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
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?
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.