FAQ: Incremental reading

Do you have a question about incremental reading? Write to Dr Wozniak
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Incremental reading requires some experience
(SRD, Wed, May 22, 2002 3:04)
I do not know how to tackle this text in incremental reading. Any hints?

After the discovery of Pluto, it was quickly determined that Pluto was too small to account for the discrepancies in the orbits of the other planets. The search for Planet X continued but nothing was found. Nor is it likely that it ever will be: the discrepancies vanish if the mass of Neptune determined from the Voyager 2 encounter with Neptune is used. There is no tenth planet

Here are some exemplary processing stages. Yours might be different. In the end, you can convert the cloze deletions into more direct and well-formulated questions-and-answers:

Extract 1: Pluto is too small to account for the discrepancies in the orbits of the other planets

  1. [...](planet) is too small to account for the discrepancies in the orbits of the other planets
  2. Pluto is too [...] to account for the discrepancies in the orbits of the other planets
  3. Pluto is too small to account for the [...] of the other planets
  4. Pluto is too small to account for the discrepancies in the orbits of [...]

Extract 2: Pluto was too small to account for the discrepancies in the orbits of the other planets. The search for Planet X continued but nothing was found

  1. Pluto was too small. The search for Planet X continued and [...] was found

Extract 3: Pluto was too small to account for the discrepancies in the orbits of the other planets. The discrepancies vanish if the mass of Neptune determined from the Voyager 2 encounter with Neptune is used

  1. Pluto was too small. The discrepancies [...] if the mass of Neptune determined from the Voyager 2 encounter is used
  2. Pluto was too small. The discrepancies vanish if the new [...] of Neptune is used
  3. Pluto was too small. The discrepancies vanish if the mass of [...] determined by the Voyager 2 is used
  4. Pluto was too small. The discrepancies vanish if the mass of Neptune determined from the [...] encounter with Neptune is used
  5. Pluto was too small. The discrepancies vanish if the mass determined from the Voyager 2 encounter with [...] is used

Extract 4: There is no tenth planet

  1. There [is/isn't] the tenth planet
  2. There is no [...]th planet

You cannot learn Britannica in a lifetime
(Terje Tonsberg, Kuwait, Jan 31, 2001)
"Devouring knowledge" article contains a factual mistake where it says: "Even a single copy of the Encyclopaedia Britannica goes in detail far beyond what a single human being can encompass in a lifetime!" This is wrong. I have personally met people who have memorized books of at least this size and historical accounts of such scholars abound
Assuming we do not deal with humans affected with a mutation to their memory system, this would falsify the theory of SuperMemo which should apply to all healthy adults. In the light of SuperMemo, memorizing Britannica verges on impossible. There are 44 million words in Britannica's 32 volumes. This translates to 6 million SuperMemo items ("human memory bits") assuming the average keyword extraction on information dense texts as 1:7. Assuming a 50-year learning span, we get to 18250 days and 330 items per day. Assuming optimum representation of knowledge (say Britannica is already "perfectly formulated") you cannot learn faster for a given level of knowledge retention than with SuperMemo (it simply finds the mathematical optimum), and practice shows it is very difficult to sustain more than 100 items per day in the long run with retention around 95%. In other words, for an intelligent man, for perfectly formulated Britannica knowledge, with SuperMemo, you are hardly able to accomplish the goal with your whole life devoted to the task. Except for anecdotal reports, we are not aware of comparable long-term memory feats. We will gladly include here links to such reports except those that are obviously false or unreliable

Not everyone experiences information fatigue but ... SuperMemo will certainly help
(Krzysztof Kowalczyk, USA, Dec 31, 2000)
I don't buy the stresslessness argument. I doubt that with the exception of students having too much to study there is a significant source of stress

No motivation - no stress: There is a precondition for experiencing stress of having too much to read or too much to learn: obsessive hunger for knowledge, fear of not being able to keep up, pressing need for new knowledge, etc. This precondition is quite abundant in general population according to a number of studies, and is actually less likely in younger individuals, including students, who are shielded from stress by their less mature motivation for learning. The term Information Fatigue Syndrome has been coined recently to refer to stress coming from problems with managing overwhelming information. Some consequences of IFS listed by Dr. David Lewis, a British psychologist, include: anxiety, tension, procrastination, time-wasting, loss of job satisfaction, self-doubt, psychosomatic stress, breakdown of relationships, reduced analytical capacity, etc. 
Stress management: There is a strong variability as to how people cope with stress. For many, information overload may result in just hardly noticeable anxiety, for others, this may verge on obsessive compulsive disorder and may require medical consultation or even medication
SuperMemo and stress: SuperMemo helps you take away a substantial proportion of information overload stress. In a typical IFS stress therapy, you will see that scrupulous notes, ordering one's desk, planning one's work, keeping a calendar of appointments, etc. all have a strong therapeutic value. SuperMemo does exactly the same: it helps you keep a scrupulous and well-prioritized record of what you want to read and takes away stressful chaos from the process of acquiring information and learning the collected material. SuperMemo eliminates disorder and the ensuing uncertainty that often characterizes wild searches for information on the net
Further reading: Dying for Information, Information Fatigue

