How to configure Anki for more intensive learning, and will it work?

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Max V

07 Sep, 2015 09:32 AM

I'm in a school where the courses are organized block-style, i.e. in series of single courses running over shorter time periods as opposed to many courses run in parallel throuhgout the whole year. So a smaller, low-credit course may run for as little as 1 or 2 weeks and then finish with a final exam, while a bigger class may last for 8+ weeks. I have experience with, and like this form of learning from earlier, but have never incorporated Anki into it.

I'd love to hear tips for how to configure Anki to work optimally with this way of learning. With the default setup, I imagine that there will be challenges with too many immature cards by the time I get to exam day. What would you change in the settings, and how would you use Anki to accomodate this pace and structure of learning?

Thank you for your suggestions.
- Max V

  1. 1 Posted by Vit on 10 Sep, 2015 07:31 PM

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    Hi Max
    1. What is your experience with SRS ?
           Do you know how involved you'd be ?
    2. Have you ever used Paper cards ?
    3. What is and How long is your Next class ?
           Would the Cloze deletion be adequate for that material ?
    4. Do you have paper or on-line books ?
    5. How do you learn now -- without Anki ?
           Did you pass all the tests before ?

  2. 2 Posted by Vit on 10 Sep, 2015 07:32 PM

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    .... and what do you mean --"Intencive Learning "

  3. 3 Posted by Max V on 10 Sep, 2015 08:16 PM

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    Hi Vit, thanks for engaging.

    1) I've been familiar with Anki for about a year. Used it as a primary retention tool for a couple of subjects yielding a total of close to 10 000 cards. If I decide to use Anki as a central part of my study routine I get quite involved with it and allocate enough time to do all the reviews every day.
    2) never used paper cards
    3) Next class is microbiology and will last 6 weeks. After using close deletions to some degree in previous card making, my feeling is that I learn more from regular front/back cards.
    4) I mostly use on-line books as the card-creation process is more effective that way.
    5) Up until now my curriculum has been organized as several parallel classes running a whole semester. I think this stretching-out in time for each class makes SRS a more adequate method to employ. I've passed all my tests with this organization.

    I guess by "intensive" learning I actually mean *rapid* learning: the internalization of much information in a short amount of time, with the main challenge being that the information learned close to the exam dates will only get 2 or 3 passings in the SRS before being officially tested.

  4. 4 Posted by NicBright on 11 Oct, 2015 09:17 AM

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    "Oh my god".

    The structure of how these courses are lined up (only two weeks and then exam) does not sound good at all. The school/organization where you're studying really is doing you not a favour with this. It's clearly favoring the classic cramming style a lot of students are used to. Given that you cannot change that structure, the best you can do is to still use Anki. Just make cards like you're used to and learn every day according to the regular schedule. And then, one day before the exam, cram all of them, one, two or three times until you're confident that you've internalized them all for the next day. See the docs for how to do cramming:

    After the exam: continue learning the cards using the regular schedule of Anki. That is, of course, unless you decide that you no longer need the knowledge of that course.


  5. 5 Posted by Max V on 11 Oct, 2015 10:00 AM

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    Thanks for your reply Nicolas!

    I've now finished one of the small courses which was just over one week. One thing I have done is to play with the "steps" option for new cards. Instead of the standard "1 10" steps, I've used "1 10 30". The intention with adding steps has been to do an "early cram" of each card in hopes of increasing chances of answering "good" once they come up for review over the next days. The particular numbers 1 10 30 were chosen arbitrarily, so I guess I'm open to hearing other people's opinions on what would be better step intervals. In fact, I have no idea whether adding steps will actually increase retention until next review, but as I get som more data from my reviews, I will be able to compare the retention statistics with what I previously have been getting.

    I also set my "learn ahead" option to 0 so that I will have to wait the actual step intervals between each time I see the same card when it's new. Again, the intention being that of (hopefully) making new cards stick with fever passings.

