Back-to-back in reviews; am I harming my learning?

I found a setting on flaming durtles to make my reviews back-to-back, ie for a given item I’d get translation followed by typing, or vice versa, without any other kanji coming between.

Normally, when doing reviews on the website, I get all the available reviews in a random order. I could get the meaning for a kanji, then a bunch of other stuff, and then sometime later I’d get the writing of it.

Am I harming my learning by making the reviews go back-to-back? It does seem way easier, and that easiness I worry might make it so that in the long term it doesn’t stick as much.

A similar thing: the aforementioned app allows me to set review length, and I find it way easier to only do 25 reviews at a time, take a small break, then do another 25, and repeat until done. Takes longer, but I find my success rate to be slightly higher and I get less tired and frustrated when doing many reviews (today, for an example, I’ll be doing over 200, which, if taken in a single session, would not be fun).

Take into consideration that making the reviews feel less burdensome helps with actually doing them and not burning out.

Hope this is the right forum, and that I make sense.

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To answer simply - are you harming your learning? Almost certainly. Does it harm your learning to a degree which is significant? Who’s to know! I suggest if you worry about this just turn off the back-to-back stuff - taking the easy route rarely pays off, you know?


Dang. Guess I’ll go back to normal. Not today though, it’s saturday and I have beer.

Thanks for the reply.

Would you consider chunking the reviews into 25 at a time to also be bad?

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Haha, sorry for the bluntness. I think we all do things which harm our learning - I certainly have! But at the end of the day we still learn, and I think worrying about whether we learn in an optimized way is more ‘harmful’ than just doing what works for you to be able to learn in a sustainable way, you know? And ultimately only you can really answer this. If back-to-back enables you to actually do reviews which you otherwise wouldn’t do, then they’re a good thing :slight_smile:

But anyway. I think chunking makes sense, currently at ~300 reviews per night and there is definitely a drop of accuracy towards the end as the fatigue becomes more pronounced. In general I would advise making sure you have enough time to ‘absorb’ the reviews, not just rush through them (speaking from my own experiences which has led me to the sorry place I am now :sweat_smile: ).


How is it harmful? It certainly is efficient since you can concentrate on just one item at a time. You could argue that by having them appear in random order you’ll get to “review” each item twice which can’t hurt, but in the end, either you know the answer or you don’t, so why not do it the efficient way?


Well, this is the point of SRS right - the more you have to ‘recall’, the better. So I’d argue that it is not as simple as either knowing it or not - every time you have to recall the meaning/reading you are creating pathways in your brain, and those pathways will be strengthened more when they’re not back-to-back, probably.

Edit: Spoken as a lowly non-enlightened person to a level 60, obviously. :bowing_man:


How could reviewing back to back harm your learning? When you read a vocab in the wild it’s not like you think of either the meaning or the reading, you do both at the same time, am I missing something? I review a lot of vocabs on anki and it doesn’t have the option to split meaning/reading as far as I’m aware :confused:

As for the second topic, it’s probably better to split the review pile in separate bunches, although I suggest a slightly different method: do half of your pile in the first session, then do half of the remaining half, then half . . . and so on. I found it to be faster and more effective than splitting it in equally sized bunches.


That makes sense, the more you recall the more effective it is, but recalling twice the same thing in short timespan is more of a time waste probably. Unless you trained your brain to recall the meaning OR the reading (without even thinking of the other), which I personally can’t, it probably doesn’t make much of a difference in the learning process


Haha, nah, just because I’ve reached level 60 doesn’t make me more enlightened ^^

This topic about 1x1 has appeared before and I agree with this comment by @rfindley :


Alright, these are good points, and something I hadn’t considered initially. I still believe that being forced to recall the meaning/reading (@Furiae yes, I don’t have the ability to separate them either - but that’s kind of the point, you’re essentially doing two reviews of the same thing!) twice in a session rather than once will have some beneficial effects (albeit possibly very miniscule), but I see that there might be beneficial effects to the back-to-back approach as well!


Thanks for the replies. I have concluded that, all things considered, it’s worth it to do it back-to-back (changed to force reading before meaning).

Especially since I do the reviews every day (today is day 161 and I haven’t ever skipped a day, always complete all reviews I get before ~3) making them take less time and be less daunting is worth the potential minor hit to efficacy. I’ll be doing this for 3+ years regardless.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve 162 more reviews to do. And I already did 75. Sigh. If I were to do them all in a single setting it’d be rather quite daunting, and I’d get tired just thinking about it.


How would that be the point? The point of SRS is to have as few reviews as possible :upside_down_face:
Doing two reviews of the same item is pretty wasteful in my opinion…


Hmm, I guess it depends - I mean, the actual amount of reviews will be the same (you still have to type in the same amount of characters) but I suppose you will spend more time if they are spaced apart from each other. My argument is that this time is ‘well spent’ because it reinforces things more than they otherwise would be, and that would (presumably) make those pathways stronger after a given review session. But we’re deep into speculation land here :smiley: so it’s probably safe to conclude that whether you do reviews back-to-back or randomly spaced out has a minimal effect on your learning :slight_smile:


FWIW: if you wanted you can configure Anki to test separately.