PhotoReading is not likely to enhance incremental reading
(Vitaliy Vorontsov, Ukraine, Jan 4, 2001)
Do you think I should invest in the course of PhotoReading? Would PhotoReading be a good supplement to SuperMemo? Would my incremental reading be faster?
PhotoReading is not likely to help you accelerate incremental reading, unless your reading is really slow. The bottleneck in the speed of acquiring information is neither in reading nor in short-term memory. You are mostly limited by your long-term memory. The usual situation is that you are faced with by far more to read than you are able to read. Then you read much faster than you are able to remember things. Ultimately, your speed of learning will be determined by the speed of introducing the study material to your long-term memory. Even if you double your reading speed (which may not be easy), your total learning time will be reduced marginally. The premise of PhotoReading is to use the power of parallel processing of the human brain. Unfortunately, harnessing this power is not always possible. First, we are limited by the ability to efficiently store images of the read text in short-term memory (unlike in remembering faces, our brain does not know the "language" that would extract the necessary minimum of information and store it in an efficient way). Then we cannot use subconscious processing to assimilate thus acquired texts (again, unlike in visual processing of faces, the brain does not have a dedicated circuitry to do that for us). PhotoReading training is similar to a training that can help you divide multi-digit numbers: the investment goes far beyond the benefit. In practice, this translates to classifying PhotoReading as a skill in filtering important information (i.e. the main benefit is not in the "photographic" step). Filtering skills are great for reading fiction (e.g. if you need it for your English class tomorrow morning) but may be of little use in reading information-rich dense technical texts (i.e. where the ratio of important text to all text is high). A book on PhotoReading available from Amazon.com [see: opinions] costs a fraction of the course and should provide you with most of you need to know about reading techniques. Here is a comment from a user familiar with both SuperMemo and PhotoReading: In Photoreading you basically skim the material in several different fashions, each taking greater time and going into greater depth. The final step is "real" reading, which one can do if one wishes. The previous steps take maybe an hour, and really do give a solid overview of the material. When you finally get around to the "reading" step, you often find that the previous steps have given you a BIG chunk of the data you were looking for. The only part of the whole thing that is a bit "iffy" and "new-agey" is the actual "photoreading" step, where you are supposedly impressing the book on your subconscious at the rate of a page a second. I am aware of no studies of even a semi-rigorous nature that back this up. I personally believe that the human mind has vast untapped resources, but am not sure what I think about this "photoreading" part.
As you can see, PhotoReading also attempts at delinearizing the reading process. Incremental reading does the same; however, you are guaranteed never to miss fragments extracted as important. You simply use SuperMemo instead of your short-term memory for the purpose. Your only overhead cost is 2-3 mouse clicks per extract
See also: Skeptic's Dictionary: Speed-reading and A student's perspective to PhotoReading

In the short run, SuperMemo may be less efficient than your current learning method
(Andrzej H., Poland, Jan 10, 2001)
Can I conclude from this article that I can take a pile of articles and memorize them all perfectly in one day (e.g. before an important exam)?
Not at all! Just the opposite. In the very short run, SuperMemo or incremental reading are less effective than traditional cramming or speed-reading methods. The foundation of the presented methodology is review and repetition. If you rush through an article in SuperMemo, you get the same or less immediate benefit as compared with speed-reading the same article in your web browser. Your follow up retention will essentially be the same. You will not benefit from the speed benefit which comes out upon the first review of quickly extracted fragments (usually within few days of the first reading). You will not benefit from increase in consistency and quality of knowledge structure. Your creativity will not be affected. The only minor factor that could show up within a day is the stress factor. If you know you will get a chance to review the extracts in the future, you may be reading with the added comfort that whatever is lost today may be recovered later. SuperMemo is a long-term tool, the longer the time-span the greater the benefit. If you work for short-term goals for dispensable knowledge (e.g. tomorrow's exam), use standard cramming, mnemonic and speed-reading techniques!

High retention does not have to result in slow learning!
(Robyn Harte Bunting, Dec 31, 2000)
I have been trialing the paper-based SuperMemo in learning philosophy. Unfortunately given that a sensible acquisition rate is 10-20 items per day (otherwise you suggested the material becomes unmanageable) and the material is very, very complex I have found that I cannot cover more than 1-2 paragraphs per day. At this rate I will only be able to read 1 book a year!
You need to understand a clear distinction between the two extremes of learning:

Reading books belongs to the low-retention category, while memorizing 10-20 items per day with SuperMemo belongs to the high-retention category. The optimum reading strategy will find the golden mean between these two. You should not give up traditional reading. Neither should you expect to put all your study material into SuperMemo. You should choose a middle-ground strategy. For example, if you consistently spend 90% of your time on reading and 10% of your time on adding most important findings to SuperMemo, your reading speed will actually decline only by some 10%, while the retention of the most important pieces will be as high as programmed in SuperMemo (up to 99%). 

