On the Fear of Guru Reviews

So, my experience with WaniKani has been very positive so far. Because of the accessibility of the website and the amount of free time I have at the moment, Ive been learning more kanji more quickly then I ever have before and I’m really starting to see the benefits in reading. But I want to call attention to something that I feel has been holding me back.

My overall study strategy so far has been:

  1. Do new lessons when I have time for at least the first two reviews and space in my pile.
  2. Do lessons in seperated chunks. So if I have 60 lessons to do. I might do 20 lessons, wait an hour then do 20 more. Then wait another hour to do the last 20.
  3. Try to keep the amount of Apprentice items below 100 and never have more than 130 in my pile.
  4. Try to do reviews as soon as they’re available

These rules aren’t that strange I don’t think, Ive seen similar recommendations in other threads. Its that 3rd rule that I think has been causing me problems though. You need to keep your apprentice items in control in order to keep your reviews under control. Otherwise youll start to get ridiculous amounts of reviews per day and not be able to keep up. But the problem is now I obsess over my apprentice count a bit too much.

In a normal level you might get like 80 to 100 new lessons immediatly. And combined with the vocab from last level you probably havent gotten through, you can’t get through all of these new lessons. But the actual amount you can take on is also controlled by the amount of previously guru’d items you’ve gotten wrong. I call these items clams (because to me a leech would be an item I get wrong over and over again. While a clam might only go wrong once. They clam up your apprentice pile). If you have 40 clams and 40 vocab from last level then how many new lessons can you take on. Only 20 which might not even get you to the new radicals.

The upshot of this is I’ve gotten really scared of getting Guru 1 and Guru 2 material in reviews since if I get them wrong they go right back to apprentice and might prevent me from taking new material later. That means that everytime I see old material or large review sections I’m more likely to put them off or I’m more likely to cheat. It feels like the punishment on these reviews is so much harsher than every other kind of review especially cause being in apprentice 4 means theyll stick around for what feels like forever. It also means I often end every review session staring at wkstats trying to figure out when material will get out of the pile and give me more space. I sometimes wish to see the ever beautiful 0 apprentice items once more. This doesnt seem healthy to me.

I feel like other people have got to also have felt their apprentice count looming over their heads before. If anyone has some advice about how to handle guru reviews better or better study strategies, I would love to hear them. Keep in mind I do my reviews on mobile so I dont have access to user extensions, as much as I really want a typo correction mod.


I’m not 100% sure it helps with retention of the gurus, but usually you would not wait one hour to do another batch of 20 lessons, but longer.
What I usually see here is at most 20 lessons per day, so I suspect you are simply going too fast and your brain naturally can’t keep all the new info. Hence you fail the guru review.

It depends on how much time you have to do reviews, but higher apprentice count simply means higher count of reviews per day. When you stay in the 50 - 200 count for apprentice the workload is manageable for most people, but that’s just a suggestion.
I usually go at a lot slower pace (skip lessons on some days, only do 5 instead of 20 etc.), doing 60 lessons in one day seems way to much. I’m surprised you are keeping this up at your current level!


I keep it to 20 lessons a day unless I have radical lessons to do. 15 vocab a day, 5 kanji a day, and I do all radicals immediately. That generally keeps the apprentice stack at bay. Any more than 20 lessons in a day, then I have a very hard time recalling later on.


I think limiting your lesson count will help with retention. I also make new mnemonics for any word if I miss is consistently because it’s obvious the old one isn’t working for me.

One thing you should ask yourself would you rather know a lot of things ok, or know a more moderate amount well.

Also another thing to think about is, there’s no point stressing if you miss a guru review. If you missed it then you’ll just get to learn it better!

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I think the best answer is yust’s approach; 5 kanji and 15 vocab per day means you can go at approximately max speed, if you do radicals immediately, and it keeps you from getting overwhelmed. The only reason why I mention max speed is that it seems like you want to progress quickly - otherwise you could just take a day off from lessons every week and your apprentice counts would naturally drop.

Since you mentioned having free time, you could also try adding in a fake “Apprentice 1.5” review 2 hours after your lessons. This obviously ruins the SRS if you do it close to the first real review, but I’ve found that at 2 hours it’s a tremendous help for my long-term retention. It lets me see very early on what vocab is going to be an issue, so I can pay more attention to it in future reviews, reread the mnemonics even after passing it, etc.

But yeah, I still fail several Guru 2ish reviews per week. There’s probably no way around it.


Yeah. I definetly intend to do most of my learning through reviews instead of lessons but its still a bit disheartening when I get to the first reviews and realize Ive already completely forgotten it. Maybe an earlier reveiw would be useful. Were you using some kind of practice tool for that or just looking up the material and trying to remember it before hand?

Also it seems I am doing more lessons per day than most people :sweat_smile: That schedule has been mostly confortable for me but perhaps it is affecting my retention. Can’t really avoid the leeches or the nastier coin tosses (like inconsistent rendaku or no tricks transitivity pairs) but yeah things would defiently be easier if those guru 1 reviews didnt hit so hard.

my experience was that 20 lessons a day was the magic number. I was doing more to keep up with trying to do fast levels and it started to feel like hell. But 20 felt great.


