It is a very sorry picture to see an enthusiastic SuperMemo beginner waste his time on learning monster items that not only do not want to stick to his or her memory, but are also absolutely redundant as far as the true student's needs are concerned. Imagine a student who wants to remember all European countries and tries to cram a long list of their names. The typical situation is that he remembers most of the names on the list, but usually fails to mention one or two. The result is that the item is considered forgotten again and again, and that the student cannot observe any learning progress. Using mnemonic techniques, the student could learn to produce the whole list in a determined order, but this is unlikely to represent knowledge which he really wants to possess. A vast majority of educated people is unable to list all the European countries, unless they use the trick of systematic scanning the European map in their imagination. Obviously, learning the list of names is not enough to know something about the geography of Europe, and the scanning trick cannot be done if the student knows the list and nothing more. A good SuperMemo student will not attempt storing the whole list in one item. He will use one of his tricks for knowledge structuring, and split the list into many items. Depending on what sort of knowledge might be useful, the student might use tricks such as:
In what group of countries is heart disease a leading cause of death?
What proportion of deaths in western countries is attributable to heart disease?
What disease is responsible for 40% of deaths in western countries?
Is heart disease a leading cause of death in western countries?
Such a collection of items, although redundant and time-consuming, will be learned faster and will leave a more stable trace in the student's memory. The simplicity and multifaceted approach in knowledge structuring are the most powerful tools in making SuperMemo repetitions truly effective in the sense of workload and quality of memories.