The concept of incremental reading introduced in SuperMemo 2000 provides you with a precise tool for finding the optimum balance between speed and retention. You will ensure high-retention of the most important pieces of text, while a large proportion of time will be spent reading at speeds comparable or higher than those typical of traditional book reading.

It is worth noting that the learning speed limit in high-retention learning is imposed by your memory. If one-book-per-year sounds like a major disappointment, the roots of this lay in human memory. Our current knowledge of psychophysiology and pharmacology does not provide any means that could allow of breaking beyond that limit. We are left with the choice between high-speed and high-retention. Incremental reading gives you a full hands-on control over finding the optimum balance

Topics vs. Items
(Jim Ivy, USA, June 4, 1997)
What is the difference between a topic and an item?
Topics are used to present, read or review knowledge (like chapters in a book), while items are used to test knowledge by means of repetitions (e.g. they have the question-and-answer structure). Topics help you understand the subject before you begin repetitions. See also: Topics vs. items

Use Remember Extract if you do not want to specify the first interval
The need to specify the interval in Schedule Extract is annoying. I would like SuperMemo to just use the optimum interval
This is exactly what Remember Extract does

You cannot turn off marking words used to generate cloze deletions
(Walter G. Mayfield, Jr., Wednesday, July 04, 2001 12:37 AM)
Is there a way to do cloze deletions without SuperMemo altering the original text?
Currently you cannot customize cloze deletion behavior. Marking the keywords with a different font is very important in properly structuring knowledge for active recall. Usually, while at knowledge processing stage, your items will form a messy mix of various fonts and formats. However, once they assume their final shape, they will usually be moved to the target concept group. This will apply the default concept template with a uniform font (assuming space-saving plain text components are used in the target template). In the future, cloze formats are likely to be customizable

Reading lists are tasklists that hold articles for reading
(Reinhard K. Koehler (neusob), Germany, Sat, Aug 18, 2001 20:31)
Is there any difference between a task list and a reading list?
A tasklist is a list of tasks sorted by value/time ratio. A reading list is a special kind of tasklist, in which all tasks are articles (e.g. that are to be introduced to incremental reading)

Incremental reading resolves the valuation problem in choosing best articles
(Adam, Australia, Monday, September 10, 2001 7:28 AM)
How can you know if an article is very important without first reading it?
One of the greatest advantages of incremental reading is that your priority valuations change as you read. If the article provides rich and valuable material in the beginning, you can read it in one go. Otherwise, its priority reflected by the current interval (and/or A-Factor) will drop, and you may opt to read it in smaller portions. Each portion read may affect the current priority

Incremental reading is a step towards semantic SuperMemo
(Mark Patterson, USA, Jul 03, 2001)
SuperMemo introduces new topics and items in the order in which they appear in a collection. I suggest that the future semantic version of SuperMemo could introduce new topics in semantic sequence--starting at the edges of what the student knows and chipping away at unlearned nodes guided by module prerequisites until all target nodes had been mastered
Semantic SuperMemo is indeed an important future objective. Please note, however, that the exactly same mechanisms are already implemented as incremental reading. New material is entered into the learning process in proportion, and with the guidance of the current level of understanding. Naturally, it is highly desirable this process be extended to ready-made materials, which is not a trivial undertaking requiring quite a bit of advanced knowledge engineering

You will not lose the big picture with incremental reading
(Mike Condron, USA, Dec 13, 2000)
Isn't there a risk with incremental reading that I will produce lots of items but lose track of the big picture?
This would certainly be the case if SuperMemo did not use optimum spacing of repetitions. Spaced repetition ensures high retention and makes it easy to keep the big picture in memory despite the constant inflow of new data. Actually, this is the main advantage of SuperMemo: you convert lots of disparate pieces of information into a solid model of reality that lives in your memory. All these pieces can be dispersed randomly in your collection like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle; however, they fit into a coherent entirety that stays firmly intact in your mind. In other words, incremental reading is reductionist at the level of knowledge processing, but is holistic at the level of memories stored in your brain

High priority of material or long review intervals will prompt you to run an article preview
(Michal Hejwosz, Poland, Dec 31, 2000)
What would be a good algorithm for deciding when to preview the whole article before reading (and extracting most important fragments) as opposed to reading it incrementally in a linear sequence?
It is difficult to describe a hard-and-fast method. This will require a multi-criterial analysis. Most of the criteria are quite obvious:

In summary, these are the most important incentives for the whole-article preview:

