I've got a specific anki deck where I have around 350 cards that I'm reviewing and 260 new cards that I haven't touched yet. I'm behind on my reviews for this particular deck (put it off for a while), so while, for instance, I can review the 350 cards + 10 new ones per day (give or take), that doesn't really make a dent in my new cards list. Would it be beneficial for me to increase the number of new cards learned to speed up getting through the pile of new cards? Or could it end up being harmful to my vocabulary retention?

I realize that this may be a little too opinion-based; I'm just looking for any general guidelines or rules of thumb for an "optimum" number of new cards to learn everyday, if it exists.

I don't have any deadline that I'm working towards, for reference. These flashcards aren't for school or anything, so I can take as much/as little time as needed.

  • Could you add whether you have some sort of deadline (a test or exam) for the vocabulary? That would influence how you deal with the "backlog", if that is the proper word for it. – Christophe Strobbe May 9 '17 at 16:44
  • Sure, I can do that. – eefara May 9 '17 at 17:21

If there were a deadline for the set of words you have in Anki, you basically divide the number of unseen words by the number of remaining days and use the outcome of that division as a guideline for the number of new cards.

If there is no deadline, you need to figure out how many new words you can learn per day, since this is highly individual. If have not found research that says how many new words one can learn using flashcards, but there has been research that says that "a typical learner should meet a word about 8 to 10 times to obtain full word knowledge" (F. Rasouli and K. Jafari: "A Deeper Understanding of L2 Vocabulary Learning and Teaching: A Review Study", International Journal of Language and Linguistics, 4.1 (Jan. 2016), emphasis added). (See my answer to a related question.)

So when you increase the number of new cards per day in Anki, you also need to increase the number of reviews per day. Unfortunately, I have no advice on what the proportion of total reviews versus new cards per day should be. However, when gradually increasing the number of reviews, I would keep track of the number of leeches that Anki reports; if you have leeches every day, it is probably best to reduce the number of new cards per day.

You can also increase the learning effect a bit by forcing yourself to speak or write down the answer before looking at the other side of the card. (This is something I do when reviewing Chinese characters.) Reviewing flash cards shortly before going to bed also seems to lead to a higher retention rate, but please be aware that exposure to computer screens can have a negative impact on sleep.

  • Would spending time making each card highly personalized compensate the time reviewing it? If yes, where is the optimal point? – Ooker May 10 '17 at 19:56
  • @Ooker Making a card more personal (I suppose you mean adding images or using sentences that mean more to you than they may mean to another learner) is a more active way of creating cards and should contribute to retention. I have no data on whether it reduces the number of reviews you need. – Christophe Strobbe May 11 '17 at 9:35

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