Lesson Review stacking up

Anyone else getting frustrated with the fact you can’t set a threshold for an amount of reviews before your account will go into pause/vacation mode. Why is this not a option it seems like such a simple fix. I left my account not on vacation mode for the weekend, and got stuck with 600 reviews in 2 days (level 45), these are old reviews from maybe even a year ago for a lot of them, so remembering most of them is beyond tricky and time consuming… The worst I have had to clear out is over 1000+… Having them stack up just destroys my motivation and stops my progress forward as I spend so long getting back up to a useable standard… IM BEYOND ANNOYED. yes part of this my own incompetence for not remembering to pause/ go into vacation mode

I’m afraid, that’s just how WaniKani works…

You mean the burning reviews? These are 6 months old, at most, if you regularly clear your reviews.

Sorry, I’m not that far yet, so I can’t add anything useful :sweat_smile: But I guess perhaps you could somehow make something that reminds you to switch on vacation mode whenever you plan to go away for a while (even if it’s just two days)?


As in those old reviews just meant clearing those 600 took even longer than being fresh in the memory.

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I’ve had a similar question, but never looked into it in detail - that is, shouldn’t the SRS algorithm, any SRS algorithm (not just within WK), be smart enough to not pile on and pile on and pile on the reviews, stacking them to such inordinate heights?

Seems to me that operating in that fashion would be a counterproductive, ‘brain-dead’ approach to the SRS philosophy. If a user is clearly not doing reviews promptly, it likely doesn’t mean something like, “I’ll wait until I have 500 or 1,000 reviews waiting for me before I use the app again” (said no one ever).

I have done only a cursory investigation into the principles underlying SRS (and not recently) - however there are at least several folks here in the WK community who actually have done such ‘deep dives’ - and so perhaps we may get an alternate perspective from one or more of them.

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I guess the idea is that a review is “the algorithm thinks this item is now old enough that you need to try to remember and answer it in order to refresh your memory of it”. In that sense, there is no way to avoid them piling up – if the item is old enough then it’s old enough. In this world view, “vacation mode” is denying reality, because it can’t somehow stop you from forgetting the items that you ought to be reviewing. The best you could do would be to try to gate the lessons based on the user’s observed number of reviews a day so as to eventually reach an equilibrium, but that’s tricky even if the user is consistent about how many reviews they do a day.

As you note, this rational theory runs headlong into the problem that it’s an absolutely terrible UI for humans. Ideally I suppose you would want some kind of heuristics for “supposing that the user is only going to do 75 reviews today, what are the most effective 75 cards to show them?”, which might involve things like “if this high level card is only a few days late for its six month review, it can wait a few days” and “these cards only got up to their 24 hours review before the user stopped doing reviews while they were on holiday for two weeks, so let’s assume the user has forgotten them completely, and instead prioritise cards that they’ve already sunk more effort into and are a bit higher up the SRS system” (a sort of hidden reset of those cards back into not-yet-studied, if you like). I don’t know if there’s been any research or work on that kind of thing, though.


What should be the behaviour instead? Like they could hide them and not show in the count, but they have to pop up at some point.

What @Seas39 proposes, freezing the SRS completely past a certain threshold, could work, but that basically breaks the SRS and not necessarily the right move.

The reaction to “I get too many reviews and I can’t catch up” should be “let’s do fewer lessons and focus on doing reviews until the count goes down”, not “let’s mess with the SRS intervals to artificially remove reviews”.

I understand that having an unexpected event preventing you from doing WK for a few days and returning to a stack of hundreds of reviews pending can be a bit disheartening, but it’s the system working as intended. Just chip at it until you get to zero and then resume as before.

I mean if you have 600 reviews stacking in two days, that probably means hundreds of reviews in a “normal” day anyway… That should be manageable.

Rant about vacation mode being bad bad bad

I think that “vacation mode” is a bad idea and should never ever be used under any circumstances. Just do your bloody reviews even while on vacation. If you know that you won’t have a lot of time during said vacations then reduce your new lessons to drop the load.

Of course you may argue that for a two day “vacation” it’s not a huge deal, and it’s true, but then again dealing with two days worth of reviews is also not the end of the world, you’ll be caught up in a few days at worse even without vacation mode.

Meanwhile stopping WK for weeks at a time just means that you completely destroy the SRS sequence at least for anything below master. It’s just a bad idea.