Optimum time allocation for reading/learning depends on the reader and the material
( Zoran Maximovic, Fri, Aug 03, 2001 7:03)
When I learn very difficult material, when do you think my efficiency is higher: if I do it in one block of 60 minutes or if I split this into 3 blocks of 20 minutes?
The optimum allocation time for reading or learning depends on a number of factors: the article, its importance, its difficulty, the person, his present knowledge, his mood, his circadian cycle, boredom, etc. The optimum allocation of time can vary from seconds to hours! This is one of the factors where the power of incremental reading comes from. For some texts, you may find it difficult to reach reasonable attention levels for longer than a few minutes. Often you can retain your maximum processing power for just a single sentence or paragraph. On other texts that are highly interesting, well written, highly useful or highly important, your curiosity and rage to master may kick in and let you go on for several hours without a break. In incremental reading, the primary criterion for time allocation is your level of concentration. You can literally lick a few hundred articles in a continuous block of time and still keep your mind highly focused and alert. Some articles will be processed in depth, others will be quickly postponed. The concentration criterion is all-inclusive. It includes all factors listed above: difficulty of an article may affect your concentration, your tiredness will always reduce optimum allocations for difficult texts and increase allocations for interesting or enjoyable texts (those who help you "survive" a bad learning day). In conclusion, 3x20 will nearly always differ from 1x60. For boring articles 3x20 will do more. For fascinating articles 1x60 will do more

You can creatively expand on a task by introducing it to incremental reading
(TPS, Aug 07, 2001)
When should tasks be kept both on the tasklist and in incremental reading?
Tasks may be kept in incremental review if you need to access them by priority via the tasklist but still want to work with them using incremental reading techniques. This happens, for example, if you have an idea, and you want to implement it according to its priority on the tasklist, but you still want to creatively expand it in the incremental reading process. This could, for example, be a business plan, points for an article, element of a new design, etc.

Start generating cloze deletions only then when passive review seems insufficient
(Luis Gustavo Neves, Brazil, May 2, 2001)
I generate many short passages that are reviewed as topics in incremental reading. Can I leave those passages in the learning process indefinitely? If not, what is the best moment to begin generating cloze deletions?
You can leave some low-priority material in the passive form. Naturally, this material will gradually become difficult to recall or forgotten. The best moment for using Remember cloze is when you notice that the material becomes volatile. Do not dismember the entire passage (unless it is very important). Pick the most important keyword and create just a single cloze deletion. When the next review of the passage comes, you will be able to determine which other keywords must be used with cloze deletion to prevent forgetting key information. It is very difficult to predict how many clozes you will need to generate to attain perfect recall of the whole passage. On occasion a single cloze suffices. At other times, a single passage can require a dozen clozes!

Scheduling articles for later reading
(P.N., Mon, Apr 22, 2002 8:21)
I would like to see an option Read later in SuperMemo
All articles imported to SuperMemo from the Internet, all individual paragraphs, sections, sentences, clozes and question-answer pairs are scheduled for later review. This is done automatically. You do not need to take any action. You take action only then when you believe a piece of information is not important. In such cases you execute Reschedule, Done, Dismiss or Delete.

Reference labeling works only in HTML components
(M.M., May 22, 2002)
Sometimes I do not have References submenu on the text component menu. Why?
This submenu appears only in HTML components. You can easily upgrade your RTF texts by applying an HTML-based template (e.g. "Article")

Learning a whole website offline
(CMaggio99, Monday, May 06, 2002 1:04 PM)
I have several hundred lecture notes on my schools web site. What is the best way to import all of them including pictures etc. to my hard drive for offline processing

  1. In Internet Exploer, open the lecture notes in separate tabs,
  2. Switch to SuperMemo, and choose Edit : Import web pages : All (Shift+Ctrl+A)

What is incremental reading?
(Sales, Fri, May 24, 2002 1:31)
Your website mentions incremental reading every second paragraph but I still do not know what it is! Can you provide a short and clear definition?
Incremental reading is a way of reading texts in SuperMemo. You read articles in small portions. After you read a portion of one article, you go on to a portion of another article, etc. You introduce all important portions of texts into the learning process in SuperMemo. This way you do not worry that you forget the main thread of the article, even if you return to reading it months later. With incremental reading, you can read literally tens of thousands of articles in parallel. Your progress with individual articles may be slow, but you greatly increase your efficiency by slowing down on less important articles and reading faster the articles that are more beneficial to your knowledge. Difficult articles may wait until you read easier explanatory articles, etc. You retain the learned knowledge thanks to the spaced repetition algorithm used in SuperMemo. Last but not least, incremental reading increases your efficiency because it is fun! You never get bored. If you do not like an article, you read just a sentence and jump to other articles. This way your attention and focus stay maximized. See: Incremental reading

Learning vocabulary with incremental reading (#995)
(Len, Wednesday, May 08, 2002 2:50 PM)
I am learning Hebrew with incremental reading in this way: I'm extracting individual words whose meaning I don't know. Later, when the extract appears, I look up the meaning and create a Q&A item for it
A healthier strategy would be to highlight the word in question and extract it with the whole context sentence. Context is vital in learning vocabulary. You can use the context to formulate examples. Examples are the simplest way to reflect context-semantics relationship in language learning. For example, in Advanced English you have: 

Q: to slide (e.g. about shares) 
A: fall (i.e. decrease in value) 

If you only extracted "slide" while reading about shares, you will find it difficult to choose the correct definition of the multiple basic meanings of the word

Incremental reading of paper books
(flhtc55, Tue, May 28, 2002 15:53)
What if you have a large number of state of the art reference books. Can they be scanned and converted to text file with OCR software?
Having your manuals on paper is a painful handicap. However, that does not render SuperMemo useless. The core repetition spacing technology remains. You can use a combination of these three options: 

