Best Anki Settings: My Recommended Values (Updated for v2.1+)

Hi, this is Lesson 4 of 4 in the Anki Fundamentals free course. I hope you like it! Let me know if you have any questions or feedback — I'd like to hear what you think! 🙂

In this lesson, you’re going to learn my recommended Anki settings and how settings work in a more practical manner.

That’s because I don’t only want you to have “ready-made” templates, but also a complete understanding of how the advice I’m giving you works.

Why? Because I want you to be able to think for yourself rather than use something you don’t even know the purpose of.

Just to be clear, Anki’s default settings do work.

However, in my experience, I found the default learning steps (more on this later) gives a really poor review experience for both newer and older cards.

Newer cards don’t get reviewed as frequently, and older cards start back to zero when you’ve lapsed even partially. (i.e. during tip-of-the-tongue moments)

Once you use these settings I’m going to give you, you’ll be able to avoid these two problems right away so you’ll have a smooth review experience every single time.

They’re made-for-you settings that I found the most optimal in my learning process. Again, I will also share with you the underlying concepts (and provided supplementary materials) so you can tweak them on your own.

That being said, I do have to note two things:

  1. My recommended settings are more geared for conceptual learning than for memorizing vocabulary or isolated facts
  2. Changing your settings this way won’t really make or break your overall retention for conceptual learning. It just enhances the review experience.

Which means if you’re constantly forgetting the majority of what you’ve studied even though you’ve already made Anki cards for them, then mere settings are NOT going to treat that problem.

Luckily, I have a solution for that — you’ll learn it at the end of this post.

The Made-For-You Settings

This is an updated version that uses the recommended settings in the “LeanAnki Method” part of the study system course.

For Daily Limits:

  • New cards/day = 9999. New information lacks depth, and should therefore be studied immediately. So you need to retrieve them in order to make them stronger — at least, before they fade into oblivion when more complex concepts are still far ahead.

  • Maximum Reviews = 9999. Retention of past knowledge makes future learning easier. But take note that this can only be true if you have encoded what you’ve learned before making flashcards. Otherwise, you only get fragmented, useless retention that cannot be used as an activated semantic context.

For the New Cards, I recommend these settings:

The Learning steps setting means that pressing Again shows the card in 10 minutes and pressing Good would show the card after 1 day, then after you press “Good” on that, you’ll see it again after 3 days.

So the first number is actually the number of minutes the card will show up again if you pressed “Again”.

The next two numbers determine the intervals when you press “Good”.

And like the tab says, all of these only apply to New Cards.

Now, I don’t recommend you pressing “Easy” right away because that tends to skip the “learning steps.”

You don’t want that. Just because a card is easy to remember now doesn’t mean it’s going to be remembered in the future — we have a bias to believe otherwise (cf. Stability Bias) and that’s the trap we will fall into if we don’t “filter the bad cards out.”

So, just to be on the safe side, go through all of your learning steps for your new cards by pressing “Good.” (Obviously, this doesn’t apply to graduated cards — more on that in a sec.)

Now how do you know if the card has surpassed the “learning steps”?

You’ll know it when the next interval in the “Graduating Interval” appears. (in this case, it’s 7 days)

When you see that option, it means that that specific card will graduate after you press “good” or “easy”. (Think of the steps as a “grade” in grade school — you have to go through all of them, right?)

When a card has graduated, the ease of retrieval (i.e. what buttons you press after answering that card) will then determine how often that card will show up in the future, rather than the learning steps.

Lastly, you might be wondering why the “Insertion order” is set to Random.

What this does is make the questions show up in an interleaved way. Interleaved practice helps you dissolve boundaries between subjects, and this is also why I recommend letting relevance determine deck creation.1

So going back to graduated cards…

When the card has graduated, it will use the “Lapses” and “Advanced” settings:

The Lapses settings, I don’t care so much about that. 10 minutes is already fine for avoiding “mindless recall” when reviewing lapsed cards, and I don’t want my poorly-encoded cards disappearing, so I recommend not changing the “Leech Action” to “Suspend Card.” (This usually happens when your cards aren’t encoded or future-proof)

Then here’s the “Advanced” settings.

