Improve settings for leeches?

For a long time, I’ve been stuck at around 300 items in the guru category, which are most likely leeches (my number of master items are always lower, which shouldn’t be the case as they span a much longer period of time).
This sucks, as I only want to make a fixed number of reviews each day to prevent burnout.
I control this via the pace of new lessons, and now the leeches basically block any new input.

I always had a small amount of new lessons and even took a month of not doing any new lessons (apart from keeping up with the added vocab for lower levels), but I still couldn’t reduce the number of daily reviews effectively.

I was wondering if I could improve the situation a bit by utilizing some of the settings like review order and the like?

First time I used wanikani I was stuck on lvl 12 like this until I gave up, but after resetting the same seems happening at lvl 20 again, so I’d really like to overcome this issue somehow.

Part of me thinks the best thing would just be to remove the leeches from the reviews altogether, but I guess there is no way to do that. I’m also using the app, so if there are any helpful settings I could use, please tell me as well.


There are probably re-ordering scripts that might help; however, I currently don’t use any scripts so I couldn’t tell you which ones to use or how to use them.

Have you tried using the Recent Mistakes tool? I haven’t used it recently, but when I did use it, I would always do it immediately after every review session, and I would review all of the recently-mistaken reviews, every time. I found that this really helped to crack some of my harder leeches. By constantly re-reviewing the same recently-mistaken items, it would quickly get to the point where they would become so routine that they would become almost automatic. I basically converted ‘leech’ items to ‘easy’ items, just by reviewing them to death basically.

This technique worked for me because I often do many short review sessions during each day. Sometimes (often times, actually!) I would begin a review session and immediately press the Wrap Up button to immediately limit the session to just 10 reviews. (I initially did this to help me keep progressing even when I was demotivated and/or overwhelmed and on the verge of burning out, but now it is something I do very frequently, out of habit.) So, as a result of this, I would often end up doing let’s say 5 separate review sessions in order to do just 50 review items (10 per session!). Thus, I would also end up going through the entire Recent Mistakes queue 5 times (once after each review session!). Luckily, since this drastically increased my accuracy rate, it also kept my Recent Mistakes queue pretty low at any given time, and thus quite manageable to do after each review.

I also recommend going back to doing 0 new lessons for a while, until you get your Gurus down to a level that you find comfortable once again. Personally, I find 300-400 to be just about right for me, but each person is different, so maybe getting them down to 200 or even lower would be more your style.

Daily consistency is the most important thing, IMHO, and it’s hard to be consistent day by day if doing reviews is something dreadful (or, even worse, overwhelming). If ‘going as fast as possible’ is not your main goal, then I’d suggest that ‘maintaining a sustainable pace’ is a good main goal. And ‘sustainable’ needs to include some level of ‘enjoyable’, IMHO, in order to work in the long term. Who wants to maintain a daily habit that one gains no enjoyment from??

Lastly, there are other things you can do to help turn leech items into non-leech items. For example, if, even after using the Recent Mistakes feature regularly for a while, you still find that certain kanji or vocabs keep getting confused with one another, then you may find it useful to add Notes to the Meaning or Reading sections, for example with your own mnemonics that help distinguish one confusable item from another.

Also, add User Synonyms with disambiguating alternative meanings is very helpful, in my experience, for learning the distinctions and nuances between confusable items.

There are probably lots of different things that you might try to help squash your leeches. A reordering script might be one, but IMHO just reordering alone probably won’t be enough. I often end up studying vocabs and kanjis using a tool like to search out related words, related kanjis and example sentences to help disambiguate different problem items in my mind.

Well, actually, you could also consider doing a partial reset to an earlier level. You’ll have to carefully decide whether that’s the right option for you (since it can’t be undone), but it is a useful option for some people in some circumstances. For example, after taking a too-long break from WK at one point, I ended up resetting to level 7 (I still felt comfortable with most of the content up to that level), and the second time around it was much easier to re-learn the previous items, and they also stuck better.

But then again, I was also doing the other things like using Notes, User Synonyms, Recent Mistakes, etc.


This is a very thoughtful answer, I’m really grateful that you took the time to write it.

I’m only using the app since it allows me to work offline, and I consistently review every day in the morning (mostly during my commute to work). This means that the recent mistakes functionality is not available, but maybe I can replicate it with the proper settings when using a customized self-study quiz (it can filter for leeches).

The pace I’d like to go is 5 new lessons every day with about 60 reviews, which should check out with the rule of thumb I read somewhere that the reviews will be roughly 10 times the amount of lessons. In practice, it’s 1 level per month or 5 years of WK, which is slow but steady enough to motivate me.
I do 20 items at once per session, which feels like a motivating pace between sessions.

Right now I’m sitting at 60-90 reviews without doing any new lessons, and a quick check has shown me that about 50 reviews tomorrow will be what the app classifies as leeches, so that is way too much. I know that 100 reviews a day burn me out in the long run, but it’s ok if they happen only occassionaly.

I think I will start by setting up a self-study quiz that asks me about all the leeches I got wrong in the last 10 hours and do it twice a day as a starting point. Once the number of leeches go down, I can extend this to all the items I got wrong in the timeframe.


for comparison:

Personally, I don’t consider the items in Guru leeches. Only ever items in apprentice as they’re the ones you constantly see in your reviews. Guru items you’ve managed to get up to that point and are about to move up.

Maybe think less about exact numbers and focus more on day form? being flexible is sensible to me. Days whey you have more energy, do more lessons, and other days less. Reviews you can always postpone if you really want to, so just do the amount you want to each day, again according to your day form.

There is not. But, there are ways to cram leeches. :slight_smile:

They won’t show items in Guru, unless they were just failed from an Enlightened burn review? :thinking: or would that include Master to Enlightened reviews as well? Don’t they fall down to Apprentice IV? I’m unsure, tbh, but in any case, the items you need to keep an eye on are not really the ones in Guru.

Edit: Oops forgot to link to some suggestions for how to approach leeches.