  1. Type in only the most vital must-know passages 
  2. Use OCR to generate files that can be processed with incremental reading 
  3. Look for electronic alternatives to portions of texts 

One of the users wrote a few words of his experience with OCR in this article

Background colors in Internet Explorer are used in incremental reading
(Beta, Wincenty, Feb 13, 2002)
What I do not like in new incremental reading is that font colors do not change upon extracting fragments
Instead of font color, background colors are used in HTML-based incremental reading to preserve the original font used in the document. However, for this to work you must uncheck this option in your Internet Explorer: Tools : Internet Options : Accessibility : Formatting : Ignore colors specified on Web pages

You can separate reading from learning
(Beta, Fri, Feb 22, 2002 17:28)
Is it possible to separate reading from learning?
Yes. However, variety is a spice of life. A random mix of reading and repetitions is a very powerful tool in overcoming the monotony of the earlier versions of SuperMemo. Interspersing topics with items provides for many of the advantages of incremental reading as opposed to traditional learning or classical SuperMemo. 

To review topics only (reading) choose (1) View : Outstanding, (2) Child : Topics and then (3) Learning : Learn (Ctrl+L). To make repetitions (items), act accordingly. 

It might be a better strategy to mix topics and items during the reading phase (you can define the proportions with Learn : Sorting : Sorting criteria; remember to leave Learn : Sorting : Auto-sort repetitions checked so that the program automatically sorts the outstanding material at the beginning of each learning day), and consolidate knowledge by making item-only repetitions later in the day

Mid-interval repetitions on a branch
(Beta, 2/27/02 10:33:56 PM)
How do I activate forced repetitions for a branch on the knowledge tree?

  1. Select the branch in Contents 
  2. Choose Learning : Review all on the Process Branch menu

Repeating items before topics (#8601)
(Greg, Feb 22, 2006, 01:18:08)
I would like to first repeat items and only then repeat topics.

  1. Choose View : Outstanding 
  2. Sort repetitions by type (items first) 
  3. Choose Learn on the browser menu to make repetitions or Tools : Save repetitions on the same menu to make sorting permanent

Ideally, in incremental reading, you should have items and topics mixed up. This will help you achieve balance between retention of the old material and the inflow of the new material. By working with items first, you risk slowing down learning by working on high retention. That's a step back to classical SuperMemo

Use Ctrl+] and Ctrl+[ to change the size of the font
(Ben L Hines, Sat, Feb 16, 2002 0:26)
It would be nice to have a keyboard shortcut to grow and shrink the font
Use Ctrl+] and Ctrl+[ to change the size of the font. See also the table of shortcuts in the documentation for other useful combinations

Launching new browser with Open In New Window
(Beta, Feb 15, 2002)
When I choose Open In New Window over hyperlinks, SuperMemo always opens the page in the same browser. This makes it impossible to open a couple of articles at once. Could you please change that?
This behavior depends on the settings in your browser. To change it, choose Tools : Internet Options : Advanced in Internet Explorer and then uncheck Reuse windows for launching shortcuts

Proliferating images in incremental reading
(Beta February ..., February 2002)
Images do not proliferate in HTML-based incremental reading. Why?
Because they are part of the HTML contents. If you miss them on an extract they will not be included. To remedy that, you can use Download images (Ctrl+F8) from the component menu on selected pictures embedded in the article

Proliferating remote images in incremental reading
Storing pictures on remote servers is a great idea but they do not proliferate as in SM2000. Can I have proliferating pictures in image components and still keep them on the remote server?
You can have remote pictures proliferate in incremental reading, but you will not use image components for that purpose. Instead, define an additional HTML component and paste the picture from the main text to the newly added HTML field. That field will proliferate in incremental reading and the picture will still be loaded from the remote server

Wrong highlight on Extract
(Beta, Wed, Feb 27, 2002 17:14)
When I select text and click the "extract and memorize" button on the Read toolbar, sometimes the text is not marked with color. It is extracted, however
This is a know problem in SuperMemo 2002. This problem occurs more frequently in rich articles that include tables, multimedia, or remote pictures. Please experiment with HTML filters to resolve this problem in most cases. SuperMemo alleviates the trouble by detecting cases where the document does not load entirely. A prompt message is displayed: "Wait until document loads"

Learning : Review does not work
(Beta, Marcus, Brazil, Sat, Mar 23, 2002 18:46)
I created some extracts and tried to work with them by choosing Contents : Process branch : Learning : Review all. Unfortunately it did not work. Why?
Review all will consider all elements except dismissed elements and those elements that have already been processed on this particular day. The latter condition makes sure that you can do a comprehensive review in various subsets without duplicating your work on a given day. If you return to the same branch on the next day, the mid-interval review will be possible again

Marking extract with source references
(Beta, 2/27/02 10:33:56 PM)
How does reference tracking work?
Choose options from the Reference menu in the source article to tag the title, author, date, etc. Those tags will then propagate at the bottom of each extract and cloze. Hover your mouse over the Reference link button in the navigation bar to quickly see the reference in longer extracts. Click the same button to go to the source or parent elements

