I’ve copy pasted this from here because I thought it was a seriously great explanation of the different settings within Anki that might be useful for medical students. It’s written by a user called mehc012 in 2014, but I feel like these definitions are significantly better than Anki’s own ones, so I’ve included it here for both your and my own future use.

From this sentence on, the rest is as is found on that forum post.

Anki Settings

This is where I will hopefully go through Anki 1 feature at a time. For each I hope to include

Overview

My Recs

Questions

I am pretty busy, so I won't get through all of these today, but I will take any requests for 'next-up'.

Deck Organization

Overview:

Decks, in Anki, are the only layer of organization which you can actually see. When you first open the program, you are immediately greeted by a list of individual 'Decks'. Some key points:

  • Each Deck has its own New/Review card counts. This means that if your settings allow for 20 New cards and 50 Reviews each day, you could potentially have (20+50)(total number of decks) cards to study every day.
  • You have to review each deck separately. This isn't a functionality thing, I just hate having to click 8 buttons to do all of my reviews instead of just jumping into a mass of cards, so I try to minimize the number of decks I carry.
  • Each Deck can have its own settings - this includes New and Review counts, but also things such as Ease, Interval, Maximum Interval, etc., which will be explored later.

Subdecks

This is worth its own blurb. The way Anki handles subdecks is, frankly, rather terrible. Say you have the following setup:

BIGdeck (50 due)

-SubdeckA (30 due)

-SubdeckB (30 due)

-SubdeckC (30 due)

The nice thing is that when you click on BIGdeck, you will study cards from all of the subdecks. It also caps the total number of reviews, helping with that multiplication issue I pointed out earlier. In the above example, each of your subdecks has 30 cards due. If you did all of them, that would be 90 reviews. However, if you simply do your BIGdeck, you will see 50 cards and then be done reviewing.

Unfortunately, if you try to do this just by clicking 'BIGdeck' and reviewing, you will be shown 30 cards from subdeckA, 20 cards from subdeckB, and none from subdeckC. This is pretty much my biggest issue with Deck organization in Anki.

My recommendation:

Keep 1 deck for each of the classes you are currently taking.

Keep 1 deck for your review subjects. When you finish a class, go through and tag it extensively - fix any inconsistencies or duplicate tags that have shown up throughout the semester. Then tag the entire deck with the name of the course, dump the cards into your Review deck, and delete that class's individual deck.

Keep 1 deck for side projects. For example, I have a Medical Spanish deck. When I get short on time, I just let this one build up and don't bother reviewing it at all.

When you start playing with Deck options, you can get fancy and make your Current Course decks have shorter intervals and more frequent reviews than your review deck, and keep a very short Max Interval for them, but that's a different subject.

Deck Options - New Cards

Overview:

This is the real heart of the SRS: the timing of your card learning and reviewing.

To be honest, I can't add much here that isn't well spelled out in the online User Manual.

The gist of it is that there are 2 main types of cards: New cards and Review cards. When you open Deck Options, you will get to change a bunch of features which alter how frequently you see those two types of cards. I'll focus on New Cards, as that's really the part with the most immediately visible differences. First, New Cards are cards which you have never seen in Anki yet. Therefore, they are shown to you frequently until they 'graduate' to Review cards.

Steps: When you are first learning something, you tend to repeat the information frequently until it is drilled into your brain. Steps is Anki's adjustable version of doing just that. Ever practiced a speech or a musical passage and told yourself "OK, I am going to do this 5 times, but if I mess up even once, I have to start my count over." That's Steps. This setting allows you to pick how many times you have to get a card right before you 'know it'...and how long you have to wait in between each recall. By default, those are 1min and 10min. The first time you see a card, if you get it right, you will see it again in 10min. If you get it wrong, you start over again in 1min. (Note: if you select 'Easy' while reviewing it does something different. More on that later.) If you get it right after your 10min interval, it 'graduates' to become a Review card.

Graduating Interval: When your New card graduates, it has to have an interval assigned to it. By default, this is set at the next day.

