Leitner system

The Leitner system is fully supported in Smart Revise Terms. It solves the problem of students not knowing which flashcards they should revise each day. It is a simple implementation of spaced repetition with an emphasis on revising least well understood terms more frequently, and the most understood terms less frequently.

Day 1: Revise the red cards.

Day 2: Revise the red and amber cards.

Day 3: Revise the red cards.

Day 4: Revise the red and amber cards.

Day 5: Revise the amber and green cards.

There are several implementations of the Leitner system, but this is the version Smart Revise uses.

Building decks

When a student revises a term, either in reflective or interactive mode they must indicate their confidence before moving to the next card.

A "confident" assessment moves the card from red to amber or red to green.

A "not confident" assessment moves the card from green to amber or amber to red.

Terms that are already green remain green if the student is still confident, and terms that are red remain red if the student is still not confident.

When to use Leitner deck building

We recommend that students use Leitner when preparing for tests by using the topic filters to limit the chosen topics to the ones that will be assessed. Towards the end of a course, students should be using Leitner with a full deck of cards.

The research

Proposed by Sebastian Leitner in 1972, the Leitner system is a wideley adopted, simple method of spaced repetition with flashcards.

Cards are sorted into one of three groups: red, amber or green according to how well the student knows each term.

The student tries to recall the text on the back of the card. If they succeed they move the term to the next group. If they fail they move it back one group.

Students study their decks of cards almost every day, prioritising the study of more challenging material more often until it becomes easy.

When the brain attempts to take in a large amount of information at once, the rate at which information is forgotten varies for each concept. Usually, we cannot process all the information at once, making it more likely that we will forget a majority of the concepts. The Leitner System’s focus on spaced repetition and active recalling of information allows the brain to absorb the information and process it more effectively.


Leitner, S (1972) So lernt man lernen. Der Weg zum Erfolg [How to learn to learn: The way to success] (in German). Freiburg im Breisgau: Verlag Herder