Your Anki Reviews will Decrease Over Time

If you have been using Anki for a while now, you may have faced your ultimate issue with the program.  Reviews get out of control in no time.  When you first start off, there is no intimidation, with maybe only a few dozen reviews due a day.  But then you slowly start to notice that small friendly number turn into the 100s, and if you miss more than a few days,  into the 1000s.  Discouraging?

Your Anki Reviews will Decrease Over Time 1

There is a card limit feature on Anki, where you can choose how many cards you want the program to actually make due a day.  But c’mon, you know deep down inside that this isn’t the real number.

The temporary solution to this problem is to decrease your addition of new cards.  Decreasing new cards and doing only reviews will slowly decrease your reviews due.  But there is just one problem: you want to add new cards.  Add more cards = increase Japanese level.

I don’t have any magical method to make your reviews go down.  You have to do them.  But I will tell you something that should ease your worries.

Your reviews will go down as your level of Japanese improves

One of the biggest concerns that relatively new Anki users have is that this overload of reviews will continue forever.  If you have 300+ reviews a day and your deck is only 3000 cards, what will happen when your deck is 8,000 cards, or 12,000 cards?

Four factors should put your fears to rest:

1.  Your speed of reviewing cards will dramatically increase.
2.  The amount of new cards you need to add will drastically decrease.
3.  Your rate of correct answers will skyrocket.
4.  Your pleasure in doing Anki will rise.  It will feel more like reading a strange, fragmented book.

My experience:

I currently have a fully self-made deck of 2030 kanji and 12,409 sentences.  I add maybe around 20 new cards a month.  If I do reviews every day, I have about 70-100 reviews, which take about 15 minutes.  If I do the reviews once every 3 or 4 days, I usually have around 300-350 cards built up which take around an hour.  The numbers have continually decreased.  On many of the older cards, hitting the “good” or “easy” button gives me an interval of 5-7 years.

Anki eventually becomes a tool to keep what you have learned in place, and to occasionally learn something new.  The great thing about what Anki has done for you is that once you reach a certain level you can learn most things from mere context.
Now get back to your Anki reviews.

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


Your Anki Reviews will Decrease Over Time — 10 Comments

  1. I think many intermediate learners face this, me being one of them! I’ve done similar thing s to help (decreasing new cards, etc) Thanks for this post!

  2. How long exactly does it take for Anki reviews to become better? Do you have a rough estimate? I’ve been trying Anki out for months (pretty much using the RTK deck), and I still find myself failing the vast majority of my cards and pretty much brute-forcing my way through them, possibly without really learning anything.

    • For the RTK deck did you use the stories for each kanji?

      Since it doesn’t just suddenly get better, it is a bit of a slow process, and it depends on how much other Japanese input you are receiving in your daily life. The more other input the better your Anki retention rate will be. But it will get better. Give it more time.

      When I had a smaller deck in my first year or so, I was going through 200~400 reviews a day.

      • I’ve given up on using stories or mnemonics entirely. No matter how good the mnemonic, somehow, I’ve managed to forget it. If I have to put that much work into remembering the memory tool, wouldn’t it make more sense putting that same amount of work into what you’re ultimately trying to remember in the first place?

        • “If I have to put that much work into remembering the memory tool, wouldn’t it make more sense putting that same amount of work into what you’re ultimately trying to remember in the first place?”
          No…, it wouldn’t…
          The point is that rather random sequences of brush strokes are so much harder to remember than the stories, and hence require MORE work: after all, an average story only has some 2-4 elements (the keywords associated with the elements that compose the kanji), and your brain will usually easily associate them together because you have a clear mental image connecting them. Now, you might of course argue that then you could just memorize the elements, and that that should just be the “same” amount of information, but it’s not really, at least for us human beings, because there is no “logic” you can rely on to remember the relationship between those elements: having stories allows one to narrow down the valid ways of combining those elements much more than simple visual memory (which is what you are de facto using. In fact, one of the most peculiar things that happened to me at earlier stages, would be to see, the word, recall the story, draw the kanji, think: “I don’t even remember ever seeing this”, and having it right anyway).

          I really would recommend giving another go at the stories via the Heisig method… but if you find this doesn’t work for you (or you feel it is too hard for you), the suggestions (which I haven’t tried myself) I would give you would be to look into either RTKLite (a reduced RTK deck which focus only on the 1000 more important kanji, and hence should be less painful), or the LazyKanji method (which I am skeptical about, but seems devised for people with your complaints)

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