Easy Interval: If at any time in this process you mark a learning card as 'Easy', it becomes a Review card with the interval specified here.

Starting Ease: This is an annoyingly named feature. It defaults to 250%, which essentially means that your interval will increase by 2.5x every time you mark a card 'correct'. This number changes depending on your review responses, as follows:

'Wrong' response: Ease decreases by 20 percentage points

'Hard' response: Ease decreases by 15 percentage points

'Good' response: Ease unchanged

'Easy' response: Ease increases by 15 percentage points

Thus, a card with 250% starting ease that you mark as correct 3x will increase its interval by 2.95x every time you get it right.

It is important (though a bit confusing) to differentiate this from the "Interval Modifier" you will see under the Review tab...this one affects how Anki calculates your intervals throughout the life of the card and relative to other cards. More details under 'Interval Modifier' in the 'Deck Options - Review Cards' section.

Those 4 are closely related, so I grouped them together even though Anki has some bizarre organization going on there. Order and New Cards/day are fairly self explanatory.

Bury Related New Cards until next day: This one is odd. Basically, if you use Notes with multiple cards, say, a Forward/Reverse (or a Cloze or custom template), the program will try to only show you ONE of those cards each day, so you don't spoil yourself. Sometimes this is useful. Sometimes, say, if you make a Note with a lot of information but no spoilers, it's simply annoying. Sometimes you have an exam the next day and spoilers be damned!

My recommendation:

I try to make all of my own cards, which makes frequent reviewing unnecessary, as I mostly learn by making, not by reviewing. Also, I tend to binge-make cards, so if I have to review each one after 10min, my learning session becomes hell. So Steps for all decks are short.

In practice 120min means that I can look at my new cards in the morning, then again either later that day or the next day.

Other universal setting: I always select

Show new cards in random order

because I see no reason to see anything in a fixed order. I like to minimize any cues for my cards other than the information itself. Personal preference.

Now, the rest of my settings vary by deck. I have 3 Deck Options groups: Current, Review, and SideProject.

Current Deck Options: High retention goal; I want to learn a lot of cards daily and see them frequently

Steps (in minutes): 1 120 I can look at my new cards in the morning, then again either later that day or the next day

New cards/day: 50 Depends on the course and my total schedule/load

Graduating: 2d

Easy: 5d

Starting ease: 250% Default; I don't change this for individual decks (that's for the Interval Modifier)

Bury related new cards: Yes Depends on subject matter; usually Yes unless I am using a card template where siblings are not spoilers

Review Deck Options: SRS goal; low load, long-term deck.

Steps (in minutes): 1 120 This never changes

New cards/day: 10 I keep the New cards/day low here...you may ask why I have any New cards at all in my Review deck. Turns out, as I said, I do a lot of binge-card making, so sometimes the cards I make for my final exam are still new after the class ends. Also, when class ends I like to sort through my cards and fix/remake any which are unclear or which are only useful for this class, without being generalizable. So I do have new cards in the Review deck, but I would prefer to focus on learning my CURRENT course's new cards.

Graduating: 3d 50% longer than Current!

Easy: 7d

Starting ease: 250%

Bury Related Cards: Absolutely.

For my SideProject deck I use the same settings as Review, but I allow more New cards...after all, I only make those when I have the free time!

Quick note: DO NOT make your total New/Review count (adding ALL of your decks) more than the minimum you are willing to do on your bad days. Also, Learning cards are not considered in either daily count, so keep that in mind...your Learning count will generally be at least as large as your New count, depending on your Learning Steps. If you have a lot of Current decks, consider dropping your Review deck counts to compensate!

Deck Options - Review Cards

Maximum reviews/day: Self-explanatory. This should be at LEAST 2x your New card count. Reviews pile up quickly...if you do 50 New cards consistently, you will easily have a Due count of over 100/day after a week or so. You'll probably end up with even more, if you continue adding New cards every day. Don't worry, though...a few days off of adding New cards, or the occasional bolus of extra Reviews and you'll be caught up, with your srs none the worse for the wear! 2x is about right.