I don’t think you necessarily want to have Anki test reading/meaning separately, but I thought I’d mention it incase someone found it useful (typing on a cellphone so apologies for errors).

I also want to mention that Anki isn’t great at communicating this stuff >.>

So in Anki when you’re adding/editing information you’re adding/editing what it calls “Notes” - Notes are just a series of fields with names and values

An example note:
English: Internet
Japanese: インターネット

Anki will then takes your Notes and from them produce Cards, these Cards are what Anki tests you on. Cards have a front side (prompt/question) and a back side (answer).

For above I might generate 2 cards

Front: インターネット
Back: Internet

Front: Internet
Back: インターネット

You can configure what fields your Notes have, and what Cards Anki should make from them

For a longer example, I suck at remembering verb conjugation so I have Anki test me on it, here is an example note for that:

Verb: To go
Dictionary: 行く
Dictionary reading: いく
Masu: 行きます
Masu reading: いきます
Te: 行って
Te reading: いって

And then from this I have Anki generate 9 cards, here are some rough ideas of them (simplified):

Front: Te form? To go
Back: 行って (いって), 行く

Front: Masu form? 行く
Back: 行きます (いきます), To go

Front: 行きます
Back: To go, いきます, いく

Front: いきます
Back: To go, 行きます, 行く

For vocab normally I tend to test meaning and reading at the same time, but I have different prompts for the “word form” (including kanji) and “reading” (kana only), example (simplified):

Vocab note
Meaning: Book
Word: 本
Reading: ほん

Vocab cards
Front: Book
Back: 本 (ほん)

Front: 本
Back: Book, ほん

Front: ほん
Back: Book, 本

Anki manual on notes

Edit: (related to above discussion) Anki can automatically “bury relayed cards” if you want - when this setting is enabled it’ll take cards due for review and delay some of them to the next day so that you aren’t being tested on lots of related cards in a short window - e.g. that you aren’t seeing a card (En->Ja) and it’s reverse version (Ja->En) on the same day.

[I hope some of this was interesting, apologies if you already knew some/all of this, or if I’ve missed someone else replying, typing from a cellphone at … 12:30am? Yikes…]


I love back-to-back reviews


Probably makes you more Burnt though :eyes:


I think you answered your own question there. :slight_smile:

To add to the informal poll : I also do back-to-back but it’s random which comes first. I figure my brain ideally pops up meaning and reading when I see the kanji, so this reinforces both. It also corrects me right away if I have one of them wrong!

I agree with @schtitt
I’ve tried using them and found that it greatly increases the review clearance speed.
However, when making mistakes, it is harder to correct and sink them into memory. I suspect because there is not enough time to correct the wrong in my head, unlike random order.


As someone who’s fairly close to finishing WaniKani after a long journey, I will say this: the main goal of your learning should be to do whatever it takes to continue to learn.

There’s an adage in software development that goes something like “the last 10% of the work takes 90% of the time”. In the context of learning a language and depending on your goal, seeking absolute perfection may actually be a detriment to your overall learning. Switching my reviews from “scrambled” to back-to-back reading/meaning was one of the best decisions I made because it significantly decreased the amount of time I was spending on reviewing at the detriment of maybe failing to recall 10% more items. In the long run that doesn’t matter to me, because eventually if I need to learn something, I’ll learn it in the context of an article, or a game, or a show, or a conversation.

For about half my time using WaniKani, I used it without any scripts or modifications, and found myself getting derailed and discouraged by vocab I’ve basically never had to encounter in the wild again. Not to mention, WaniKani is an isolated flash card system, meaning you’re recalling meaning and pronunciation without any context. I found myself spending an excessive amount of time working on reviews in a way that I knew I wouldn’t be asked of when I wanted to read or play a game or watch something. And so using scripts or modifying the way I used WaniKani allowed me to learn MORE, even if I still get stuck on a vocab I learned at level 20. Because in the end, who cares? Especially if in the time it would’ve taken me to learn that, I actually solidly learned 50 other words and kanji that I encounter much more frequently in the wild.

Any way that’s my 2 cents. I’ve spent years learning Japanese and I kind of wished that I didn’t stress so much early on about “how” I was learning, and just allowed myself to make mistakes and immerse more.


There’s a reason why WK uses random order. The developer definitely cares. What works for you might not for everyone. Learning is better using random order than systematically group them. Grouping is easier but less effective. Sure it doesn’t make sense and harder for the brain, but it’s more effective for learning. If you feel wasting time using WK, why use it in the first place? Just use another system that uses contextual SRS instead, for example.

Here’s a reference I found: