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Discussion Forum > Praise for Anki and spaced repetition

A post at

links to a tweetstorm by Michael Nielsen at

where he describes his use of Anki for learning absolutely everything.
June 30, 2018 at 11:13 | Unregistered CommenterChris Cooper
I've used Anki, and other similar systems, a lot in the past with good results. But I've always come up against the same problems in the end:

1) If you fail to do your reps for a few days (and who doesn't?), you end up trying to catch up with a huge backlog.

2) Because of the nature of the spaced repetition algorithm, you are tested on the stuff you are finding most difficult more often than the stuff you find easy. This has the cumulative effect that your reps get more and more difficult. So imagine being faced with a daily test on everything you are finding most difficult and not being allowed to get on with anything else until you've got every single question right!

3) There are other approaches which I think are just as effective and much less effort. For example, I taught myself a vast amount of French vocabulary back in the 1970s by using a simple notebook-based method I had developed. Unfortunately I didn't keep it up after I passed the exam (French Military Interpreter). I'm not currently using it but I think it's worth describing - remind me if I don't do so soon!
June 30, 2018 at 12:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I used Anki for my music theory exam years ago. Scales, plus music terms in 4 languages. I found the mix of difficult and easy stuff about right until near the end or if I did it more than once a day. The difficult stuff, once repeated enough, became easy. The easy stuff had just enough repetition to stay easy.

If I did a second session the same day, and in the final week, it got very repetitive.

Also, the random method obscured patterns. For words in sequence (Andante, Andantino, Moderato, Allegretto) I added a card with all four.
July 5, 2018 at 22:00 | Registered CommenterCricket
For shorthand, though, I used the column method. Words in longhand, words in shorthand. Fold to cover all but one column, then fill in the next column.

27 years ago for my German 101 exam, I did a spreadsheet. One column for each language, and one for gender (using der/di/das rather than m/f/n (did I mix those up?). Hide all but one column of words and one column in which I typed the answer. Another column compared the two, and another column added up how many times I got each one right, so I could choose to focus on the difficult ones if I wanted. I'm not sure how I handled plurals and terms with multiple genders, but it had to be in there somehow. (I only took the one German course. Final year, I needed one arts credit, and decided on German since I was marrying into a German family. I got very good at saying, "langsamer Bitte," (slower please). I was disappointed that we worked more on vocab (which I could add to later with a dictionary) instead of grammar and tenses.
July 5, 2018 at 22:04 | Registered CommenterCricket