Is my progress atypically slow?

Hi all, I’m coming into my second year of Wanikani study, and even though I just paid for a lifetime subscription, I am feeling kind of discouraged. Am I going about this all wrong? I’ve only missed a few days in the last year, even though I’ve only been able to sit down about once a day to work on it. Usually I try to spend at least 30 minutes on it.

Things were going pretty well until the Death levels. I am currently on level 23, and I have been for maybe six weeks. I haven’t even started learning any of the level 23 items, since I always seem to have over a hundred reviews pending and around 80 to 100 items at the apprentice level. The same thing happened with level 22. I was stuck there for the whole fall, literally almost three months, mostly still working on items from the previous level. I eventually squeezed in enough lessons to get the kanji done, and it gave me the level up just for that, but I’m still working on so many review items that I still haven’t even finished all the vocab lessons for the previous level.

I feel like I am not able to remember most of the mnemonics or consciously memorize anything. I just do the reviews and watch the items bounce around at Apprentice and Guru until I’ve seen them enough times that they get into my long-term memory. Then one day I suddenly know them intuitively and they quickly rocket up to Burned. Of course, I still second-guess my intuition and get it wrong that way a good chunk of the time.

I know from other areas of my life that I am kind of a slow study, with a weak working memory. (Thanks, ADHD brain). Is there something I should be doing differently? I usually try and sit down at a device with a keyboard because I get too many obnoxious typos on mobile unless I type very very slowly. Even with Flaming Durtles undo and ignore functionality, it just takes too long. I can’t make a dent in my reviews. By the time I finish, there are like 30 more piled up. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of opportunities to sit down at my laptop without interruption until bedtime, so I just end up reviewing then and going to sleep like half an hour late most nights. I’m only doing maybe 5 or 10 lessons per week since I already have so many reviews piled up that I can’t keep up with. I don’t want to add more until I’m at least kind of caught up.

Is this a typical ratio?

94 Apprentice
278 Guru
326 Master
843 Enlightened
2064 Burned

Any advice or commiseration to offer? Can I get some comparison points for how other people are doing in similar situations? Is this an unusual situation or do we all go through it?

This is probably a bad idea, but part of me wants to just say “to heck with it”, ignore the reviews, and shotgun through the 70 lessons I have pending? I was fluent in spoken Japanese at one point, so I have that going for me at least. Some of these are probably still in my brain somewhere.


This is a bad idea, yes. If you’re already struggling with completing your accumulated reviews, you need to work on your accuracy, first, before making the problem worse.

Have you read the ultimate guide to WK before? I always recommend giving that a read so that you can understand how the SRS system works, and how best to optimize the review interval timing. If you find some way to hit the first two review stages for all of your new lesson items, you’ll probably see your accuracy increase a lot.

If you optimize the timing and still struggle to remember things, then I recommend: 1) spending longer on each lesson and making sure that you have a strong mnemonic for everything, which might sometimes mean coming up with a new mnemonic if WK’s isn’t working for you, and 2) going through all of your missed reviews and looking at each item closely and figuring out what went wrong. Did you get two kanji confused? Look at them side by side and identify the difference. Did you forget a rendaku or a reading? Come up with a new mnemonic to help you remember it.

I think if you improve your accuracy, you will feel a lot less pressure from your WK workload and will be able to progress a lot faster. Good luck!


Considering you typically do it once a day for “atleast 30min” you are doing surprisingly well. I went almost top speed and spent typically 1.5h on wk alone (that was just reviews). Did that 6-8 times a day (still do).

3 times a day to hit the timings of days when doing new lessons should be minimum. Otherwise your accuracy will tank like crazy.


If you’re having trouble keeping up, the best thing to do is stopping lessons, not doing more.


At first glance, looks normal, however if I take into account how you haven’t been doing a lot of lessons this whole time, then no. Your apprentice count is high, you’re not getting them.

One thing I found helpful in flaming durtles, was switching it to Anki mode, helped me get through reviews quicker because I didn’t need to type. This may encourage you to be able to do your reviews more regularly since it is less effort.

With more reviews hopefully it’ll stick better, but you need to put in the effort, and carefully read the mnemonics or make your own. Don’t just get something wrong and think “Oh yeah that meant xxx” and then move on. Read it and understand it first.

Bad idea? Yeah. Stop doing lessons until you can figure out a way that works for you and lower your apprentice count


Yes. Bad idea.

Ignore the lessons and do the reviews. And then do the reviews again and again and again. Only do lessons when reviews feel comfortable. That can, in certain instances, be weeks.

I occasionally post this cause I think there’s this idea that if you can’t do all 60 levels in 18 months, then there must be something wrong with you. And yet, the speed runners are the exception.

Everyone takes a different path, and a different speed. In 2022, I suffered in July and August from going too fast in June, and then a life event crushed September which lingered into October. It was all I could do to do a few reviews a day. There’s no shame in going slow.

I am comfortable with Apprentice in the 60s and Apprentice + Guru no more than 450. Anything more and I find things start falling apart. So I moderate my lesson pace to keep within that range. I don’t pay attention to Master+, which the exception of burned items which I track for entertainment purposes only.