I primarily used Anki when I reviewed for my board exams, and I noticed that sometimes there were cards that are supposed to be extremely easy but have very low intervals.

If you find that you have those cards, this means that you have forgotten them somehow after they have graduated, and that they have already used the default “New Interval”, which is 0%.

So I’ve set the “New Interval” setting to 0.60. This is crucial, because if you forgot something you’ve been successfully recalling for 3 years, do you really have to test yourself as if it’s a new card?

CLEARLY NOT. And it’s an inefficient use of time and energy for a well-learned card.

That’s why we concede by turning the new interval to 60%. It’s arbitrary, of course, but I wouldn’t recommend going below 50%.

This means that if you have a graduated card, and you’ve pressed “Again,” then the next interval will be set at 60% of the original. Meaning, if you’re supposed to see that card 100 days for a “Good” rating, then pressing “Again” will make it pop up after 60 days (0.6×100=60) instead of 100.

My rationale here, if it’s not clear yet, is that well-learned cards do not need to be reviewed the same way as a newly learned card.

If the depth of encoding2 is the same, then there is already a base of storage strength for the lapsed card. Since the large storage strength slows down the rate of forgetting, it means that it will be forgotten way slower than a new card — which generally has low storage strength3.

Now, in case you want to learn more about these settings you can do that here (longer version) and here. (shorter)

Regarding your reviews with graduated cards, you should press whatever option in the “Easy” “Good” “Hard” suits your judgement.

That’s because from that point on, you want the Anki algorithm to do its magic for you.

To recap:

  • The New Cards settings apply to, well, new cards that haven’t yet graduated
  • Press “Good” only for the newer cards to go through all your learning steps and avoid Stability Bias
  • A specific card has “graduated” when you finish the learning steps
  • Press whatever review difficulty option (i.e. Easy, Good, or Hard) for graduated cards

Settings Aren’t an Exact Science

If you’ve noticed already, these intervals are incredibly simple to tweak.

That’s because they aren’t exact science.

If your goal is to just use Anki more effectively and more efficiently in a practical way…

Then do you really have time to overthink about the exact data — i.e. “the pErFeCt aLgOriTHm” — instead of actually spending that time creating better cards that will improve your knowledge base? Learning how to extract important information from a textbook?

Look, even if some garbage news site “knew” what the “most effective & efficient Anki setting” is…

It HIGHLY likely that it fails to take into account:

  1. The context of what you’re learning
  2. How specific your card is
  3. How future-proof it is
  4. How well they relate to your previous knowledge
  5. …and so on.

…simply because these can’t be quantified.

In short, even if there’s available exact science out there, it likely fails to account the big picture.

So I argue it’s better to keep this simple.

One caveat, though, is when you’re not using Anki as a tool for learning concepts, but rather just to memorize facts.

I can’t speak for that — perhaps the most efficient intervals do exist for it.

(But hey, I doubt you’re even gonna make it this far if you’re not gonna use Anki for learning!)

Anki designers were actually criticized for not having “optimal intervals”, but in defense of Anki, Nielsen argued:

I’ve heard this used as a criticism of the designers of systems such as Anki, that they make too many ad hoc guesses, not backed by a systematic scientific understanding.

But what are they supposed to do? Wait 50 or 100 years, until those answers are in?

Give up design, and become memory scientists for the next 30 years, so they can give properly “scientific” answers to all the questions they need answered in the design of their systems?

We get that exact science is good for increasing the chance success, but every action doesn’t have to wait for exact data, especially if you want to make progress immediately.

Instead of waiting for memory scientists to somehow find the data for us, we follow the first principle of spaced repetition and learn the nuances for ourselves.

That is, to set increasing intervals for reviews.

Simple, and practical.

One might ask, “What if I’m overtesting/undertesting?”

You’d often hear this from other “advanced beginners”, but frankly, it’s impractical to stress yourself over them.

In case you’re asking the same question, here’s the solution:

Adjust the settings accordingly.

