Does extra studying of problem kanji mess with the SRS?

As the title says, I am having a few problem kanji and I keep going back to the “critical” list to look them over and study what I keep getting wrong. But I know Wanikani uses a spaced repetition system, so by reminding myself of the meanings/readings between reviews, am I actually hurting my recall ability? Thanks!


I just don’t find critical or leech lists all that helpful personally. I’d rather drill my problematic items after failed reviews (self-study quiz script + recent fails filter).

Generally speaking, I don’t really believe too much in srs interference. As long as you aren’t going out of your way to look at those things before a review it’s probably fine, but I think it’s better to find organic methods of reinforcement if possible (eg. reading or grammar studies). If you feel like you’re cheating yourself with the critical items list I think Kumirei has a script along the lines of “remove useless items” in the API section that hides them with a custom userstyle.


As I understand it, messing with the SRS doesn’t hurt your recall ability, it just means you aren’t being as efficient.

The nice thing about SRS is that reviewing on the brink of forgetting an item means:

a) you do the minimum amount of reviews to memorize the item
b) each review has maximum impact on your memorization

Practicing between reviews doesn’t mean your recall of the item will get worse. It just means that each review has less of an impact. It’s fine, it just means you’re reviewing more times, and it seems like you already are okay with that since you want to practice between reviews.


This exactly. You said it much better than I was going to try to lol


@MegaZeroX has researched the scientific literature on this topic. They are found that extra studying improves retention over plain SRS. You only need to avoid doing it just before the reviews.


EXACTLY what @phin said. The only thing you’re losing by reviewing more often than the SRS says to is the opportunity cost of using that time to review something else. SRS gets you through the most items in the fewest reviews. But more reviews of any given item is always better (for that item).

Don’t believe any “if you review it too often, it won’t stretch your mind right” malarkey. If you had the time to review every item 100 times, you should do that. (most of us don’t, though)


As you start to study grammar and read native materials, you’re going to start to be exposed to the kanji and vocab between SRS review intervals anyway, so I wouldn’t worry too much about trying to avoid getting reminded of their meanings outside of SRS (as long as you aren’t deliberately studying right before a burn review in order to burn an item that you truthfully do not actually know).

Also, some items (frequently referred to as leeches) take extra work for you to learn them, and the SRS alone is often not sufficient. I use the leech trainer script to drill myself on those every day, because I actually do need the extra reviews for those items, or they’re just going to keep bouncing back to the apprentice stage. This is basically an automated way of doing what you’re doing with manually studying the items you struggle with after failing them again.

Honestly, I think getting exposed to different aspects of the WK items outside of WK (seeing them in context in native material, using them in speech/writing, using Kaniwani or KameSame to practice English to Japanese, learning how to handwrite the kanji, etc.) is only going to strengthen your mental connection to the items and help you retain them in your memory for longer. People will split hairs over this or that study method being “efficient” or not, but truthfully if you learn just using SRS alone, you’ll learn items quicker, but they’ll also leave your memory quicker, too. Sometimes it takes spending a little extra time or effort on things in order to actually cement them in your memory.


Now, the question of the opportunity cost thing isn’t quite as simple. Would it be better to spend your time learning 10 new things and let that one go (until the next SRS review, and just let it keep recycling at Apprentice until it finally sticks)? Maybe.

But I would say if you aren’t sure why you keep missing it, a little extra directed study coming up with a better mnemonic or figuring out the difference between two similar ones you keep mixing up, that would be high bang-for-the-buck activity. Or if it was a reading you can’t remember, and it’s having collateral damage in all the vocab that uses it, that might be high-value study.

But it won’t hurt your retention on the items you study to study them extra.

I like to call that theory the “pouring rocks from a crane bucket into a dump truck” theory. Most of the rocks are going in, some are bouncing out. Are you going to stop the pour to pick up each rock as they hit the ground? Or just keep on pouring and sweep up at the end?

As always, it depends. If some of the rocks couldn’t go in because the first one wasn’t in, you might be better off picking up that rock as early as possible.

Sorry to be a serial answer-er, it’s an interesting question I’ve thought a lot about and still don’t know how I want to do it. For now, I’m just going by what mood I’m in. :smiley:

What do you mean by native materials? newspapers, magazines, ads, ??

Yep! Newspapers, magazines, ads, manga, anime, novels, video games, pro wrestling, tweets, pretty much anything that was produced in the language in a natural setting (as opposed to the more artificial setting of a textbook, for example, which doesn’t necessarily reflect natural usage of the language). Basically materials that are produced in Japanese and intended for a Japanese-speaking audience.


Awesome, thanks everyone! This has been really reassuring and helpful :smiley: I am definitely not actively “faking burns,” (though sometimes I’ll look go to the “critical” list to study the problem children and see the next review for something is in, like, an hour, which makes me feel conflicted. Which is exactly what inspired this post in the first place :upside_down_face:)

My next undertaking is to start reading native materials!! though grammar has been kicking my butt I just bought a bunch of “”“easy”“” manga, and it’s already been really fun seeing the few kanji I knew ~in the wild~ just thumbing through them.


Thank you for linking this, it was fascinating!

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Honestly, I think for items in the apprentice stages (which is where I assume just about all critical items are haha), since the review intervals are so short, it really doesn’t matter a whole lot if you accidentally “cheat” by studying something close to its next review interval. The real test is when things reach the guru stage and above. If you “cheat” during the apprentice stages, but successfully pass each subsequent review of the item until it’s burned, then you managed to learn it, which is the whole point of the program, anyway!

Some people actually include an extra review interval between the lesson and the first review (which is a 4 hour gap), because they find WK’s lessons to be insufficient for them to actually internalize the material. I don’t do a proper spaced review interval (like waiting an hour or two and then reviewing), but I do drill myself on the lesson items using the self-study quiz script as soon as I finish my lessons. Getting that extra practice in makes it much more likely that I’m able to remember them four hours later!

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I’d recommend checking out the book clubs on the forum too! We make vocab lists and help each other out with grammar :slight_smile:

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Thanks!! I just bought Teasing Master Takagi-san yesterday since it had been recommended to me by a friend, and I saw the book club was reading it! I’m excited to join the book club community :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:
Edit: (It’s really nice living in Japan–resources like these are wonderfully easy to find!!)
Edit 2: I’m here as an English Teacher, but I have had no Japanese study before this haha


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