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Contents : Overviews : Learning

Learning in SuperMemo is based on repetition. Button Learn in the element window makes it possible to learn the material stored in SuperMemo (bottom-left in the picture):


Repetition cycle

Each repetition includes the following stages:

  1. Look at the question and try to answer it mentally or verbally
  2. Choose Show answer (at the bottom of the screen) to see the correct answer
  3. Compare your response (from Step 1) with the answer displayed on the screen (in Step 2)
  4. Choose a grade that will reflect the accuracy of your response (e.g. Good, Fail, etc.) (look below for details)
  5. Choose Next repetition to continue (go to Step 1)

You can ignore the timer, the response time is not considered in computing optimum intervals


The grades are defined as follows (keyboard shortcuts in parentheses):


Bright (press 5), excellent response
Good (press 4), correct response provided with some hesitation
Pass (press 3), answer recalled with difficulty; perhaps, slightly incorrect


Fail (press 2), wrong response that makes you say I knew it!
Bad (press 1), wrong response; the correct answer seems to be familiar
Null (press 0), complete blackout; you do not even recall ever knowing the answer

Grading tips:

Learning stages

Everyday, your learning will proceed in three stages:

  1. Repetitions - reviewing material that has been memorized earlier (to make sure you remember it)
  2. Memorizing - if you have time, you can memorize new material by answering Yes to Do you want to learn new material?
  3. Final drill - reviewing material that caused most problems in the first two stages of learning

Regular repetitions are the key to success with SuperMemo

In SuperMemo you first memorize the material and then repeat it when the program asks you to do it.
You memorize new material at your own pace but once it is memorized, you must make repetitions exactly as demanded by SuperMemo! This is not a limitation of the program. This is a limitation of human memory!

The power of SuperMemo is in providing the best timing for repetitions. Optimally, you should work with SuperMemo every day! This way you will not accumulate outstanding material and you will not deviate from the optimum schedule of repetitions!

Your repetitions should proceed daily until the following equivalent conditions are met (if one of these conditions is met, so are the others):

Delaying repetitions is the most likely cause of having little success with SuperMemo!

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning mnemonic techniques is recommended
You do not have to interrupt repetitions to introduce corrections to your learning material
You can view the calendar of repetitions with Ctrl+W
Grades provided in final drill do not affect learning
You can use Ctrl+R to postpone memorizing a given element
Response time does not affect learning
If you return from vacations, you can use Tools : Mercy to recover gradually from the backlog of repetitions
You can decide which portions of material require more attention 
Use Ctrl+D to permanently remove elements from the learning process

You can randomize repetitions

You can press F5 to see learning parameters

For more answers see:

Learning mnemonic techniques is recommended
(Eli Liang, Russia, Oct 03, 2001)
I am given pending items only once to memorize and then the system moves me on to the next pending item. This is not enough time to really memorize
You will be asked all difficult items again within Final Drill. You need to strive to see an item once and be able to remember it (upon completing the session). This is a question of mnemonic skills that go beyond the scope of SuperMemo. Hopefully, after a few months, those skill will come naturally. It is also recommended that you go to sites that describe various mnemonic techniques to experiment if any of these could apply in your case

(Deron Isaac, USA, May 21, 1997)
How can I edit texts of items during repetitions without backing out of the test mode?
Choose Q to edit the question, A to edit the answer, E to edit all text components or Ctrl+E to switch all components to the editing mode. You can also edit all properties of all components by using pop-up menus available with right button click on a component in question

(Matt Cassidy, New Zealand, Aug 18, 1997)
How to review items to be repeated on a given day?
Use Ctrl+W (Tools : Workload) and double-click the day of interest

(Grzegorz Malewski, Poland, Dec 10, 1997)
Do grades at final drill affect the learning process?
No. They are only used to eliminate items from the final drill queue

How can I postpone memorizing an element when I am learning new material?
Choose Forget on the element pop-up menu (Ctrl+R). This will put the item at the end of the pending queue. You will learn the element only after you memorize the entire pending queue (unless you sort the pending queue before that happens)

(Ryszard Siwczyk, Poland, Nov 4, 1997)
Does the response time at repetitions influence the next interval?

I left for vacation, and my learning process is in mess. What should I do?
Use Tools : Mercy

I keep material of different learning priority in my collection. Can SuperMemo help me pay more attention to high priority material?

Yes. You should reduce the value of the forgetting index for high-priority material (forgetting index is a proportion of items not remembered during repetitions). In the contents window select the item or node that you want to have higher priority and choose Process branch : Forgetting index : Set forgetting index on the pop-up menu. Forgetting index is 10% by default and can be set to 3-5% for high-priority material or only to 20% for least important branches of the knowledge tree. You can also set the forgetting index in a subset of elements with Process browser : Forgetting index : Set forgetting index on browser's pop-up menu. Read: Using forgetting index

(Len Budney, USA, Feb 11, 2001)
When I run through the learning process, SuperMemo keeps showing me topics, categories, as well as elements. So in between questions I see a blank page, and the title bar says Asian Geography or Reading List. It seems very silly
You need to specifically inform SuperMemo which element should and which should not be included in the learning process. By default, all topics and items are placed in the pending queue and will enter the learning process. On the other hand, tasks are kept dismissed on tasklists and will not enter the learning process. To permanently remove an element from the learning process click Dismiss
or press Ctrl+D. To introduce an element back to repetitions, click Remember or press Ctrl+R

You can randomize repetitions
(Adam, Australia, Thu, May 24, 2001 4:31)
Can outstanding repetitions be randomized
Yes. Use Learn : Random : Randomize repetitions or press Ctrl+Shift+F11

You can press F5 to see learning parameters  
(Eric Chen, Japan, Fri, Jun 22, 2001 3:06)
How can I easily see the learning parameters of an element?
You can press F5 to see all the most important statistics. You can preserve such layout with Ctrl+Shift+F5