Note: Again, your total daily load should not be more than you will be willing to do on your worst day. It's easy to increase your count when you have the time/energy. However, skipping days is the worst thing you could do for Anki, and it's easy to skip a day entirely if the Due pile is too daunting.

Easy Bonus: This one seems a bit complex, but it's really fairly straightforward. When you mark a card easy, its interval increases by more than usual (more than its Ease). This is how much more.

Intervals for normal cards are calculated as (CurrentIntervalEaseIntervalMod)

Easy cards are calculated as (CurrentIntervalEaseIntervalModEasyBonus)

Assume an IntervalMod of 100% (we'll discuss what that is next), Ease 250%.

If your EasyBonus is 130%, then a card with an interval of 4d would be seen next in:

(4d2.51) = 10d if you mark 'Good', but

(4d2.511.3) = 13d if you mark 'Easy'!

Interval Modifier: This one is a bit complicated. Well, the implementation is straightforward: as I showed above, each interval is calculated as (CurrentIntervalEaseIntervalMod), EasyBonus if you mark it 'Easy'.

You'll note that the Interval modifier is, at default, 100%...so it does nothing. However, if you increase it, you will see cards less frequently (more spaced out, larger intervals) and if you decrease it, you'll see it more frequently (smaller intervals). Why would you do this? Well, say you have one topic you want to learn extremely thoroughly, or that you find generally harder, etc...you could decrease the IntervalMod to see it more. I use a smaller IntervalMod on my 'Current' deck options because I want to learn those cards very well.

Within a given deck, the effect of decreasing IntervalMod vs StartingEase is equivalent...so when to do which? Well, IntervalMod only affects cards that are currently in this deck, whereas StartingEase only affects cards learned in this deck, but has a permanent effect on the calculations of intervals throughout the lifetime of the card, no matter which deck you move it into. Once you learn a card, changing StartingEase in the deck options, or switching it to a lower-priority deck, will not get you back that extra 15% in interval calculations. So, generally, you should pick your Starting Ease based on what works for you overall (i.e. should probably be the same for all decks) and use IntervalMod to adjust individual decks for whatever specific goals you have.

One such goal is retention rate...Anki gives a formula in their manual which you can use to adjust the IntervalMod based on your current retention rate (how well you perform on mature cards) vs your desired goal retention rate. That is fine, though you'll probably get more bang for your buck if you make your Learning steps more robust or fine tune your deck to improve vague/shoddy cards.

Maximum Interval: Phew! Another self-explanatory one! Default for this is 100 years, but I like to bring it down to the 3-5yr range. Still experimenting with this. Note: set in days, which can be confusing.

My recommendations:

Current Deck Options: High retention goal; I want to learn a lot of cards daily and see them frequently

Maximum reviews/day: 100 This is 2x my New card count

Easy bonus: 130% This is standard, I wouldn't decrease it, and I didn't increase it for my high-retention priority decks

Interval Modifier: 85% I emphasize retention in these decks...an IM<100% means more frequent reviews

Maximum Interval: 1500 100yrs seemed insane to me...this is about 3.5-4yrs, guesstimation-style

Review Deck Options: SRS goal; low load, long-term deck.

Maximum reviews/day: 85-100 (depending on how busy the rest of my life is) In this deck, I used my average cards/min from the stats window to give myself a short daily session.

Easy bonus: 130% This is standard, I may consider increasing it

Interval Modifier: 100% Once a card gets moved to my Review deck, its intervals grow normally. I may actually increase this because my retention is so good, but the reviews are not a burden currently, so no need.

Maximum Interval: 1500 100yrs seemed insane to me...this is about 3.5-4yrs, guesstimation-style

Deck Options - Lapses

Overview:

Anytime you Lapse a card - aka miss a Review card - it is an indication that you need to relearn the information, and that your previous interval was too long. The Lapse settings are where you fine-tune this process.

Steps (in minutes): Much like the original learning steps, these are your Relearning steps.