    Except for that I've been going with the standard settings. It has worked surprisingly well for this round of classes, but I can't say how it will be with tougher, more memorization-heavy material that will come in later courses.

    Any further feedback on my strategy and alterations will be gladly accepted.

    Kind regards,

  6. 6 Posted by ZapBeeb on 11 Oct, 2015 01:48 PM

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    I am all with NicBright on this.
    These courses looks to be laid out in a very bad way...

  7. 7 Posted by Vit on 29 Oct, 2015 12:54 AM

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    Hi Max. Sorry for a long delay.
    I have been delaying my response hoping that another user would reply -- one with an experience of learning such a short course. ... Did not happen.

    I have stumbled upon an Anki forum for Medical students.
    Here are some bullet points on the subject-of-interest.

    From site
    To use Anki for 100% of the material would have me making tons of cards and never having time to review them. I've done this and it's a huge waste of time. I now just study ( without Anki ) and memorize as much as possible. If you go over something a few times and it's still not sticking, that's when I use Anki. This ends up being < 20% of the material.

    Also, the people who are the best at medical school (the people not using Anki and acing things) .... can organize and structure the material while reading it in a book. You will not meet a clinical student who is able to work 60-80 hrs a week on tougher rotations, then go home and read the material they need to know, and then to organize that material into Anki flashcards, and then to review them.

    from: ( this is part-1)

    • ... 20-50 cards per lecture is a good target, but there are some lectures that require 150 cards ( mostly the Image Occlusion).

    • I’ve found that Cloze deletions get the job done and allow me to do well on tests

      From other forums:

    • I would not use Anki alone. You definitely lose the forest for the trees. I am a huge advocate of Anki, but I would never use it alone. The best thing to do is make a 1 page summary for each topic/lecture and use that to help see the "big picture". Anki is best used for details/factoids. That's what worked best for me.

    • What I found helpful was that the more words I have on the card, the less effective and inefficient it becomes. So I just have a couple of 'buzzwords' or 'cue words' on each card.

    • For high quality cards that I made myself, I use 10 min for Again, 1440 min for Good, 7 day for Easy; This gets me to about 90% correct on mature cards. ( chronicidal, 5y )

    • I've stopped going to anatomy lectures or listening to them online. If everything is already in the coursepack (for us it is), then I'll just make anki cards.(pacna 2+y)

    • I avoid making cards on facts that are going to come up again and again.

    **** I make sure to rephrase things how I will understand them.

    Now i feel less uncomfortable to express my 'educated guess' related to your concerns.

    I have no idea whether adding steps will actually increase retention ...


    "Ebbinghaus: each additional review engraves the mental trace deeper and deeper, thus establishing a base for long-term retention. Even reciting the material just one more time significantly increases retention."

    What is left unanswered in the article -- how to determine the First Step for New cards?
    This is what i have been doing:

    • made sub-decks for 'easier' and 'harder' cards : ** cloze-deletion ( easy cards) ** Question - Answer cards

    • made two options groups for those sub-decks.

    • tryed different steps for 20 - 50 cards until a 'Test' Step would produce Retention 95-97% or so; that is the score for the very First Learning Rep! ( New card ).
      If the score was 98-100%, i'd increase the Step and track (on paper or make an Anki Card 'My Retention for First Steps') the number of Total and Failed cards.

    I also set my "learn ahead" option to 0 ... Again, the intention being that of (hopefully) making new cards stick with fever passings.

    I wish they set it to Zero as the Default .

    With the default setup, I imagine that ( with Longer classes ) there will be challenges with too many immature cards by the time I get to exam day.

    To mitigate that, i would do this: - adhere to the Rules 2, 3, and 4 of Supermemo ( there is a link in Anki manual

    Rule #-2 ( it is missing the reference on When to make cards).

    • My view on this: do not make cards BEFORE you studied and understood the lesson; you will be able to filter out unimportant info thus, reducing the number of cards; also the cards will be formulated better and with much less text; ... and many other benefits....

