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I am in the process of studying for a large Japanese Language test (JLPT N1) for which I need to learn a large amount of characters and vocabulary (2000+ characters, 10,000+ vocabulary). I've been using the spaced-repetition flashcard program Anki, which is absolutely phenomenal in my opinion. I've also been using a couple other flashcard programs (KanjiBox is great, and Obenkyou on my tablet). I also keep a notebook of similar looking characters so I can learn to tell them apart, which I review now and then.

Then it occurred to me that I may be turning the spaced repetition algorithm on it's head by reviewing so many facts out of "order"! I can definitely say that I've been learning these facts, but is there any evidence to say that I would be better off by sticking to just my Anki flashcards? I want to say that the more often I can review the better, but I can't say with authority.

In the end, I will still be seeing these characters and vocabulary "out of order" as I am also studying reading comprehension/reading Japanese newspaper articles, and there is no way to avoid seeing characters that I am studying.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

If you review ahead of schedule, you will increase the likely strength of your memory. However, you will get less out of it than if you had waited: diminishing returns.

If you have the time, go ahead, just understand that you are making a tradeoff between learning faster and learning more efficiently: you are like that person at the traffic light who races his engine and takes off immediately. Yes, he gets where he is going quicker and is going faster, but when you look at his fuel mileage (total distance traveled / total fuel consumption), he does worse than everyone else. Sometimes fuel mileage matters, sometimes it doesn't.

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Thank you! I will be much more judicious in my use of supplemental flashcards...I still think it will be useful to use other sources for reasons other than pure memorization (different format, different definitions, different benchmarks, etc) but now I know what I'm getting into!! Thanks again :D –  silvermaple Jan 14 '12 at 5:17
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