New Interval: Once you relearn the card, you probably don't want or need to restart back with the standard graduating interval. After all, you remembered the information for the previous interval, and you just relearned it! This setting is how much you decrease the interval from its prior value after forgetting and relearning it. It's basically like the opposite of the Easy Bonus. The interval for a relearned card will be

(CurrentIntervalNewInterval) (I'm not sure about Interval Modifier here).

Minimum Interval: It would suck to end up with a few hours interval because you missed a card after 3d, wouldn't it? This setting prevents such things.

Leech Threshold: A 'Leech' is a card that you've missed too many times. How many is too many? That's what the Leech Threshold lets you decide!

Leech Action: A leech is probably a badly made card - something vague, for example - so Anki takes some sort of action (the 'Leech action') to notify you of this...it can either flag it as a leech, or it can flag it and suspend it; seeing the card repeatedly clearly isn't helping you anyway, so why bother? The tag allows you to go through every once and a while and fix/purge any cards in your deck that just aren't working for you.

My recommendations:

Current Deck Options: High retention goal; I want to learn a lot of cards daily and see them frequently

Steps (in minutes): 1 120 Relearning steps same as my Learning steps...after all, I DID learn it at one point

New Interval: 30% The standard Ease is 250%, or a 2.5x increase for each interval. 1/2.5 is 0.4, which to me should be the ballpark for the standard 'New Interval' (ballpark because a lot of other factors alter your prior interval)...after all, you got it right the interval before, right? Since this is my high-retention-goal deck, I want to see Lapsed cards even more frequently than that!

Leech Threshold: 8 Standard

Leech Action: Tag only I'm lazy...trust me, I'm far more likely to edit a card if it keeps popping up in review than if I suspend it.

Review Deck Options: SRS goal; low load, long-term deck.

Steps (in minutes): 1 120 Relearning steps same as my Learning steps...after all, I DID learn it at one point

New Interval: 40% The standard Ease is 250%, or a 2.5x increase for each interval. 1/2.5 is 0.4, which to me should be the ballpark for the standard 'New Interval' (ballpark because a lot of other factors alter your prior interval)...after all, you got it right the interval before, right?

Leech Threshold: 8 Standard

Leech Action: Tag only I'm lazy...trust me, I'm far more likely to edit a card if it keeps popping up in review than if I suspend it.

Custom Study - Increase New/Review Card Limit, Unbury

Overview:

Custom Study tools can be accessed from the main page of an individual deck (the one with New and Review counts that shows up when you click on the Deck's name from the home page). At the bottom of the deck's main page, you will see a button that says Custom Study.

This will bring up a menu that will allow you to study the cards in your deck in a variety of different ways, depending on the requirements of your current study session.

In this section, I will cover the options which change the cards you see directly in your current deck. My next section will cover the options for creating a separate Custom Study deck for either extra review (including cramming) or reviewing ahead.

Increase New/Review Count: Yes, I know these are listed as two separate features, but really...these are pretty self explanatory. I have recommended, multiple times, that you set your New/Review counts to equal the number you would be able to do on your worst day. Hopefully, every day is not your worst day, and you have the time/mental fortitude remaining to tackle even more cards! This is how you do that.

When you select this in the Custom Study menu, it will show you how many of that card type remains in your deck. You can then choose how much you want to increase your limit by. It's that simple!

Note: I haven't found a way to decrease this limit once I bump it up, so if you're unsure about how many you can get through today, do it in batches!

Unbury: This isn't really a Custom Study feature, but it comes up often when people are trying to review, so I'll include it here.

Remember when we discussed the "Bury related cards" feature? Well, what happens when you are trying to work through your review backlog and Anki keeps hiding those siblings from you even though you no longer want it to? You hit Unbury! This button is found next to the Custom Study button, at the bottom of a deck's main page. Use with discretion...you buried siblings for a reason!

My recommendations:

I like to increase my Review limit first, if there are any backlogged Due cards. Once (if) I work through all of those, then I consider taking on additional New cards. Remember, New cards have multiple Learning steps, so keep that in mind when budgeting your time!

I usually don't unbury, unless I'm coming up on an exam and want to make sure I see everything pending before I start Cramming!