I’ve had the following question on my mind recently: is studying bad for the SRS system to work its magic? Does it interfere negatively with the way WaniKani is supposed to work?
It seems clear to me that studying Kanji right before they come up in review would be like cheating and probably detrimental to your learning. But what about right after reviews, or in between sets of reviews?
I guess this is a broad question on how to “practice” WaniKani when there are no reviews, but you want to get better at the items you already learned. I realize from reading the forums that the “no reviews” situation might be a rare occurrence later on, but still, I’m not rushing anything.
I should also clarify that I don’t care about leveling up fast and whatnot – my goal is just to learn the language.
I am not an SRS expert or anything but I used the method for about 3 years so I’ll just give my thoughts on the topic since I had the same questions as you when starting out.
I personally don’t believe that it is necessary to go out of your way to further actively study the items that you learned from WaniKani. Just do your lessons and reviews and let the SRS do it’s magic.
However, that is not to say that you are ruining the SRS magic by encountering the same items when using textbooks or while immersing yourself in the language etc. It is really good for your brain to make connections with the same kanji, the same grammar, the same words, but in different contexts.
The “idea” of SRS is to memorize the item with the fewest number of exposures, so that you can fit more items into study sessions. It does not necessarily make it so you memorize individual items faster, for example.
So technically, yes, it goes against the idea, as you are getting more exposures than you otherwise would. But on the other hand it may help you overcome tougher items.
In fact, I recommend to study right after the reviews the items that were wrong. From the summary page, I open the red items in different browser tabs and review them again, until I feel comfortable with them.
I also recommend to use one of the leech training tools when they start to accumulate.
I recall seeing a post from @MegaZeroX that discussed this topic at length, quoting scientific papers that have researched this very issue. I have not bookmarked it so I can’t provide a link, sorry. The gist of it is that extra studying improves memory retention over plain SRS. The only drawback is one should avoid studying just before the review.
If you study using the Self-Study Quiz script there is the Time Until Review filter you can configure to make sure the studied items are not seen too close to the review time. If you prefer studying using the Item Inspector script this filter is also available. Disclosure: I am the author of Item Inspector.
Both Self-Study Quiz and Item Inspector can be used for leech training. A leech is an item that gives you trouble in reviews. It is advisable to study them.
To summarize, studying helps as long as it’s not right before a review. I guess it’s a choice between wanting to reinforce specific items, versus learning more items instead, which is more in line with the SRS philosophy, as @tomwamt said.