Well there’s a reason they aren’t the 菓 levels. Or is that the お菓子 levels. And where did WK get cake from anyway? Shouldn’t that be candy? So confusing. No wonder it will take me years to finish. :slight_smile:


Wow you have achieved so much! pat yourself on the back.
I think best idea is to stop doing lessons for a bit and spend time on reviews. It is frustrating to repeat reviews but I think will be the most rewarding.
For a while I didn’t do any lessons because reviews were taking so much time. Finally, I broke thru and have started lessons again.
good luck and enjoy the process.


If I were at level 23 after just 2 years on WK I’d not be discouraged, I’d be elated. I’d be screaming with joy from my windows to all that passed by and popping champagne corks daily.

Yes, I’ve stopped and started over the years, but even when I’m working consistently every single day, it takes me months of hard labour to get through a single level.

To reach level 23 in just two years is an achievement some of us can only dream of.


One piece of advice for the apprentice count: do the recent mistakes reviews a couple times a day (morning and evening) if you’re not already doing it, as well as most of your other reviews. That should reduce the amount of times an item bounces back to apprentice somewhat. As for your levels to years-spent ratio I think it’s fine. I reset to level 1 at the end of December 2021 and am at level 18 now. That’s not anything to be discouraged by unless you have an important deadline you’re approaching.

I use the redo script when I fail reviews due to typos, but also when I’ve decided that for certain leaches I don’t need to learn the transitive/intransitive distinction through Wanikani. That’s been a quality of life increasing change in attitude; I still try to get the right transitivity properties in reviews and I pay attention to it, but for those items where I repeatedly fail I let myself think “Wanikani is a tool for learning kanji, and the kanji isn’t the issue here so I’ll ‘abuse’ the redo script and just learn this later outside of wk”


As mentionned before, @jprspereira guide is a must read.
For rentention wise, the most important advice is the pacing of the first 3 reviews.
These 3 are the most important one in the SRS cycle, if you miss them by too much it will affect negatively your ability to retain the items in the long term.

30mn a day are enough, but I exort you to rethink how you use this time.
Once you’ve done your lessons, the first review come 4h after. Don’t miss it (by more than a couple hour), it is the most important.
The second one is 8 hours after. I’ll come back to it below.
The third one is 23h after, meaning it will always come back at about the same time of the second review of news items.

Consistency is key, and to achieve/not miss the timing of these reviews by too much, you need to find a rythm that works for you (both life wise, with your work and your routine, but also brain wise, when you’re up to learn new stuff).

As the timing is predictable, I found for myself two schedule that worked very well.

First one, is the one that is suggested in the guide.
Lessons early morning, first review at noon, second review in the evening.
For me it meant having lesson at wake up / before going to work, doing reviews during my lunch pause, then after work:
lesson between 7h and 8h
review 1 at 11h~13h (1pm)
review 2 at 19h~21h (7pm to 9pm)

This has the advantage to only get to review new and fresh items during the day, when my focus is still on my work. All the past items were coming back early evening, meaning that if I don’t have the time, there is no stress there as I could always do them a few hours later (and have them come back sooner in the future, as WK always give us an hour less than the strict timing).

Another schedule that worked for me, I used it when I wasn’t able to do lessons in the morning, for whatever reason, is to do the lessons about 4h before going to bed.
If I do lessons at 19h for example, that mean the first review is at 23h, then the second review is at 7 the day after.
Meaning the next reviews will come by themselves at the same time of my other schedule.

This doesn’t mean you need to do more than what you do today, but you should use this time differently.

Having WK on a phone helps, if you can’t sit down at a computer (I did my whole WK journey on flamming durtles, an android app).

Pardon my poor English, and good luck. :slight_smile:


I think you need to spend more time making the mnemonics stick in your mind. They have to be personalized, vivid, silly, smelly, noisy… They shouldn’t be forgotten if they’re done right. Even the best routine in the world won’t compensate for a weakly visualized/imagined mnemonic IMO.


In my eyes, mnemonics aren’t really for long term, but really for any acceptable memory at all. Don’t waste too much time. Amount is important too.

Then, if forgetting again, just revise the mnemonics. So, it is important to learn how to create one, if you want to rely on memorization.

Mnemonics don’t need things like 4 hours to check for efficiency. As simple as Self-Study would tell.


Here’s my SRS items

  • 72 Apprentice
  • 492 Guru
  • 479 Master
  • 1184 Enlightened
  • 2660 Burned

I’ve for the last month been doing a level per week.

From my personal experience a good mnemonic or to study outside of the SSR system works best. I would recommend either spending more time thinking about mnemonics that makes sense for you personally or using the “recent mistakes” extra study more often to make sure you can actually remember the items for short durations. If you can’t remember it even though you just reviewed it then it needs more work and not to “cook” for more time until the next occasion where you do reviews.

