I'm studying for finals and want to use org-drill . Org-drill sees my flash cards and places UUIDs in properties drawers (see the code snippet below). However, when I call org-drill-cram, it says it doesn't see anything:

I did not find any pending drill items.

Here is a screenshot showing what org-drill reports:

org-drill doesn't see any cards Below is an example of one of my cards.

*** What is the key syntax for proc freq? :drill:
:ID:       34885705-f0ae-431f-baf6-50f8c5689cb1

**** the answer

  proc freq data=data;
      tables vars / options;
      output out=out_data;

How do I get org-drill and org-drill-cram to actually test me on my flash cards? It looks like they are detected (since properties are added). What am I missing? I'm using Org 8.2.10 from MELPA and Emacs 24.4.

  • 4
    It's possible to spend an enormous amount of time configuring Emacs to your liking. Ace your finals first (the old fashioned way, whatever that is) and then play with Emacs to your heart's content. With that being said, the other forum participants will undoubtedly give you a hand with your issue. Next semester, your Emacs configuration will likely be ready for studying for finals. Finals are just too important to spend your time fiddling with Emacs, which may be a never ending cycle if you have a little or a lot of O.C.D. (like me).
    – lawlist
    Dec 16, 2014 at 4:05
  • I'm still experiencing this behavior. Anyone else using org-drill on Emacs 24.4?
    – wdkrnls
    Feb 1, 2015 at 19:09
  • Does the demonstration in the link you provided work as expected? Open the file spanish.org. Press M-x and run the function org-drill. Follow the prompts at the bottom of the screen. When the drill finishes, you can look at spanish.org to get some idea of how drill topics are written.
    – lawlist
    Feb 1, 2015 at 19:13
  • Actually, org-drill is working in spanish.org, although org-drill-cram is erroring out (wrong-type-argument number-or-marker-p).
    – wdkrnls
    Feb 1, 2015 at 19:43

1 Answer 1


From the org-drill manual on "Empty Cards":

If you have an item with an empty body, but still want it to be included in a drill session, put a brief comment ('# …') in the item body.

I think org-drill is seeing your card as empty, and so org-drill-cram fails to retrieve your items. By comparison, the cards in spanish.org are not empty.

This is non-intuitive behavior because one expects comments to be meaningless, but here they are necessary.

I ran into this problem myself when setting up similar reviews where I felt the title was a sufficient prompt, and it took a while to identify this as the cause. My previous incorrect hypothesis was that I hadn't added the file to the agenda and org-drill-scope wasn't set properly.

It might be possible to modify the org-drill code to avoid this behavior, but I have not done so.

On an unrelated note, you might also find the setting org-drill-cram-hours useful.

  • 2
    To never ignore "empty" cards make this function always return nil: (defun org-drill-entry-empty-p () nil)
    – koddo
    Jun 27, 2020 at 13:27
  • 1
    @koddo thank you for updating a five-year-old thread 24 hours before I needed the info! & thanks svrama for the originall clue/prompt
    – Levin
    Jul 28, 2020 at 22:59

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