I, too, feel the fear of guru reviews, especially guru 2 stage, by far the hardest for my poor brain. And I loved calling them clams, good term! Some things helping me are:

1- spreading out my lessons as much as possible. To go full speed with no scripts, you usually need to learn only about 40 items on the day you level up for most levels (all the remaining vocab from your last level so you get the new radicals, all the new radicals, half the kanji.) More than that is unnecessary. Then slow it down as much as possible on later days, you can often drop to about 15 daily lessons without levelling up any slower, depending on the amount of vocab in the level. Even on days where I do more than 20 lessons I break it up into small batches, ideally not more than 5 at once, ideally with an hour in between, 10 if they’re mostly straightforward jukugo. Of course, nothing is forcing you to go full speed either :wink:

  1. Doing reviews in tiny batches with micro-breaks, my accuracy drops noticeably due to fatigue and typos after as few as 20 reviews. It’s helpful for me to do 20 reviews, stand up and stretch, take a 2 minute break, then 20 more. When I know I have gurus coming up I sometimes make these batches even smaller - 10, then tiny break, then 10 more.

  2. Looking on the bright side by accepting that although gurus are the bane of one’s existence for the whole wanikani journey, the process of getting them wrong and feeling the intense frustration that comes along with getting them wrong is ultimately very helpful for burning them into one’s memory!

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I agree with this. @whipmywillows Just slow down a bit to make sure you are not overwhelmed by your review pile.

That being said, the guru 1 and guru 2 reviews are not uncommon to fail, since that’s the first real test of longer retention - I went very fast and they were the reviews I failed the most, consistently.

After all, WK isn’t about doing your lessons once and then getting all reviews correct all the way up to burn, but rather to fail item reviews again and again and thus get the repetition needed for long-term retention. It’s a process.

Knowing this, you can simply just add this to the equation: don’t assume you’ll answer correctly at all time, rather count on failing items in various steps and take count on about how many items that is and on which step you fail them (which you’ve already done by noticing the threshold of Guru 1 & 2).

So, I wouldn’t worry about failing those items (that seems perfectly normal), rather the concern is about your feeling of being overwhelmed and addressing that.

There is no need to run so fast you’re not enjoying the journey after all. :slight_smile:

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There is some good advice here, but I think you should also look at what those items are before focusing on the metrics and getting wrapped up in them.

Apprentice 1, 2, 3, 4
Guru 1, 2
Master 1
Enlightened 1

If you imagine a perfect world where you follow the above suggestions and never miss an item during reviews you will still have about 75% of your upcoming reviews be apprentice and guru items. Depending on your schedule you will never go below 60-80 apprentice items doing reviews on time (assuming a 20 lesson/day) schedule.

For people at a slower pace 100 apprentice is a nice metric, at a faster pace it’s unforgiving for someone legit new to the material. As the others have pointed out, doing the bulk lessons only makes this more difficult to monitor, will put users in spikes of stress, and be a general PITA when trying to slide in a few lessons here and there with a batch size of N.

But really, what I think you should take away from this is having realistic targets and views on these numbers. 0 apprentice items are just not a thing on a consistent study schedule and I think it’s more healthy to aim for a consistent schedule than to do bulk batches. Guru much closer in weight to apprentice than the general advice probably leads people to believe. Really, when you think about it, the “problems” and fears you are facing a probably a lot more normal for your situation than you’re giving it credit.

As for general advice, when I’m not being lazy I’ll do a self-study quiz after a review session to get extra practice on the items I’ve missed. It really helps with relearning things I’ve forgotten and massively impacts my stats.

There are a few third party mobile apps that have support for script like behavior, offline mode, self study quiz, ect. Check out the threads for whatever is appropriate for your platform.


[Android] Flaming Durtles - Android app with offline support
[iOS/Android/Windows] Jakeipuu


[iOS] Tsurukame - native app with offline lessons and reviews
[iOS/Android/Windows] Jakeipuu


Apprentice count is a function of lesson rate and fail rate. If you do strictly 20 lessons a day your apprentice count will vary a little day-to-day, but always around about the same number depending on your fail rate. So after you’ve done 20/day for a while, if you feel like you have too many apprentice items, DON’T stop doing lessons until it goes below some arbitrary number. Just start doing only 15 lessons per day. The apprentice count would then ease down to a new level after 3 or 4 days.

I think you’ll also find doing fewer lessons per day helps the retention, so fewer guru go back to apprentice (and fewer apprentice stay that way). That lowers your average apprentice count even more.

It doesn’t cost as much as it seems to only do 20. Even with the pile of last-level’s vocab before you get to the new level’s radicals, it’s easy to level up in 10 days. That’s only 3 days more than the theoretical minimum, and that’s with no scripts. If you use the reorder and do the new radicals before the last-level’s vocab, I believe even 7 days is achievable without amassing a giant pile of undone vocab lessons.

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Really what you want is a steady flow model where every time you pull an item out of the system, a new item goes in. So every time you burn one, you do a lesson. It takes 4 months at 20/day to pre-load all the stages, though.

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Also take into account that if you do all lessons on the same day, then you’ll be with no new lessons for around 3-4 days, it is more time efficient to distribute those lessons over the four days (your speed will be about the same one way or the other) and I think it is much easier on the brain to process.


I use flaming durtles on Android and have it setup with typo correction and a few other handy settings. They can be a bit hard to find so feel free to dm me if you need help setting it up!

I was doing what OP is doing until level 20. Then I ran out of steam and it was glorious :smiley:. Well, I was doing all available lessons as soon as they got unlocked. It was a colossal waste of time, and when I finally had to take a breath, I spent almost 120 days on level 20 :joy:.

5+15 definitely seems to be the way to go for me too. There don’t seem to be any worthwhile benefits to doing more.

The only way I’ve modified 5+15 is that I do all radical lessons at once and reduce the 15 vocab lessons by the number of radical lessons, so the total lessons per day is always a maximum of 20.

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