Zombie Reviewing

I don’t know if it is just me but often I do find myself able to recall things inside Anki but not able to do the same when asked spontaneously in real-life situations.

-Do you vocalize the answers
-What else do you guys do to avoid this :question:
-How long do you wait to think about the answer on average


I am mainly learning languages.

-Do you vocalize the answers

-What else do you guys do to avoid this :question:
I use other apps to practice speaking and doing dialogues in my target language. Recently I have used Langotalk.

-How long do you wait to think about the answer on average
Usually about 3-5 seconds. If longer, then I mark card as “Hard”.


This is a very helpful perspective. I suppose this applies to anything really, since I am not learning a language but rather studying medicine.

I have heard though that the Hard button can be misused quite easily, so I just press it against. How do you avoid that.

Please do not derail threads for self promotion bro. This looks like borderline spam.


Indeed it is, and I apologize.


The first part of your post was totally fine :wink:

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Yes, especially when I’m exhausted. Helps with motivation for me.

Use the knowledge outside Anki. I feel like when I’m tired I find it really hard to recall things. So it might just be an issue of “not enough practice”. I read a lot (I’ve slowed down a bit recently for lack of time).

I try to wait at least around 10 secs.


One of the reasons for this problem is that we remember the shape of the cards as a memory hook instead of knowledge of the cards, it is possible to guess the answer from the context or the template.
There is no such hook when actual knowledge is required.

To avoid this there are several add-ons and templates that randomize the cards.

[ Randomize Add-ons ]

  1. Freshness - Randomize CSS styles
  2. Randomize Fonts (new)
  3. Word Shuffler - Sentences randomizer
  4. Random Field in Anki
  5. Insert Randomized Lists
  6. InContext - Learn vocabulary in context with random sentences
  7. Japanese Card Randomizer
  8. Random Sprites - Find new random image on cards

[ Randomize Card Template ]

  1. Random Background Image on Cards
  2. Random Sentences Script

And it is also important to randomize the cards in the native Anki deck options and deck order. Randomizing increases the difficulty, but makes it easier to remember.

  • Deck Gear icon → Option → Display Order → Review sort order [ Random ]

Randomize review of all sub-decks from the main deck (or combine decks into one and manage by tags)

+ Main deck 
    - Sub deck A
    - Sub deck B
    - Sub deck C

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Very nice tips. Thank you! A lot of these won’t work with a large cloze note (like sprite generation). But I will try the random font und template generation for a change!

Hmm the code for adding randomizing the background image doesn’t seem to be working

  var w = window.innerWidth;
  var h = window.innerHeight;
  var image_url = "https://source.unsplash.com/random/"+w+"x"+h;
  document.body.style.backgroundImage = "url("+image_url+")";
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In short, the difference between semantic review and syntactic review. By syntactic review, I mean clozing isolated words and focusing on the rote completion of sentences instead of genuinely thinking about the question and recalling the answer, which would be the semantic review. ANother example of syntactic review is by recalling just after noticing a pattern “ahh yea the question that started with how and mentions X person is that answer”-> mindless repetitions.

Syntactic reviews will lead to good recall in Anki but no applicability in real life as you are experiencing. I experienced the same during my first years using Anki.

The biggest factor to change this situation requires no add-on but a change of mindset. Focus on the meaning, not the phrasing. Avoid cloze deletions until you get used to it; Q&A are easier in this regard.

Here I share a real example (it’s software agnostic): https://youtu.be/hYDiHwbs5uA?t=3390

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Yeah, I have noticed but way, way later on. All of my 70000+ cards are cloze cards. I have begun the strenuous process of turning them into QA cards but that will take a very long time (this was the work of 2 years). So for the mean time, I have to make do with my cloze cards and like you said, maybe actually stop and think about the answer for a minute (though I have to say that was never really a problem, since I have a memory so bad that even blind rote memorization doesn’t even work for me).

If you go fully cloze deletion then your bottleneck will be the skills regarding the knowledge formulation. Add-ons to change the styling at random etc to appear lightly different at each review will have a negligible effect as these are not solving the root cause. Personally, after 15 years of flashcards, I prefer to spend more time to reformulating flashcards at early stage (before or during the first review), as I know it is a time investment for the future. I have thousands of proofs for that (sadly, as that means I wasted hours of my life for no gain).

It’s been 4 years that I only use Anki for language learning and for everything else I use Supermemo, so reformulating and creating flashcards is a much better experience than in Anki.

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That is a classical case where it does not make sense to have a Q&A for a flashcard like that in the long term. Please see some chapters of the same video: compare
bad example : https://youtu.be/hYDiHwbs5uA?t=1048
good example : https://youtu.be/hYDiHwbs5uA?t=1387

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Absolutely, this can be done in cloze deletion format. It is just easier for a user to fall into the “rote trap” or be a victim of poor formulation.

I tried to link a blog post from whom I taken the words “semantic vs syntactic” reviews, but I could not find it…

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What is X pattern question can be useful when you only care about passive recognition. This is not the norm. For example, I am watching a TV show or reading a book, perhaps a rare word is frequently used there. I just want to know that X is a kind of an animal, or a kind of food/cuisine. SO next time I see that when reading I know that, but I won’t be able to ever use it myself (active vocabulary).

Some examples from Piotr Wozniak English collection:
Q: What is a viceroy?
A: kind of governor (e.g. in India)
Q: what is a brumby?
A: kind of Australian horse

So if the book or manga (example of long reading) I read brumby or viceroy I will know that it is, which is enough for my purpose. If I ever want to actively use these words, I would change the flashcard formulation:

Q: a ruler exercising authority in a colony on behalf of a sovereign e.g India
A: viceroy

Q: a free-roaming feral horse descendants of escaped or lost horses in Australia esp. Alps region and the Northern Territory
A: bumby

If I am familiar with the watch brand Viceroy, I may used it as a memory anchor.

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In the case of learning vocabulary I find it much much easier to remember the words if I present the item in a sentence or phrase that shows the context.

Words in isolation are tough to recall. Words in a sentence are much easier.

I also find that reading the natural language (rather than romanization) also aids recall and is much less confusing. (so reading Thai script or Chinese characters for example).

How much would it influence how active my recall is if I ask question as such:

X is ______


What is X?

Y is Z because ____


Why is Y Z?

X carries out Z by means of _____


How is Z carried out by X?

Both forms have the same principle and the same meaning. But does it affect my recall in spontaneous situations if I use one form over the other?

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All patterns fall inside the type of pattern that you want to avoid in formulating knowledge for long-term memorization.

That is the same pattern of questions, just represented as close deletion or Q&A format. I don’t think this would make a difference in practice. Let’s use some examples:

A: The ocean is salty because […]
B: it contains dissolved minerals and salts that have been washed into it from the land over millions of years.

A: Why is the ocean salty?
B: The ocean is salty because it contains dissolved minerals and salts that have been washed into it from the land over millions of years.

All patterns fall inside the type of pattern that you want to avoid in formulating knowledge for long-term memorization.

So if this is to be avoided, what is the better alternative then :thinking:

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