One character selections in cloze
(Beta, Rob, Sun, Feb 17, 2002 14:27)
Why is the last character selected when extracting a cloze?
On one hand it indicates which keyword has just been processed, on the other, selections make it possible to use Enter to move to the next element in repetitions

Enter on selections resumes repetitions
(Beta, Sean, Australia, Fri, Feb 22, 2002 15:46)
It is annoying when I select some text in RTF or HTML component and press Enter. Instead of putting a new line, SuperMemo automatically begins repetitions
This behavior is by design. Enter is your default key used when progressing through the learning cycle. After choosing Cloze or Extract, Enter does not replace the selection in the editor. Instead, it makes it possible to continue the repetitions. Although using Del and Enter instead of just Enter in these circumstances may seem non-standard, you will quickly find this key indispensable in learning. Situations when you use Enter on a selection for editing are by two orders of magnitude less frequent than the typical situation when you proceed with repetitions after using incremental reading tools

Creating cloze deletions contributes to the learning process
(Luis, Brazil, Monday, December 18, 2000 9:05 PM)
Do you think it is possible to develop a routine to automatically create cloze deletions from a given extract?
Even with a dose of artificial intelligence, such a routine would not be of much use due to semantic redundancy and quite a bit of effort that needs to be put in reformulating texts in incremental reading. More importantly, spotting keywords for cloze deletions is the first step in committing the learning material to memory. Eliminating this step would negatively affect learning. Last but not last, converting text to quality cloze deletions is the best part of incremental reading that adds spice to learning and builds motivation. Automatic cloze generator would thus align itself with quick-fix tools (such as sleeping pills, caffeine pills, or diet pills)

Fastest way to change the current concept group
(Beta, Thursday, March 14, 2002 9:32 AM)
What is the fastest way to change the current concept group?
Use the Choose the default concept group button in the navigation bar. In incremental reading, you are more likely to add all your material to your one "To Do" group that stays current all the time. Then you use Group combo in Element Parameters (Ctrl+Shift+P) to incrementally move items to target concept groups once the items have been completed

Problems with Cloze
(Beta, Mohammad, Pakistan, Thursday, February 28, 2002 4:02 PM)
1. I have a topic "With cloze you AUTOMATICALLY generate answers" 2. I select Cloze 3. I get: Q: With [...] you AUTOMATICALLY generate answers - [...] (RED) A: Cloze
Probably you have applied Cloze twice. The second time it was executed on an item that was a cloze question itself

A-Factors and text length
(Beta, Sat, Mar 16, 2002 8:11)
If I have read a paragraph from an article and set a read-point, will SuperMemo automatically modify element's A-factor with a new value (i.e. the length of the whole article minus the length of the paragraph I have just read)
No. Text length is only used to heuristically propose an A-Factor at import time to free the user from the need to think about A-Factors. The "intensity of reading" will provide a way of prioritizing on its own: the faster you read, the lesser the chance your article will drift to remote intervals. However, once you use Ctrl+Shift+R or Ctrl+J to reschedule the article (e.g. if its interval increases too fast), SuperMemo will notice that action and adjust A-Factor accordingly. Naturally, there is no hard science behind those adjustments. They have been worked out by trial and error. It is also up to the user to get "the feel" of incremental reading to truly understand the consequences of reading vs. postponing a given piece of material

A-Factors of extracted elements will differ
(SuperMemo R&D (Beta), Tue, Apr 09, 2002 12:13)
I extracted some texts using Remember extract a couple of times and each time A-factors were different
A-Factors are basically derived from the length of the text. Long articles will get a very low A-Factor (e.g. 1.1) while short extracts will get a high A-Factor (e.g. 2.9). A-Factor will also be slightly modified depending on the length of the first interval. As intervals are always slightly different from the optimum interval, A-Factors will also differ slightly. For more, read about interval dispersion in the discussion of SuperMemo Algorithm (for example, see Random dispersal of optimal intervals section here)

Some HTML files are kept as plain text in registry
(Beta, Romania, Feb 17, 2002)
I have some HTML component texts that I tried to located on my hard disk with "Find in file". But some files cannot be found. Why?
HTML texts that include no formatting are converted to plain text to save space. These are not kept as HTML files but are part of the text registry only. You will not find them with "Find in file" unless you search through registry files

"To Do" Extract
(Beta, Sweden, Sun, Feb 17, 2002 14:27)
I would like to see the option: "To Do Extract"
All article extract procedures can be considered "To Do". Only the prioritization method differs. You can prioritize via the pending queue, via the learning process or via a tasklist. In the pending queue, extracts are processed FCFS (first come first served). On tasklists, extracts can be prioritized by value/time ratio. However, the best way of prioritizing article extract is via incremental reading (Remember extract). Only this method provides for dynamic prioritization, i.e. extracts are methodically reprioritized depending on the progress and outcome of reading

