Start-up: best Anki settings

Before doing anything else, you’ll want to change Anki’s default settings. Below I give the choices I have made, both from the trial and error of using Anki most days for the last 3 years, and from a bit of research into the psychology of memory. The aim is to manipulate the forgetting curve to meet your learning goals.

I’m only going to focus on the settings which will make a difference to your learning, and I suggest you copy the choices I have made in my screenshots below. If you have very detailed questions, you can probably find the answer in the full Anki Manual.

PREFERENCES

Preferences has 4 tabs, and the Basic, Network and Backups sections are personal preference.

The Scheduling section however is important.

Make sure to un-tick ‘show remaining card count during review’. Doing so means you don’t get a clue as to whether you’ve seen the card before when you review it (less clues = better learning). Combine this with the reviewer_progress_bar add on (see the bottom of this article for how to do this) for the best set up.

Make sure to have the Anki 2.1 scheduler (beta). This is a new version of the scheduler, which has some big improvements (too complicated to go into here, but it’s better than it was.)

For the menu, you have a choice. Probably ‘mix new cards and reviews’ is best for learning. However, if you find you aren’t getting through your review cards each days and they’re just building up, then ‘show new cards after reviews’ is the one to go for.

Settings

The key thing to remember with settings is that you’re aiming to

  1. review enough cards each day, and
  2. get about 80-85% right (You can check this % in Stats>Today, and see ‘again count’ and ‘correct answers on mature cards’.)

All the changes you make to your settings should help you to meet these two goals.

To reach Settings, click on the little cog to the right of a deck and click ‘options’.

You might want to create a new Options group, by clicking manage>add, and giving it a name. I’ve called mine ‘Current Learning v2’. If you have different kinds of decks you might want different settings (I have a ‘Ticking Over’ one), and this lets you do that.

Once you have made your group click manage>Set for all subdecks, to sync the settings across all your decks.

Steps is the most important thing to change from the defaults. It sets how many times you have to get a card right before you move it out of your ‘learning’ pile, and into the general ‘reviewing’ pile. 10 30 5800 means you will see a card you mark ‘good’ after 10 minutes, and then again if you mark it ‘good’ after 30 minutes, and then again if you mark it good after about 4 days.

Rationale for these steps:

  • 10 minutes is very soon, which checks the card hasn’t gone straight in one ear and out the other.
  • 30 minutes is the last time you’ll view the card that day – you can experiment with making this 25 or 35, it depends how long your learning sessions are. I’ve found 30 minutes is about right for me to be about to forget the card when it pops back up.
  • 4 days checks you can remember the card days after you first see it. You want this long enough that you’re just about to forget it. If you get it wrong then the card just goes back to the first step.
  • NB For the longest step, I tried having a 4th, extra 10 day (ie 14400 minutes) step as a catcher, but found that it made the cards pile up too much without helping my learning. It’s better to get the majority out of the ‘learning’ pile with these 3 steps, and then use the ‘hard’ button to deal with the trickier cards which you don’t retain as well.

For Order you have a choice. For huge decks probably you want to ‘show new cards in order added’. If your reviewing decks are smaller (circa 50-100 cards), and cover a single topic, then you might want to ‘show new cards in random order’, because then you’ll learnt them better, When they’re mixed you have to piece together the topic for yourself, rather than it being spoonfed to you. I find doing this with a sheet of paper in front of me and jotting down the topic structure as I go is really helpful.

New cards/day is the number of new cards you will get each day. It’s good to limit this to an amount you can realistically do. What number you set this to depends on how hard your cards are.

Graduating interval is how long the gap needs to be before the card moves out of the ‘learning’ pile and into the general ‘reviewing’ pile. This means that if the gap is eg 4 days and you get it wrong, then the gap will go back to 10 minutes, and you’ll have to get it right a few more times before it can ‘graduate’.

Easy interval is the gap you make when you mark a card ‘easy’. I have mine long because as there’s no benefit to over-learning something, if I find it easy I want automatically to be graduated.

A Starting ease of 250% is fine, though if you find you don’t remember older cards, then reduce this. The gaps will grow more slowly and so you’ll see them more often, and hopefully learn them better.

Tick ‘bury related new cards until the next day’ so that you don’t see all of the cards in one cloze deletion (fill in the blanks) in the same session.

In the Reviews section you’re deciding how cards which have graduated behave. I suggest copying my settings here, which give a good balance between not having too many cards each day, and seeing them often enough not to forget too many.

If you find you are forgetting the cards that come back for review, then change the Interval modifier to 140% or 130% and see how the % correct changes over the next couple of weeks.

The Maximum interval length will depend on your learning goal – if you’re learning for a test in the next 6 months set it to about 150 days.

Lapses says what happens when you forget a graduated card.

New interval of 50% means that the card comes back much more quickly, but unlike the default 0% this recognises that you have already learnt the card.

The Leech action ‘Tag Only’ means that you can still review these cards. I would recommend periodically selecting all these tagged cards and putting them at the end of your new card queue, since these are clearly cards which need to be re-learnt from scratch.

Other opinions

Others have done similar to the above. I have tried all of them and combined them to make the above, but if you are interested in their choices have a look at the below:

  1. The AnKing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvF5Y2101Lk
  2. Conan Liu/Ali Abdaal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XaJjbCSXT0
  3. Zac Highley: https://youtu.be/uLfczzq9z_8?t=2276

Thanks for reading! If you found this useful you might find my next article on my top Anki add-ons.

How to install the reviewer_progress_bar add on

Go to https://github.com/glutanimate/anki-addons-misc and download the masterzip file “Download a copy of the full repository zip archive” the same file you get from that line highlighted in blue. Extract the files and keep them in downloaded files for an easy access point.

Go to the windows bar and search up %APPDATA%\Anki2. Copy the entire ‘review_progress_bar’ folder over into addons 21 (you find the progress bar in the src)

Close and restart Anki and it should work.

By making small changes at the top of the add-on’s source code, you can change the colors, make the corners more rounded, decide whether to see the percentage (e.g., “50%”), or alter the bar’s orientation (horizontal or vertical), location (which of the window’s four sides), and direction (which way it moves).

NB downloading the add on from the anki page won’t work because new versions of Anki often break the add ons which others make.

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