again. Recently all my SRS decks have gone stagnant. So, I went through and deleted all my old decks and have since started fresh. You have no idea how relieving that was! Now I’m off to a fresh start, with MCBs guiding the way. The most useful addition is the ability to create parent and child decks, like so:

This way, I can focus my studying on grammar points, Classical Japanese/Chinese, or, by selecting Japanese or Chinese, the whole thing mixed together. This has really helped a lot. As such, my new method of inputting cards reflects this structure–while also making the most use of each phrase. For example:

After adding this new card into Anki, I can select where I put it. So, perhaps I can focus on grammar (blue) or vocabulary (bolded), then place it in its respective deck. I also will flip the cards around and use the content in other ways:

So here’s the same card, with the term I want to focus on in bold. But the content has been reversed to focus on Chinese with the Japanese below. This way I reinforce what I am learning from both sides. However, I try and keep the information on the back of the card specific to what I want to gain from the front. What this means is that, say I have a sentence I am studying the grammar structure for. I only keep that grammar information on the back–even if there’s terms on the front I cannot 100% read or recall. Like the famous adage KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid), I don’t want to clog up my cards with more information than I need to. That is why I make separate vocabulary and grammar cards. Before I tried to jam too much on there, making them very tiring to go through and I often just glossed over most of it anyway.

Also, I make sure to go under “Fields” and activate the “Remember last input when adding” option, so that it retains the content for me to change what I want to bold, color, or where I wish to place it. It’s super helpful.

I definitely suggest giving Jeff’s MCBs a shot, they’re a pretty effective way of doing it. Don’t forget, also, if you have Anki follow this guide posted by Lan for creating filtered decks to make your reviews even more effective!


Unfortunately the links are no longer active, but Ben in the comments provided two links to wayback machine captures of the site, which can be found here:

Part 1:

Part 2:

9 thoughts on “MCBs and Anki 2.0”

  1. “Also, I make sure to go under “Fields” and activate the “Remember last input when adding” option, so that it retains the content for me to change what I want to bold, color, or where I wish to place it. It’s super helpful.”

    Nice. Is that an Anki 2.0 feature? I’m currently copy-pasting from four separate notepad windows as a workaround for that. Having to hold off on Anki 2 until AnkiDroid is finished. Looking forward to it!

  2. Hey, that’s me! So glad to hear you are enjoying MCBs. And thanks for the tip on “remember last input when adding.” I’ve just been copying as well. 😛

    How have you found using bold on Chinese cards? I recently started tinkering around with highlighting the unknown character in a color instead of bold because bold can be so faint with Chinese text.

    1. Admittedly it’s been okay when using the mobile Anki, but I have also been considering that as well. If nothing else it definitely will help to draw to attention further to that particular word. Experimenting is half the fun I guess right? 😀

    1. Oh really! I didn’t know there were decks for Classical on Anki. I’ll have to check those out. No, I have been making the decks myself from my own materials. It’s easier that way as you’re more familiar to the material you’re adding.

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