Flash card challenge

From OpenHatch wiki


Write a flash card quizzer from scratch.


  • practice breaking down a problem and solving it in Python from scratch
  • practice command line option parsing
  • practice reading from files
  • practice working with dictionaries and for loops

Problem statement

Write a Python script that takes a file containing flash card questions and answers as an argument and quizzes the user based on the contents of that file until the user quits the program. Questions should be selected randomly (as opposed to going in order through the file), and the user should type in their guess. The script should say whether or not a guess is correct and provide the correct answer if an incorrect answer is given.

The file will contain flash card challenges in the form:


For example, a state capitals flash card file might have the form:


Running the quizzer script with this file might look like this:

$ python quizzer.py state_capitals.txt
Texas? Austin
Correct! Nice job.
New Mexico? Santa Fe
Correct! Nice job.
Oregon? Portland
Incorrect. The correct answer is Salem.
Virginia? Richmond
Correct! Nice job.
Virginia? Exit

Breaking down the problem

Step 1: Get the questions from a fixed flash card file

Download http://web.mit.edu/jesstess/www/IntermediatePythonWorkshop/state_capitals.txt.

Write the code to open and read state_capitals.txt (we'll deal with getting a variable filename from the user later). Create a dictionary, where each comma-separated question and answer become a key and value in the dictionary. Note that each line in the file ends in a newline, which you'll need to remove from the word.

Step 1 resources:

Step 2: Randomly select questions from the question dictionary

Write a while loop that loops forever and at each iteration through the loop randomly selects a key/value pair from the questions dictionary and prints the question.

To randomly select a key from the dictionary, you can use the random module, and in particular the random.choice function.

When you run your script, to break out of the while loop you can press Control and then (while still holding down Control) c.

Step 2 resources:

Step 3: Get and check the user's answer

Inside your while loop, write the code that gets an answer from the user and compares it to the answer retrieved from the questions dictionary. If the answer is correct, say so. If the answer is incorrect, say so and print the correct answer.

You can get input from a user using the raw_input function.

It is up to you how strict you want to be with a user's answer. Do you want capitalization to matter?

Step 3 resources:

Step 4: Allow the user to quit the program

The while loop currently runs forever. Pick a special phrase (like "Exit") that the user can type instead of an answer that signals that they want to quit the program. When that special phrase is given, print a goodbye message and break out of the while loop to end the program.

Step 4 resources:

Step 5: Get the quiz questions file from the user

Write the code to get the quiz questions file from a command line argument. Handle the case where a user forgets to supply a file; in this case, print an error message saying they need to supply a file, and then exit the program using the exit() function.

Step 5 resources:

Checking your work

Try out your script on the following quiz files:

Does your script handle the case where the user forgets to provide a filename?

Bonus challenge

Modify your script to quiz based on either the question or answer. e.g. for state capitals, the quizzer would present either a state, expecting its capital as the answer, or a capital, expecting its state as the answer.


You've implemented a substantial, useful script in Python from scratch to help people study. Keep practicing!