Customizing cloze font
(Beta, 2/27/02 10:17:58 PM)
Is there a way to customize the font used to mark text taken out for cloze deletions?
Use Tools : Options : Fonts : Stylesheet : Clozed

E-mail element titles
(Beta, Maxim, Tuesday, February 12, 2002 6:30 AM)
When I import e-mails to SuperMemo, I often get ugly titles like this: 
>>> >>> -----Original Message----- >>> From: MZ [mailto:lw7@poczta.onet.pl]
This will happen if you use Ctrl+N (for article import) instead of Commander's E-mail: Paste (dedicated for e-mail import)

You can automate generating simple question-answer elements
(Danielle Kugler, Wednesday, October 24, 2001 11:56 AM )
My primary use of SuperMemo has been for learning Chinese, which means I add 100-150 words at a time (vocabulary lists). Is there any way to do this in a list format rather than individually generating every card?
If you combine the use of Alt+A (add a new item) with Esc (moving between question answer fields), you may discover that SuperMemo is actually the fastest way of adding new material (only one extra keystroke per field plus one keystroke per item - no mouse operations). 

If you already have your lists available as text, the fastest method might be to use incremental reading tools: 

  1. Use Ctrl+N to paste the text into a new element 
  2. Select individual pairs and choose Remember extract on the Read toolbar
  3. During the review, choose Remember cloze on each pair depending on the priority and availability of time. This method has an added advantages of picking up lots of phrases already at the review stage. See also: Incremental reading

Finally, you can prepare a text file containing question-and-answer pairs like the ones presented below. You can import such a file to SuperMemo with File : Import : Q&A text option: 

Q: Who was the Italian pre-Renaissance painter that painted "Christ Entering Jerusalem"? 
A: Duccio Di Buoninsegna 

Q: When did Duccio Di Buoninsegna live? 
A: 1255-1318 

Q: Of which nationality was Duccio Di Buoninsegna? 
A: Italian 

Q: Where does "Christ Entering Jerusalem" by Duccio Di Buoninsegna hang? 
A: Cathedral Museum in Siena 

Q: Which school was Duccio Di Buoninsegna from? 
A: Sienese, Pre-Renaissance 

Q: What was one of the famous paintings by Duccio Di Buoninsegna? 
A: Christ Entering Jerusalem

Cloze deletions are meant to be born via incremental reading
(bennnyz15, Tuesday, November 06, 2001 2:14 PM)
I wish SuperMemo would automatically remove the parent of cloze deletions from the testing cycle. It doesn't make sense for the parent to be thrown in into the testing cycle by default
Removing the parent of cloze deletions would disable a vital component of incremental reading. Imagine you paste a valuable piece of information into SuperMemo. For example: 

endocr: Angiotensin II causes the adrenal cortex to release aldosterone, and more water reabsorption means an increase in blood pressure

This piece will enter the review process. Once you decide the piece is important enough and you believe you are having a hazy recollection on its contents, you begin generating cloze deletions one by one. Perhaps you will generate only one cloze per review cycle! Ultimately, the above example may generate 9 individual cloze deletions (keywords marked brown). You will then choose Done! on the parent topic only after you are sure that the generated clozes convey all vital information you decided to remember. Cases where a single cloze is generated from a topic stand in minority. In addition, the cost of Done! is just a single key press (Ctrl+Shift+Enter). This is why dismissing parent topics by default is not provided even as an option

Incremental reading is superior to traditional reading in the long run
(SuperMemo R&D (Tech), Fri, Dec 07, 2001 7:42)
When I read, I usually read very fast through the article and one pass is usually enough. My impression is that I do not need incremental reading

  1. In incremental reading you can read even faster. This is because you never have to worry that you skip an important part. If you are not sure you extracted all important details from a piece, you just extract it and introduce it into a future review process. In the future, you will come back to that piece, by which time it may appear already irrelevant and will be deleted 
  2. Memories are always subject to forgetting. Whatever valuable information you gather in incremental reading can be forgotten as much as anything else you learn. Pieces that would be retained without SuperMemo (e.g. through use), produce minimum workload. Other pieces will allow you to never need to come back to the article in question again. In conclusion, all knowledge that you need in the long-run, should be best acquired via incremental reading. Traditional reading can still be used for entertainment, temporary knowledge (e.g. how to install a sound board), curiosity (e.g. news), etc.

Reading lists vs. incremental reading
(L.B., USA, Thursday, January 10, 2002 11:39 PM)
SuperMemo supports two distinct reading schemes: priority based and incremental. What is your view on the optimum balance?
This dichotomy comes from the need to bridge two worlds: the world of knowledge acquisition and the world of knowledge retention. From the historical perspective, this translates to bridging traditional textbook learning with classical SuperMemo (i.e. pure spaced repetition based on active recall). 

With classical SuperMemo, you would work with questions and answers and make sure you keep high retention levels. However, there is still enormous benefit from browsing, search and reading beyond that what can efficiently be stored in memory. Traditional reading produces dismal retention levels. Certainly below 5% for an avid high-volume reader. Still, without SuperMemo, people such as Bill Joy can build impressive bodies of knowledge in their brains. 