When I learn new Kanji from lessons I review them by myself by looking at them one by one in the level-progress interface and try to remember the meaning and reading. If you’re like me and you don’t spend much time thinking about mnemonics I think the lesson structure where you input the reading and meaning once isn’t really enough to guarantee that you remember it until the next review. You don’t need to wait 4 hours for it to show up in the first review to be able to efficiently study it.


I know you’re crunched for time, so here’s a solution for those of us who wish we had more of it:

Turn on Anki Mode in the app. A crazy amount of time is saved by not having to type.

Once you have saved all that time, maybe you can add one more review sessions in the day. For instance, if you review only twice a day, twelve hours apart, you can level up every nine days. And by only doing 20 lessons a day, if ordered correctly.

That addresses the speed portion, which, frankly, is the easy bit.
The accuracy portion is far more annoying to deal with. Personally, I don’t feel mnemonics are that helpful on the whole. They are helpful in the early stages when you know nothing, but gradually, patterns should emerge in the Kanji which help more than mnemonics or which help you use the lower level mnemonics you had earlier rather than having to learn new ones.
In my experience, vocabulary is really what solidifies the Kanji learning, which is why I consider those items to be the most important by far, on this platform.

To answer your main question:
Your progress is not atypically slow. Heck, I’ve reset 4 times by now. Life isn’t predictable, we all get busy. The folks who can level up at warp speed are, indeed, the exception.
If you do want to speed up, Anki Mode is the way forward. If you want to ensure accuracy, use some of that vast amount of time saved by using Anki Mode to spend a bit more time on individual items when you do fail them.

An additional strategy which seems to have worked for some, is to use the Self-study plug-in to study failed items. In your case that could be part of your routine after you’ve done your quick evening reviews.


To give a different advice than others have given. Have you started reading? I think reading is key to internalize everything you see on Wanikani. After level 20 you should have enough foundation to start reading some materials, at that level i spent a lot of time on Satori Reader, it’s graded material that i found immensely useful when i was at the early WK levels. Whatever works for you. Start reading!

  1. Don’t panic, you’re doing fine.

  2. Stop doing lessons until you are certain you’ve got things nailed.


100 apprentice items is too many at only 5 or 10 lessons per week.

Counterintuitively, you need more reviews, imo, to speed up, not more lessons.

Repetitively do extra or self study until you are 100% certain you can answer all recent lessons correctly every single time. Then do your real reviews. You’ll be amazed at the difference. You’ll soon grow bored UNLESS you do more lessons.

IMO, don’t attempt to speed up by doing more lessons until your reviews are boringly easy and QUICK. Don’t struggle too much to recall. If you can’t recall quickly, answer wrong, look at the right answer, and move on. Trust me, with enough iterations, you’ll eventually recognize it instantly.

In other words, three back-to-back extra study sessions at blazing speed, typing as fast as you can and answering almost immediately, is infinitely preferable to one slow session where you agonizingly try to recall everything.

It’s okay to slow down (a little!) for real reviews, but extra study should be free, lightweight, and FAST.

FWIW, I prefer the self study script for items in stages 1-4 vs. extra study for recent lessons. Self study lets you repeat just the ones you missed. Either will help, though.

You’ve got this.

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Generally good advice, but I don’t it’s feasible for them to use extra study if they already only have time to do WK once a day. Having more sessions should be prioritised IMO.

Overall at OP I would say that WK should not be your primary study method, so adding learning actual Japanese should be added, if your not doing it already (assuming from your time constraints) and finding a balance.


In some ways, I don’t care about whether I remember the mnemonics or not. However, whether I am able to catch or guess the meaning, from seeing elsewhere, somehow?

Depending on how far you are aiming at, eventually being able to read at some levels is the goal, like easier materials? Harder materials? So, something like Lesson Cherry Picker might be able to limit what to prioritize.

Then, not Kanji, nor vocabularies, are things to be learnt for being able to read. There are also other basics and experiential things.

I am not sure if everyone will agree, but prioritizing on having a good memory, helps a lot. The question is how. I think it depends on the actual person testing for themself. For me, mnemonic is just a first step.

Speed isn’t really important. The actual progress is. Also whether the progress resets itself. Also, Wanikani isn’t the only measure, nor the Kanji. So, take time if you must; and choose materials among many others. (If you can keep up with Wanikani, perhaps anything within 5 years is OK; although some people got slower than that, yet being able to keep up.)


Use the extra study recent mistakes button. The key is using this button until you get 100% success ratio. I had the same problem as you.

Embrace going slow, but as the others have said, work on you accuracy. It will make the whole progress more enjoyable.

But going slow is generally good (if you have no particular deadline for WK). In the past, I’ve tried for speed - it never worked out. I’ve started in 2016, and have been up to level 30 at least once, using scripts for ignoring mistakes, reordering lessons, lightning mode… invariably, at some point I couldn’t sustain the speed and get crushed by review piles. I think I’ve reset to 0 four times now.

Now I’m using vanilla Wanikani, lifetime subscription, with just the Juken app for days when I absolutely can’t fit in type-in reviews on a keyboard device. I think this is finally the run that’ll take me to the finish line!

Bottom line - slow and steady beats unsustainable breakneck speed in most cases!