Don’t use vacation mode. Do your reviews.


Exactly - because, among other reasons, AFAIK the SRS review intervals are not like a ‘precision watch movement’, rather they are likely based on rough averages and then subject to individual preferences and variations.

So it’s not as if the SRS algorithm can only function in a narrow and tightly-prescribed fashion, rather it should be amenable to some ‘fudging’…

Because, after all, as you alluded to, it is intended for use by humans.

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Yes, but… life happens.

Am I right in thinking that WK’s implementation of it doesn’t give you any credit for the extension of time between reviews when it’s enabled? That is, if a card was supposed to come up for a 24 hour review, but you turn on vacation mode for two weeks, answering it correctly after 2 weeks and 24 hours indicates that really you know it quite well, and it ideally should boost it up the SRS levels more than a mere “correct after 24 hours” result. But I suspect WK doesn’t try to do that…


I have never used it but my understanding is that it literally freezes everything in place, so I think that you are correct, you would level up your items as usual without accounting for the greater interval.

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Life happens, but why should the SRS care?

That is, the likelihood that you will forget doesn’t change regardless of the reason why you are missing reviews. It’s well beyond the scope of the SRS to decide that this reason justifies a delay while that reason doesn’t. And simply capping the number of reviews “breaks” the SRS completely for all the reasons discussed above.

With a human teacher, you could say “I’m really swamped and can’t do reviews right now,” and they might say “That’s okay, I understand.” But all that would do is make you feel better: it wouldn’t change the rate at which you forget.


This reminds me a bit of a post I saw on the Anki reddit some years back that stuck with me and was something along the lines of:

The thing I like the most about Anki is its blunt honesty.

Unlike a language tutor, a friendly native, TV, books, etc, it doesn’t blow smoke up your rear.

It ruthlessly finds your weaknesses and forces you to practice them over and over again until you’ve perfected them.

The same is true for SRS in general.


If the choice is between overwhelming the ‘student’ to the point that they give up, vs. throttling back the reviews based on some heuristic beyond just the standard SRS timing, I’d think that the former would be an eminently more sensible, “keep the big picture in mind” approach…

I’m not familiar with the literature in any detail, but I’d like to think that at least some researchers are not so focused on pedantic minutiae that they lose sight of the bigger goals.

Well, the “big picture” is that if you don’t do the reviews in a timely manner, you won’t achieve the results. Failure to make progress is another reason why people give up.

Intuiting the correct balance between encouragement and “tough love” is hard for human teachers. It’s probably too much to ask of an algorithm.

Even if ‘the algorithm’ isn’t smart enough to do that on its own, a typical SRS has a multitude of internal parameters that govern its operation. Typically those are set to defaults, which can then be tweaked by the user (if the user so wishes).

Features to prevent the user from being overwhelmed with reviews could certainly be implemented along those lines, if any user-centric developer (or team) should be so inclined.

Anki in fact does this.

I think WK tech team should add a feature if a user doesnt do any lessons in 3 days for example it will trigger a message like in streaming services “are you still there?” if not replied, it turns on vacation mode.

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I disagree with the people arguing it breaks the SRS system tbh, I understand where they are coming from however. I think its unreasonable to have someone constantly swamped with reviews under the argument of ‘tough love’ etc…

At level 45 now if I didn’t touch Wanikani for a week I would be 1450 reviews stacked up which could take around 8-12 hours depending on the speed and concentration of attempting to clear them… Right now I just activate vacation mode to prevent this occurring as I am sure many other people do.

If someone is constantly clearing there backlog they are unlikely to even have the time tor be encouraged to learn new lessons as it will increase the backlog and by the time the new lesson comes back around the will have probably forgotten I imagine.

Its beyond pointless to discourage users to have a manageable workload or set a threshold for when vacation mode starts as I am sure many people will simply give up or find it too grindy…

There should be a setting for the casual user to help their overall expierence, whether or not the purists out there decide to use it or not is another matter…

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All of this is true.

But vacation mode doesn’t keep you from forgetting. If you pause WK for a week, you are exactly as likely to forget as you would have been if you simply ignored your reviews for a week.

That’s the point people are making. That vacation mode – whether enabled manually or automatically – is just a way of hiding the consequences of ignoring your reviews.