I found myself in a similar situation with my apprentice items. The number one thing I told myself was to run my own race. I need to slow down. It is better to spend more time on each level and have a higher accuracy rate. With lifetime membership, there is really no reason to accelerate my progress.
There are two causes of an increased apprentice queue:
- New lesson item
- Guru review error.
I can control (1) by not taking new lessons. Regarding (2), the guru intervals are too long for me. I struggle to recall an item after one or two weeks.
What I’ve done in the past fortnight is to create an Anki deck from the WaniKani to Anki Exporter. I initially populated the deck with about 100 so-called critical items. I had to adjust my “max percentage” value to 80 to get 100 items. I set the Anki review intervals in Anki to 4 hours, 8 hours, 24 hours, 72 hours, 7 days, 14 days etc. I reviewed 20 new items every day for five days.
When I used up the 100 items, I went back to WaniKani to Anki Exporter to retrieve some more critical items by increasing the “max percentage”. I did not want to have a “max percentage” of 99 because that would cause too many items to be retrieved and not the biggest leeches.
Every day, I export more items at “max percentage” 85. There are always new items.
Since starting this routine, I am finally sending items to the master queue. The apprentice queue is shorter but for one day, the apprentice queue grew from 70 to 89, without taking new lessons. That gives an idea of how difficult it has been to recall something after one / two weeks in the guru queue.
The so-called “important reading”, which is usually on-yomi, has always been easier to remember. After a kanji is guru-ed, the related vocabulary lessons are unlocked. Typically, there are three or four kanji combinations using the on-yomi reading and then just one word with the kun-yomi reading. It stands to reason that the on-yomi reading is easier to recall. We get more items to practice with it! So I now pay a bit more attention to the mnemonic I use to remember the less frequently used reading.
Regarding the ideal size of an apprentice queue, this is an individual thing. I’ve tried 120 and I can’t handle it. I’ve now let it drop to around 70 so that I can spend time on grammar and listening practice. Seeing new words in real world use also helps with recall. I’m trying to read one NHK News Web Easy article every day.
Another thing you could try is go to rfindley’s WaniKani Statistics web site and see which levels have the most guru items. Then run rifndley’s self test quiz a couple of times on those levels. I’m about to try this myself.