SuperMemo user survey

November 1994

Here is the statistical analysis of user responses provided in a poll conducted among registered users of SuperMemo in Poland (data gathered in Fall 1994).

The main conclusions coming from the poll are:

Health, exercise, sleep and smoking
Version of SuperMemo
Using SuperMemo
Speed of learning (!!!)
Opinions about SuperMemo
Advanced English
Where from did you learn about SuperMemo first time?
What made you buy SuperMemo?
Your greatest achievement
Likes in SuperMemo
Dislikes in SuperMemo
Options used
Options not used
Most requested learning material
Fighting piracy
CD-ROM features
Software used
What would make you buy SuperMemo earlier?
What would make your colleagues buy SuperMemo?
Where would you like to find advertising of new SuperMemo products (in Poland)?
Other: Where are women?

Education (of users taking part in the poll)



The average user is 29 years old. The youngest respondent was 16 years old, the oldest 54. 14% of users are above 40, 27% are less than 20.


Other frequent responses: movies, social sciences, pedagogy, logic, biology, electronics, architecture, astronomy, education, garden, do-it-yourself, Bible, cars, etc.

Smoking, sleep and exercise Only 4% of users of SuperMemo smoke! For comparison, 30% of Americans and 70% of Japanese are smokers (1990)! An average user sleeps 7.5 hours per day. Smokers sleep 1.1 hours less. Those who sleep more than 7.5 hours had memorized 3870 items on average, while those who slept less than 7.5 hours had memorized 4570 items. An average user exercises 27 minutes per day.

Version of SuperMemo

Among learners who obtained both Polish and English version of SuperMemo, 52% used the English version, 48% used Polish version.

Using SuperMemo

An average learner has been using SuperMemo for 11 months, 28 minutes per day, and has memorized 4670 items (equivalent of 182 items/year/minute, i.e. substantially less than the average acquisition rate; see Speed of learning). This data is almost identical with the one obtained a year earlier (10 months, 27 minutes, 4400 items).
87% of users reported breaks in learning (note, however, that the break-handling option Mercy belonged to the group of least used options in SuperMemo).
The longest break was on average 19 days long (excluding innumerous cases, about 1%, in which users reported breaks longer than 6 months).
The average proportion of breaks in learning in the learning process was reported to be 9%.

Speed of learning

The average speed of learning was 243 items/year/minute. The same value after rejecting scores less than 100 and more than 600 was 242 items/year/minute. Those who sleep less than 7.5 hours learn at the speed of 240 items/year/minute. Those who sleep more than 7.5 hours learn at 256 items/year/minute. Apart from the above finding, factors such as smoking, sleep and exercise are poorly correlated with the speed of learning.
Learners 28 years old or younger learn at the speed 264 items/year/minute, while those above 28 years learn at the speed 179 items/year/minute. Remember, however, that in another study it has been shown that good learners learn slower (!), because of their greater self-criticism in providing grades.
At the reported average speed of learning, a 1 hour per day learning sessions make it possible to memorize Basic English (3000 items) in 2.3 months, and Advanced English (40,000 items) in 2.5 years (note, however, that the speed of learning may be much higher in the first few months of working with a given database).
80% of users confirmed that it is possible to learn Basic English in just 30 days working 0.5 hour per day.
78% believe that it is possible to memorize Advanced English in four years working 0.5 hour per day.

The best reported result of memorizing Advanced English comes from Marek Minakowski (Institute of Philosophy, Jagiellonian University, Krakow), who memorized 12,000 items in just four months. Second best was Jaroslaw Ast, (student of dentistry, Medical Academy of Poznan), who memorized 10,000 items in four months. Pawel Dzierwa (Warsaw) who held the best result a year earlier (10,000 items) started his work all over again upon receiving CD-ROM with Audio Advanced English.
Piotr Wozniak (SuperMemo World, the author of the database), memorized the entire Advanced English, but he passed only 10,000 items in his first year. We are waiting for similar reports from other learners.

