Brainscape - Smart Flashcards

Flexible flash cards prompt students to reflect

Learning rating

Community rating

Based on 5 reviews

Privacy rating

Expert evaluation by Common Sense



Subjects & Skills

Character & SEL, College & Career Prep, Critical Thinking

Great for

Assessment, Productivity

Price: Free, Paid
Platforms: Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Web

Pros: Compelling visual metaphors encourage and monitor progress toward content mastery; even the free account comes with access to lots of topics and features.

Cons: Students self-report their confidence, which can skew teacher data; most of the really powerful features and content require a paid subscription.

Bottom Line: An exceptionally flexible tool with great potential for creating and sharing custom flash cards, but many of the features that make it unique will cost you.

Brainscape allows students and teachers to review a huge list of subjects on just about any topic. Teachers can create their own classrooms and flash card decks for their students to use or they can access over a million cards created by users along with some professionally created content. A free account allows teachers to create a public class and their own cards that anyone can use. A paid account allows for a private class along with the ability to track your students' progress and access thousands of more cards. 

Teachers can then use these flash cards to reinforce lessons, prepare for tests, or introduce students to new concepts. As a tool for learning new concepts, Brainscape isn't ideal (as it would simply teach by revealing answers repeatedly), but for reviewing previously learned concepts, it's excellent and can be easily implemented into the class either via the app or web browser. And the number of topics available is diverse enough that both students and teachers should be able to find something of relevance or interest. 

Brainscape - Smart Flashcards works the same as a paper flash card deck: Students read a question on one side and then click to reveal the answer on the other. They then rank how well they know the answer; a higher rating means the card shows up less moving forward. An interactive graphic is used to show students their overall mastery of the subject and their progress. 

The mastery level is self-reported by the student, and there are no checks in place to see if students actually know the content or not. Furthermore, a card that is marked as a 5 (for perfect understanding) still makes its way into the deck and can be seen a number of times again before the deck is considered mastered. This could take away from focusing on areas the student still needs more practice in and could cause frustration for the student being asked a question they marked as knowing the answer to repeatedly. Additionally, once a deck has been 100% mastered, the cards continue to be shown, and there doesn't seem to be any notice of completion or mastery aside from the graphic on the side showing 100%.

Brainscape is available both on the web and as an app for iOS or Android, making it highly versatile and accessible for a wide variety of students and devices. The app and the website are well-integrated as well, so progress made on one is reflected in the other. Also, because the app and the website are designed to work seamlessly together, switching between the two is straightforward, easy, and encouraged by Brainscape itself. This means that students can access materials from a number of sources, making digital access discrepancies between students less of an issue.

The ability for teachers to make their own cards for whatever subject they're teaching means Brainscape can be used for nearly limitless subjects, topics, lessons, and more (including those with audio/video components if using a paid subscription). However, Brainscape uses a self-reported mastery method, which means data gathered by the teacher on student progress is more about how confident the student feels about the content -- not necessarily how well they actually know it. 

Even though Brainscape relies on the flash card method of instruction, it doesn't fall into some of the same traps as traditional flash cards. Traditional flash cards can be great for certain content, but their biggest weakness is that they're so simplistic; they don't demand critical thinking or synthesis, and they aren't the best preparation for tests that go beyond rote memorization. However, Brainscape offers a best-case scenario for students to use flash cards. It demands that students think critically about their learning. Every card flipped requires the student to tap a color that indicates how well they know the information on the card. Of course, as with paper flash cards, it's still possible for students to flip mindlessly through these cards. However, the visual metaphor of the rainbow progress bar is compelling. It feels good to complete a deck and turn the progress bar blue, and it feels rewarding to see the numbers tick upward on the Overall Mastery pie chart on the app's Library home page. It would be nice, however, if there was some form of celebration of 100% mastery for students. 

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

These flash cards offer instant feedback and clear progress tracking. As new cards appear, students rate how well they know each card's content on a color-coded scale. The less confident they are, the more frequently it appears.


As with paper flash cards, this app is good for reviewing vocabulary and concepts in many subjects. It's not ideal for learning new materials but does help empower students to actively reinforce their knowledge. 


The built-in color coding makes the student's progress clear throughout. Cards featuring text, images, and/or audio allow students to customize their multimedia experience.

Common Sense reviewer
Pamela Brittain
Pamela Brittain Academic Coordinator K - 12

Community Rating

Brainscape vs. Quizlet

Due to my default application for quiz sets being Quizlet, I will be comparing this application to Quizlet. In Brainscape, the creation process for flashcards is a little less intuitive than Quizlet. However, I like the feature in Brainscape that allows you rate your knowledge of the card, allowing it to be shuffled more frequently or less frequently in the deck. I also like the content on Brainscape better than Quizlet. For example, I’m currently studying for the CSET, and trying to look for free study material that reflects the content of the tests. After looking at the sample questions online, the sets on Quizlet weren’t helpful to me, as they gave simple definitions and concepts for the CSET when the questions appeared to be much harder. After a few seconds searching on Brainscape, I found a set where the flashcards were set up as multiple choice questions, a much better reflection of the content of the CSET. However, Brainscape does not have the learn feature that Quizlet has, which, even if it is a simple memorize and write interface, helps drill the concept into my brain better because it’s interactive.
As an instructor, I can see using Brainscape more than Quizlet for learning, as I think it would be super easy to create a class and assign flashcards for students. However, I think this application would be more of a studying tool and cannot transform into the upper echelons of the SAMR framework. This is a technological study aid, and should be used outside of the classroom. It’s a building block for basic knowledge that can eventually segue into a higher understanding, but that segue cannot be made using this technology alone.

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Privacy Rating

Data Safety How safe is this product?

  • Users can interact with trusted users.
  • Personal information can be displayed publicly.
  • User-created content is not filtered for personal information before being made publicly visible.

Data Rights What rights do I have to the data?

  • Users can create or upload content.
  • Processes to access or review user data are available.
  • Processes to modify data are available for authorized users.

Ads & Tracking Are there advertisements or tracking?

  • Personal information is shared for third-party marketing.
  • Traditional or contextual advertisements are displayed.
  • Personalised advertising is displayed.

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