I ran some numbers. Here's the workload for each level

I recently hit level 17, and felt the difficulty increase slightly. Now that I’ve been at this for 6 months, I’ve made WaniKani such a part of my routine that I notice the five more minutes spent studying in the morning, or the slight spike in leeches, or the extra day on a level.

So I decided to look into it. Is there a difficulty spike at level 17? And if so, how long should I wait it out before things return to my usual routine?

How long I spend on lessons in the morning

Method

I gathered the number of radical, kanji and vocabulary for each level. I gave each a number in minutes representing the average time I personally spend on individual lessons

  • Radicals = 0.5 min
  • Kanji = 4 min
  • Vocab = 1.5 min

I’m actually lowballing the kanji here and giving a bit more weight to vocabs as well. I find with time that once I remember the kanji, I can learn most vocabs at a glance. So Kanji get the bulk of my attention. Radicals, I ignore. They don’t really matter.

For each level, I added the radicals and kanji of that level. I also added half of the vocabs of the current level, along with half of the previous level. This is because the vocab workload tends to overlap two levels. It unlocks once mid-level when you guru the first batch of kanji, and once at the very end of the level when you guru everything.

If you want to count vocabs slightly differently, here’s alternative graphs:

Vocabs counting towards their own level


Vocabs counting towards the next level

The trends aren’t different enough to change the conclusions though.

You can find the google sheet with the calculations here. Feel free to grab a copy and put in your own values for the time you spend on each item.

Lv 5 spike

This difficulty spike comes as no surprise. The levels 1-3 are really easy for the free trial. It’s a commercial tactic to lower the bar to entry and get people to commit, and then WK quickly ramps up to cruising speed.

While the spike is the highest from all levels between lv 5-6, this is also balanced with those kanji and vocabs being the ones you’ve most likely been exposed to before starting WK in some fashion or another, meaning the overall difficulty isn’t as high as the graph would led you to believe.

Things slow down on levels 7-8, although it’s still above average when compared to the entirety of the graph. Lv 9-10 climb back up slightly, and by then most early easy items are gone. This is where I believe WaniKani starts showing it’s true colors.

Lv 12 spike

This one is personal.

I tackled WaniKani once before, years ago. When lv11 came, I grew discouraged, thinking this would be the new standard going forward. I gave up then.

Even this time around, I again felt the wall that was lv11-12. It helped that I knew it was coming, and so I pushed through it. My leeches spiked, I kept confusing the kanji with one another, but I eventually made it through and found the difficulty eased a lot on the other side.

Seeing this graph, I feel vindicated.

The levels 11-13 are pretty rough in terms of lessons. Thankfully, it’s followed by a nice breather between 14-16. Funnily enough, levels 14-16 are much more representative of the future workload than any previous levels.

Lv 17 spike

My current spike, and the one that prompted this analysis. In my case, it also didn’t help that lv 17 coincided with my first burns.

The good news is that this is a short spike. Where the previous two spikes lasted for 2-3 levels, this one is standalone. I don’t know why level 17 is special, but afterwards, things settle down for the long run.

At that point, once you’ve got a handle on your burns and a steady routine, it should be smooth sailing for a good long while

Lv 40 spike?

For this one, I have no experience, so I’ll ask those of you who crossed that milestone:

Is there a slight spike at lv 40? If so, what was your experience with it?

And while we’re at it, for those veterans among you, what’s your experience with the endgame, lv50 and forward?

Caveats

I do a set number of kanji and vocabs every day, and thus my calculations reflect this. If you’re going full speed, you may feel different spikes from those in the graph.

Other things influence greatly the perceived difficulty of a level. Whether it’s your first level dealing with Enlightened/Burned items, the quantity of leech-worthy items, fast levels, and so on. I am only concerned here with morning lessons, since I personally have a tight schedule and 5 more minutes spent on them in the morning means I might have to rush my breakfast to get to work.

I still hope you got something out of this.

TL:DR - There’s significant lesson spikes at level 5, 12, and 17. Once you get past those, though, lessons become consistent for the long haul.

9 Likes

That’s around the time that the first Enlightened reviews come up for burning. Are you sure you aren’t just feeling a bit of extra review load? Reviews tend to be the greater time investment for me, by quite a margin.

3 Likes

Where did you get this graph? I’d have thought it would be quite difficult to track ‘time spent on lessons’. :sweat_smile:

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It doesn’t help for sure, but I did notice additional time spent on lessons on those levels. It might be that I’m so caught up in my habits that a level taking a few more days longer than usual feels like I’m doing something wrong, and that affects my motivation.

I could also notice the sign with the number of vocab lessons still pending. Usually, when a level is more balanced between kanji and lessons, at 5 kanji 10 vocabs each day the lessons shouldn’t grow too much, and I should hit 0/0 sometime after finishing all kanji. However, this level the lessons just keep piling up, which is a sign I’ll need to take the extra day or two to clear them out before moving on.

The question I had to ask was then: is this the new normal and should I change my studying habits? I ran the numbers, and it turns out it isn’t. Just a blip.

It’s my best approximation. I hold a very tight schedule, so I know on average how long I spend studying vocabs and how long I spend on kanji. I then multiplied the number of items each level with my own studying time to get this graph. I spend about 15min on 10 vocabs, and 20min on 5 kanji, so I plugged those numbers in. If you spend more or less time, your graph might look a bit different.

1 Like

:thinking:

I wonder if your timings are close to what most people spend on lessons.

I’m open to timing suggestions from other people. Then I can average it, or make different graphs for different study strategies.

How long do you spend on each item?
How long do you spend on average on each RADICAL lesson?

  • Less than 1 minute each
  • 1min
  • 2min
  • 3min
  • 4min
  • 5min or more

0 voters

How long do you spend on average on each KANJI lesson?

  • Less than 1 minute each
  • 1min
  • 2min
  • 3min
  • 4min
  • 5min or more

0 voters

How long do you spend on average on each VOCABULARY lesson?

  • Less than 1 minute each
  • 1min
  • 2min
  • 3min
  • 4min
  • 5min or more

0 voters

Level 17 is the longer one, between some not so long ones. Anyway for me not all vocabs or Kanji are of the same difficulty. Somedays, for example all my vocabs are jukugo that use readings already known and the meaning is also predictable from the kanji, so I barely take a moment on each of those, since they are already known. However other days there are a lot of new kunyomi readings or meanings that are not that obvious.
I haven’t really felt the spikes I already went by (level 5 and level 12), while it might be true that the levels take longer because they have more items (especially vocab items), my accuracy seemed to stay just the same. I’ll soon get to level 17, I might come back to this thread after it.

I zap zap swoopididoosh through those things and hope it sticks

It has worked so far

1 Like

When I do that, I tend to get tons of leeches and have to spend more time down the line creating better mnemonics @_@
I’m happy it works for you.

Radicals in the beginning becoming a kanji in later lessons is normal.

Kanji starting becoming Radicals as you get through the later level, which is why it’s easy to zip past them now. I’m spending most time on Kanji(30ish seconds on just staring and reiterating the reading), and I typically zoom past the vocab unless it reads weird.