Opinions about SuperMemo as a method and as software

The users have the following opinions about the SuperMemo method:

On the grade point scale from 0-worst to 5-best, the method scored 4.67 on average (4.75 a year earlier). Surprisingly, the grade was poorly correlated with the reported speed of learning and with the number of memorized items. It was also poorly correlated with the version of the program and with the student's education.

The following are users’ opinions about SuperMemo as a program:

On the grade point scale from 0-worst to 5-best, the program scored 4.0 on average (4.17 a year earlier). Again surprisingly, the grade was poorly correlated with the version of the program. Additionally, learners who obtained higher learning speeds were slightly more critical about software, while older users tended to provide slightly higher grades. Education had no bearing on the grade.

Opinions about the Advanced English database

Where from did you learn about SuperMemo first time?

What made you buy SuperMemo?

What is your greatest achievement with SuperMemo?

Other responses: 500 items memorized in a day, 8-th place in the database competition, excellent grades in language courses, best grades in English in my school, qualifying to the finals of Latin Language Contest, memorizing “drumrum” in German (at last), learning several programming languages, starting to like German, memorizing 10,000 items in a year, etc.

What do you like most in SuperMemo?

Other responses: satisfaction, "everything", regulated speed of learning, etc. The four most liked features are exactly the same as in a survey presented a year earlier!

What do you dislike most in SuperMemo?

Other responses: it is difficult to edit wave files, strange database format, the need to work on weekends, it is too easy to delete items, renumbering items at Garbage, slow Search, too few databases, no spell checker, imposing an English version on Poles, no autostart program that would show the number of outstanding items each time one starts Windows, exaggerating the increase in the speed of learning (50 times?), AdvEng manual in English, deleted items leave empty places in a databases (until Garbage), etc.

Which options do you use most often (apart from Open, Learn and Add new items)?

Which options do you never use?

Proposed improvements to SuperMemo

Other interesting propositions included: real learning time measurement, context-sensitive help, verbal description of statistical parameters, colorful dialog boxes, nicer icon, keep a list of databases to open in sequence, weekly calendar with no repetitions on selected days, different keyboard layouts associated with databases, more informative list of available databases (DBANK.TXT), search going through a list of databases, integrated on-line dictionary, screen saver, viewing items falling into a selected E-factor category, removing bugs from databases Basic English and Advanced English, insert graphics into the text of items, possibility to sort items alphabetically, spellchecker, compression of graphic files, memo field for user comments, program for activating SuperMemo upon starting Windows in case the number of outstanding items is greater than zero, etc.

Most requested learning material

Other neglected fields: Electronics, Telecommunications, Economics, Esperanto, etc.

What should SuperMemo World do to make illegal users legalize their copy?

Other opinions: "SuperMemo World did all it could be letting illegal users register in return for a good database!", Include biblical verses indicating sinful nature of piracy, etc.

Remarks: SuperMemo World does not consider allowing registration at a lower price as it does not seem fair to those who paid the full price. Similarly, SuperMemo World does not consider punitive actions against illegal users hoping that they can be attracted by affirmative actions. Finally, copy protection cannot be considered because inconvenience it imposes on legal users.

What would you like to get on SuperMemo CD-ROM?

Others: French Audio (available on Multilingual CD-ROM), Russian Audio (available on Multilingual CD-ROM), English Vocabulary (by M.Cajza), demo, Picture Editor, songs in foreign languages, etc.

Which application software do you use most often?
Note that the survey was conducted in 1994 therefore you will not find many of the currently popular applications on the list! Endemic Polish software is marked with PL.

Most often used application software (among questioned users of SuperMemo);

What would make you buy SuperMemo earlier?

What would make your colleagues buy SuperMemo?

Where would you like to find advertising of new SuperMemo products (in Poland)?

Other statistics

Only 3% of respondents were women!!!

Although 60% of users claimed that SuperMemo for DOS should continually be developed, SuperMemo World gave up the development because of a dramatic drop in user inquiries. We decided to release SuperMemo 6 Public Domain for DOS instead.

Optimum price for SuperMemo on floppy disks in Poland was proposed to be PLN 76 (about $20).

36% of respondents were interested in buying a CD-ROM with all available SuperMemo databases (see SuperMemo MegaMix)

See also: Survey 1999 and Survey 1993