    Rule-4 boils down to this:
    "answer to be as short as possible!" Note: their examples are still too wordy, like two people wrote the Rule and the Examples.

    Other suggestions ( based on what i do ):

    • Consider 'scheduling' easy New cards right away, when you add them ( Ref: Supermemo has the Button for this ); you can fling them forward by as many days as you like; this would save you a few 'wasteful' reps.

    • consider a temporary deck instead of filtered deck;

    • strive to reduce the amount of Lapses ( "They cost you dearly", SUpermemo ).

    • if Anki Interval is too big, there are easy ways to adjust it ( not the Reschedule option ).

    What would you change in the settings, ..?

    how would you use Anki for a short class ?

    Here are the possible actions.

    • Starting to learn an X-days before the class starts. At the end, you will finish the class the x-days ahead and will have extra time for Cramming.

    • "New cards per day": try 10 cards ( it is the short-tem memory limit). When the first batch is learned, change the number to 20 and learn the second batch; keep repeating as needed to go thru ALL new cards

    • At a certain point, move the 'easy' cards out of way to a deck "Easy Cards".

    • Lapses. New Interval = 5-10%; Steps:none

    • Cram 'WITHOUT scheduling' using a Filtered deck ( not the Custom deck ); use Custom Step ( not the main deck's); ONE step only; if, at the end of cramming round, your Retention score is >95%, increase the Custom Step for the next time .

    • Reviewing before going to bed could produce better results; worth exploring.

    • Leeches. I would set Leach Treshold to 3-4.

    • Learning cards. Set 'Learn Ahead Limit' to Zero. When only Learning cards are left, set an alarm to remind you when the Next Step expires; when alarm goes off learn the cards available and set the alarm for the next Step.

    • Options 'Review Tab'. Max Reviews per day = 999.

    • The following point is causing frustrarion for unsuspecting users: If you set Tools-->Pref to "Show New cards After Review cards and (!) have a backlog of Review cards, let's say 100, and you studied <100 - Anki will NOT show you New cards! In that case, move New cards to a Temporary deck and review them there ( Filtered deck is 'inconvenient' ).

    PS. If you will have specific questions, I will answer them right away.


  8. 8 Posted by Max V on 29 Oct, 2015 08:04 AM

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    Thanks a lot for your extensive reply Vit! I will have to digest it and get back here later. But for now I can say that I have already completed a couple of those 1-week courses. They basically consisted of 2-3 lectures along with a few discussion seminars/practicals. The course material to be tested was usually in the powerpoint slides, and in some cases in designated chapters of a easily readable book. So what I ended up with was making cards from the lecture slides and upping the initial learning steps. For each of the one-week courses I have from 50 to 150 cards that I reviewed on the days that Anki scheduled them. The night before I crammed everything. I got >90% on all the tests so far. After the testing I have suspended several of the cards that I don't deem worthy of long-term retention.

  9. 9 Posted by ZapBeeb on 01 Nov, 2015 06:27 PM

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    Indeed great collection of ideas Vit.
    Sometimes a bit frightening, but always interesting...

  10. 10 Posted by Vit on 02 Nov, 2015 04:31 AM

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    It does not take much to make another person happy, does it ?
    Thank you Zap for the kind words.
    PS. Paper cards. I am putting final brush strokes on my reply :-)
    It is now Rev-5 , hopefully the last one.

  11. 11 Posted by ZapBeeb on 08 Nov, 2015 09:47 AM

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    Apparently not :D
    You are welcome!

    Waiting for the paper cards... (too bad this forum software is so basic, if we had something like xenforo interaction between users, hence community builidng, would be better)

  12. 12 Posted by Vit on 10 Nov, 2015 11:00 PM

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    I did not want to hi-jack this post.
    I have my reply in this 'topic':
    New Card to Review Card Ratio

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