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Hands On with Synap – Spaced Repetition for All

The more perceptive of you may notice that you don’t recognise the name of the author on this post, so I would like to take an opportunity to introduce myself! My name is Indrajeet (feel free to shorten this as you like; Indy/Indra are the most commonly used) and I am a third year medical student at UCL. I will be studying for my intercalated degree in Neuroscience this year, but right now, I am doing a few bits and pieces with Synap as an internship. I am interested in both enterprise and education, and working with the company has allowed me to combine these elements together nicely.

Note that the screenshots on here are pre-release; the real thing may look even better! 

Today, I am going to share a few thoughts on my experience with Synap. Synap is a great new app that uses spaced repetition software to help you study smartly and remember things more quickly. I, like pretty much every student in the world, am always looking to remember more in less time. We tell ourselves it is because we want to study better, but let’s be honest, the main driver for this is wanting to pass exams as well as have an active social life. Well, as with pretty much everything these days, the solution lies in the Neuroscience. Not only is it important to learn actively, but your timing is important to make sure you can learn something as efficiently as possible, and Synap is the pioneer service to use this concept of spaced repetition with MCQ questions.

First Impressions

Right from the start, I got the impression that this would be user-friendly, with very a simple yet effective home page that tells you what you can expect from using the service. If this is enough evidence to tell you how great it is, then it is dead easy to get started – you just put in what you are studying and off you go. The sign up process is really simple, as you can sign up with Facebook. You can then opt to turn on/off the spaced repetition software.

The image shows the landing page of synap.ac
Synap’s homepage

The website looks nice, and the beauty lies in the simplicity. Everything is tidy and uncluttered, but it is easy to find anything you need (the technical stuff is on the bottom if you are interested). Also, I think there is going to be a short video in that huge pink space over on the right.

Usability

Once I have logged on to the site, it takes me over to a sort of News Feed, where I can see the activities of all the people that I am following (and how well they are doing on the quizzes). I can access my tests on the next tab, and following that, I get a nice dashboard of my progress so far.

The image shows the main dashboard, highlighting my scores and progress
Main dashboard

Browsing for tests is very simple – I just click on browse and the categories show up on my screen. There are mostly medical questions on here, but there seems to be a decent range of other subjects on here too. I assume that there is more content yet to come.

This image shows some of the question categories I can go to
Browse

Alternatively, if I know exactly what I want to study, I can just search for it in the search box. The great thing is that it searches as I am entering the word – I don’t get any of those dreaded ‘did you mean’ notices you get on Google! I can just hover over a test to get more details, and just click on it to start. It sounds like a tiny, insignificant detail, but the hallmark of a good quality site or app does lie in the small stuff, and so far, it’s got approval from me.

This image shows the ease of searching for quizzes across the website
The search function

And of course, you can create your own quizzes and, if you want to, share them with the community. Creating your own quiz is pretty easy – just put in a couple of details and then get writing. With each question, you can add an image if you need, and also an explanation of the answers at the bottom.

Screenshot 2015-08-17 16.14.49Screenshot 2015-08-17 16.18.11

Overall, this is a really easy-to-use website. I am especially fond about the social aspect of it, which I will come onto in just a little while.

Content

This is a user-focused app, and so most of the tests are created by the community. This is great because you can find tests that are relevant to your own course and university. Therefore, I won’t end up doing lots of questions that won’t be tested in my own exams! There are also going to be some professional questions on here too.

Currently, I think that there are more medical questions on here – the other categories are a little light in comparison. Hopefully, as the app grows in popularity, more and more people will contribute their questions in these areas.

Audience

The great thing about this is that literally anybody that is learning anything can benefit from using the website. Currently, it is more geared towards university students, but professionals and school students can certainly benefit from the spaced repetition algorithms used on the app.

There is also a great social aspect to this app too. It isn’t just a question & answer site, but you can create private study groups and join your university class on here. The news feed style homepage is also a great way of stalking your followers, and seeing them get such high scores may give you the kick you need to start your own revision!

Anything wrong with it?

This is still in development, so naturally there are a few creases that need to be ironed out. Even Facebook has a few things that I’m sure not everybody is happy about (I shall save this rant for another day).

You may have noticed a little box with my level and my xp. From what I have gathered, it seems like making quizzes and doing them gains me xp, but it isn’t too clear how this works. Also what does levelling up mean; do I get a nice shiny star next to my profile?

Sharability (if that is even a word) is something I also picked up on. For most apps, it is quite easy to recommend it to friends or share it on social media, and I couldn’t really find an easy way to do this on Synap. Also, do I gain xp if I tell my friends about it?

Additionally, it would be nice to keep some of my scores private. Although the social aspect of the app is great, it would be nice to have an option to keep my scores private, as  I would rather people not know that my anatomy knowledge is worse than what I would get by randomly guessing…

Final Words

Synap is a great new spaced repetition app that helps you study smarter and remember things much more quickly. The beta version of the site is very impressive, and it seems to have that X-factor feel that its competitors such as Anki or Quizlet don’t. It has clearly been designed with the user-experience in mind, but without compromising on the quality of the content the app has to offer. Additionally, the spaced repetition feature offers a new dimension to your learning, that once you start using, you will swear by throughout your education!