As anyone who’s familiar with this site knows, Anki is one of my best friends in the world.
I use it to memorize thousands of Spanish words in my free time, to make rad Vietnamese flashcards, to destroy the Joyo Kanji, to burn JLPT vocab lists my brain, to memorize lines of Japanese TV shows and anime, and it’s utilized in every single phase of the Hacking Japanese Supercourse.
By the way, if you don’t know what Anki is or how to use it, I explain it in my free Japanese e-course:
(↑ Click to access free course ↑)
I also break down study schedules and calendars for using Anki in the (not free, sorry T_T) Hacking Japanese Supercourse.
Thanks to my incessant preaching about Anki awesomeness, a lot of you use it in your Japanese studies… which leads to a lot of questions about how to study with Anki effectively.
In this article, I want to look at what is perhaps the most common question I get about reviewing Anki flashcards:
When Should I Hit the “Good” / “Again” Button In Anki?
Here’s the simple answer:
Just listen to your heart, dude, and hit the “good” button when it feels right.
Here’s a much more helpful and detailed answer:
Use of the “good” and “again” buttons will differ based on flashcard decks, study goals, and contextual factors.
It Depends On How Lazy I Feel
For example, I have my original, gigantic deck of Japanese vocabulary flashcards. This beast has thousands of flashcards in it:
On the front side of the card, I (almost always) have a Japanese sentence that includes a keyword that I’m trying to memorize.
Here’s a card that I made after I encountered the word こぶ in this Japanese manga that explains NLP (awesome):
For this particular card, I don’t have an English translation of the sentence, because I don’t really use them for cards that I make anymore:
For all of you extra-studious kids out there, he’s an English translation, furigana, and romaji:
ひじ に こぶ を つくって あかく はれています
hiji ni kobu wo tsukete akaku hareteimasu
(He) got a lump on his elbow, and it’s red and swollen.”
Here are some different situations in which I would hit the “good” button in Anki, telling the SRS program that I know this word and I can go a little longer without seeing it again:
– If I’m feeling lazy, then as long as I know the meaning and reading of the target vocabulary word.
– If I’m feeling a little less lazy, then as long I know the meaning and reading of the entire sentnece in Japanese.
– If I have lots of time, and I’m feeling extra motivated, then as long as I know the meaning and reading of the entire sentence in Japanese, and I feel that I am able to use this word in speech and writing. (Note: this does not apply to words that I do not particularly care about being able to use in writing, such as technical language that I do not encounter very often.)
It Depends On How Much Time I Have
Sometimes, I will have hundreds of flashcards that I need to get through in a relatively short about of time. Since I absolutely MUST do all of my review flashcards every day, this sometimes means moving much faster though flashcards then I probably should be.
By telling Anki that a card is “Good,” you’re acknowledging that you understand the card, but you’re not necessarily thowing the card into some long-term memory abyss. You will see that card again, and when you do, you might think, “I have no idea what this word/sentence means.” At that point, you can just hit “Again,” and the card will go back into your “Young” cards that show up frequently.
For example, I sometimes fly through my Spanish flashcards, because it’s usually the last deck that I do, and, as you can see, I have a lot of decks:
At the end of going through all of those words, I am so tired, and I just want to get the studying over with. So usually, I just hit “Good,” “Good,” “Good” for almost every card:
A lot of the cards I definitely can use in sentences, but usually I understand the meaning of sentences I hit “good” for. If I’m completely off at guessing the meaning of a card, though, then I’ll probably hit “Again.”
It Depends On My Study Goals
For instance, you’ll see that I have a deck for French vocabulary words:
I’m not actually studying French right now. However, I’m planning to study French in a couple of years from now, and I’m trying to slowly build up some foundational vocabulary before I do.
For these flashcards, I hit “Good” anytime that I know the target keyword, and I don’t really worry about the sentence at all (although in some cases it’s pretty easy to understand, thanks to similarities between Spanish and English).
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, I have Vietnamese flashcards, and for these ones I go very slowly, and I often hit “Again” even when I know the entire card, because I’m having a really hard time memorizing Vietnamese words.
For almost all of these Vietnamese cards, I have two sets of audio–one at natural speed, and one that is slowed down. I have to listen to the slowed down version multiple times in order to get a sense for the tones of Vietnamese.
As you can imagine, this is extremely time-consuming, so I try to keep my number of new cards fairly low. I already tried plowing through huge numbers of Vietnamese vocab flashcards last month, and it was a huge disaster, and I had to delete the whole deck and start over.
I Don’t Know When You Should Hit the “Good” Button
Every person has a different study groove. So what works for me personally won’t necessarily work for you.
I figured out what kind of approach to Anki flashcards works for me over a very long period of time. At the time of this writing, my Anki program tells me that I’ve spent 1056 hours studying flashcards, and this does not even included all of the (many) decks that I have deleted:
Memorizing every flashcard is less important than reviewing the flashcards every day.
I can’t stress that enough.
Ideally, we want to give a lot of focus and attention to every single flashcard, but this is only a good thing to do if we are still able to consistently study the flashcards every day over a long period of time. If you find that cards are taking you too long to review every day, then maybe you should lower the number of new cards you’re studying and be a little more liberal with the “Good” button.
Does that answer this question at all? If not, please let me know in the comments below, and I’ll try to clarify a bit more.
Good luck in your studies!
p.s. Get you some good stuff: