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Not to be mistaken for a flash card, a learning card is basically a small paper card containing the name of a single subject, idea, component or any other small part of a body of knowledge such as an academic field of study. Apart from the name, the card holds a brief but precise description of the subject, component etc. By simply flipping through a small stack of cards, a person can grow familiar with enough pieces of a field of study to understand its basics.

Well-made learning cards have a simple system of reference between them. A common system is to simply have words in a cards description section written in italic or bold, if that word corresponds to the name of another card. This way, the cards form a collected whole, showing the relations between things described.