As many readers of Japanese Talk Online know, I LOVE using Memrise. I use it practically every day for Japanese flashcards when I’m studying for a test.
But there are often times when I won’t use it for a week, a month, or several months. This creates a lot of backlog of items to review, and seeing that long list of 2000+ words I need to review can be really daunting.
This post will look at how to deal with huge review backlogs you often get with flashcard programs like Memrise and Anki.
How Spaced Repetition Flashcard Programs Work
SRS, spaced repetition systems basically show you a word shortly after you’ve learnt it, then exposes you to that word periodically afterwards.
If you know the word the time between reviews gets longer and longer. If you get the word wrong it resets the interval time.
This is supposed to work in time with memory degradation, so you review the word just before you forget it. Repetition is key to helping you remember items long-term.
On Memrise the review times work like this:
If you select the wrong answer for a card it resets and you must review it again 4 hours later, then 12 hours, then 24 hours, etc.
So when you have a Memrise course or an Anki deck with 1000+ vocabulary these reviews can build up if you’re not working on the regularly.
It’s even worse if (like me) you stop using the program for a few months.
How To Prevent Review Backlogs
You can start by trying to prevent blacklogs of reviews by working on it a little everyday.
Review 50 in the morning and evening. It should only take you 10-20 minuets depending on how fast you go.
Even if you don’t learn anything in a day reviewing will help a LOT. Not only for your backlogs but for your own learning.
DO NOT guess the right answer just to get rid of reviews!
I discuss this in more detail in How Not to Use Memrise but guessing the right answer doesn’t help you long-term. Memrise is all about making it easy to learn and learning long-term information.
If you begin to use it by playing for points, or just guessing because you can’t be bothered, then it doesn’t help you at all!
How To Get Rid of Review Backlogs
So your plans to work on Japanese everyday didn’t exactly go to plan and now you’re faced with this:
Yippie! 2632 items to review! T__T
You have a few options to tackle the huge backlog.
You can always do a mixture of the following depending on what you prefer and what works best for you.
Start the course from the beginning
If it’s a course you haven’t touched in a long time but one you want to know, sometimes the best thing to do is start from scratch.
Hopefully it will go faster this time, but if you’ve really forgotten that much it’s good to learn it all over again.
- You’ll know the vocabulary/kanji better than before.
- Gets rid of all those reviews (you just need to re-learn it).
- It will get rid of those learnt items in your words learnt count.
- Will take a while to re-learn everything.
Ignore words you know
Ignoring words can take a lot of work (depending on the size of the course) but can help in the long run.
You can go through each level covering one of the columns and seeing if you remember the word. If you do and you’re confident to ignore it, then do so.
(You could also ignore the WHOLE course if it’s one you don’t want to go back to.)
- Doesn’t get rid of words learnt counter.
- Gives you less to review.
- Can take time.
- Those words will never come up again.
Review a Little Everyday – Learn Nothing New
I mentioned previously how reviewing a little everyday can help a lot.
50-100 a few times a day (depending on how much time you have) is a good amount to aim for.
Reviews will go a LOT faster if you’re not learning anything new. It also lets you focus on words you don’t know as they will need to be re-reviewed once you got them wrong once.
Again, DO NOT guess the right answer just so you don’t have to review it. That doesn’t help you at all!
Slowly chipping away will help in the long run too. If you try to a LOT (200+) in one go, it’ll not only be harder on you, but you’ll also be hit with a large amount to review after 12/24 hours!
- Really learn everything.
- Can take a long time to catch up.
- Can’t learn anything new. (Or you can it’ll just make getting rid of backlogs harder)
Review Level by Level
Some technique I like to use to review level by level. So I won’t select the “Review” button for the whole course, but go step by step.
Unfortunately this also means I have to review the same levels over and over but I find it works better for me than getting a HUGE data dump.
- Can break up and focus on reviews.
- Not hit with data dump from vocabulary you’ve not recently looked at.
- Cannot review a number of levels in one go.
Backlogs are a massive pain and stress, and they often had a lot of work to get through them. But it’s worth it if you do.
If you’re able to chip away at the reviews a little a day then you’ll eventually get through them. And you’ll be better off long term if you make sure you learn them rather than speeding through to get them out of the way.