Plain simple.

Of course, it’s easy to say that the overall review time can be sped up when you use setting X or Y…

But frankly, there are more important things to address in the grand scheme of things.

Next Step: How to Use Anki Efficiently

Like I said, settings alone won’t make or break your ability to retain most of the concepts you’re learning.

Sure, it might help a bit — but the gains would be marginal at best.

It’s more of an optimization thing rather than a viability factor.

And, as I’ve said in the beginning of this Anki Fundamentals series

Anki — or more appropriately, spaced repetition is just one-third of the things you need for learning effectively.

Listen, if you’re constantly tweaking your settings and you’re not seeing any substantial improvements, then the problem is probably not with Anki.

If you’re interested to know more, then the next course — How to Use Anki Efficiently — is for you.

It’s totally free, no signups required to start.

Footnotes

  1. See this article for more.
  2. Craik, F. I. M., & Lockhart, R. S. (1972). Levels of processing: A framework for memory research. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11(6), 671–684. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0022-5371(72)80001-X
  3. Bjork, R. A., & Bjork, E. L. (1992). A new theory of disuse and an old theory of stimulus fluctuation. In Essays in honor of William K. Estes, Vol. 1: From learning theory to connectionist theory; Vol. 2: From learning processes to cognitive processes. (pp. 35–67). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

12 thoughts on “Best Anki Settings: My Recommended Values (Updated for v2.1+)”

  1. Thanks for your excellent effort to de-mystify the black box that is Anki settings. However, and maybe I’m missing something obvious, but:
    – You talk about the Reviews tab but have screenshot of New Cards tab and its associated settings
    – I can’t find info on the real Reviews tab (max reviews/day, easy bonus, interval modifier, etc.)

    Reply
    • Hi Fred,

      Thanks for your comment! I totally didn’t notice that! I’ll revise this post as soon as possible. For the Reviews tab, you want to use unlimited reviews per day because you don’t want to delay their due dates. Other than that, the default settings work really well for that tab.

      Thanks,

      Al

      Reply
  2. Nice post! Just a quick observation.

    – “A specific card has ‘graduated’ when you see the ‘Hard’ option in your reviews” – Almost everyone that I know is using the new scheduler (old V2 scheduler) because of it’s benefits and the “Hard Button” appears in the learning phase.

    Reply
    • Hi Bruna,

      Thanks for reading. Yes, I’m aware of the “experimental scheduler,” but I really didn’t impress upon me that it was a “must-have,” but rather just a “nice-to-have”. I’m curious about what you found beneficial, though 🙂

      — Al

      Reply
  3. Great stuff, Al, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I have to ask, though – after so many links to articles from the creator of SuperMemo, why use Anki instead?

    Reply
    • Hi Hugh,

      Thanks for your time, too. That’s a great question — there are a lot of reasons to be honest, but the biggest one is kind of a “sunk cost” thing, because I had already restarted my 1k+ deck and created hundreds more (from scratch) back when I heavily used Anki.

      I also thought if I switched to SuperMemo, it would mean climbing another learning curve and even more time spent for card creation. NOPE. Haha!

      Reply
  4. All I wanted to know is how I can use Anki as a Leitner box for spaced repetition. Anki shows only upto 3 levels, is there a way to use Anki for 7 levels? (level 1, level 2, level 3,…….level 7 = day 1, day 2, day 4,………day64) if I give a wrong answer at level 5 or at day 16 then the question has to start again from level 1 until it reaches (without any wrong answer in between levels) to level 7 or graduation, is this possible with Anki.

    Reply
    • You can do that by creating 7 intervals in the “Steps(in minutes)” settings. If you want to be able to answer the card every day, I’d put in settings like this:

      10 1440 1440 1440 1440 1440 1440 1440

      I haven’t tried it myself, though, but in principle, that’s how it should work.

      Reply
    • Hi Emil,

      I don’t have any experience with that, sorry I couldn’t help! My heuristic is this:

      The less structured/conceptual your cards are, the shorter the settings should be. (Simply because they don’t have much associations)

      Reply

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