SuperMemo 99 attempted to employ the concept of a tasklist to lay the first narrow bridge between these two worlds. On one hand, you would keep on reading. On the other, you would keep on making your repetition. In the middle, you would build a prioritized list of most valuable reading material that you would like to introduce to SuperMemo. 

SuperMemo 2000 broadened the bridge with incremental reading. Between your high volume reading list and low volume repetition stream, you can do a middle volume incremental reading where priorities are adjusted as you keep on reading, while a constant stream of active recall material flows into the classical SuperMemo learning process. With SuperMemo 2000, you still need a reading list to make sure you do not pollute the learning process with a high volume of unprocessed material at the cost of retention. Your reading list is a stopcock that protects the retention of most valuable material. 

However, SuperMemo 2002 or later is armed with priority and content filtering tools that make it possible to add huge volumes of reading material into the incremental reading process without a substantial damage to knowledge retention. You can now fine-tune your daily learning to gradually reduce the flow of new creative reading, reschedule lower priority material and end the day with classical repetitions of the highest priority core knowledge. For experienced users, this practically obviates the reading lists. With filtering tools, you can now strike the optimum balance between the volume and retention and adjust this balance for all individual portions of the learning material depending on its priority

Dismiss should eliminate an element from the learning process
(Art Tsay, Thursday, November 08, 2001 3:11 PM)
I read an article, extracted some items, and then dismissed it. But when I learn by pressing Ctrl+L, this original article still shows up
(Ctrl+D) should make sure you never see the article again in your learning process. If this repeats you might check if you do not accidentally return the article to the learning process with Remember, Drill, or some shortcut combination

Incremental reading is simpler and more efficient than it seems at first
(Eric Thompson, Tuesday, July 16, 2002 12:56 AM)
You recommend incremental reading for all sorts of text imports but copying and pasting hundreds of items is too much. Is there a way to get the import function to recognize a list?
You can always convert your text file to a standard question-answer format and use File : Import : Q&A Text. However, incremental reading is always a better choice. It will take less time, leave your learning material in a better shape, and leave some memory traces while your prioritize individual pieces of knowledge. There is only one paste operation (the original one). The rest of processing (i.e. Alt+X and Alt+Z) is simultaneous with reading. Once you become fluent with incremental reading, you will also recognize that it is a combination of learning and fun. You will not want to return to dull import again

You can memorize en masse with negligible detriment to the learning process
(lawyer7, Wed, Oct 11, 2000 19:57)
If I promise myself to learn 30-50 items per day, I usually keep on learning for 7-10 days and then I say "I don't have time" or "I will learn more later", etc. I can find hundreds of excuses to not learn new material. To urge lazybones like me you should add an option which adds to every single day a number of "promised" items. Now I can do this by selecting memorize branch and then the reschedule option, but those items have intervals that are not equal to intervals of newly memorized items
SuperMemo 2002 or later is insensitive to delays resulting from automatic memorization of a large number of items. You cannot harm the learning process using your method. You can always shorten the intervals with Ctrl+J (Reschedule). With Postpone (Ctrl+Alt+P) you will also manage to resolve material overflow (at the cost of retention naturally). With these tools, all you need to focus on is learning and motivation. You do not have to worry about numbers or limits. If you thus reduce the stress load and manage to make learning more fun, your acquisition rate will benefit mainly by the fact that you will be willing to add extra minutes to your daily learning. It is also important to remember, that reduced retention may actually increase your acquisition rate. With sufficient concentration and good quality of the learning material, it is difficult to overload the learning process to the degree when the acquisition rate drops (i.e. when the forgetting index reaches beyond 30%)

Cloze deletions are easy
(Roger , Tuesday, May 06, 2003 10:24 AM)
I have tried to create cloze deletions. I cannot make the answer field work. After several e-mails back and forth I'm beginning to get rather frustrated
Try these steps to get a better feel of cloze deletions: 

  1. Copy any short text to clipboard 
  2. Press Ctrl+N to paste the text to a new element in SuperMemo 
  3. Select any keyword in the text (e.g. with the mouse) 
  4. Press Alt+Z to generate a cloze deletion 
  5. Press Alt+Left to move from the pasted text to the newly created cloze deletion (or click the Back button on the navigation bar) 
  6. Press Shift+Alt+L to simulate a repetition (this should hide the answer)

The less time you have for learning, the more you will like SuperMemo
(LGN, Brazil, Thursday, June 28, 2001)
How to use SuperMemo to learning Math, Electronics, Biology and Chemistry, spending only 20 min. a day on these tasks? None of that subjects is a priority to me. How many days would I need for noticeable results?
Just import relevant articles to incremental reading and do as much as you can your 20 minutes. The visibility of your results will increase with time as is always the case with spaced repetition (and much less the case with unscheduled learning). With well-managed incremental reading, you will meet your time allocations, you will immediately notice a quick buildup of knowledge and, most of all, you will likely enjoy the process. However, incremental reading requires a number of knowledge processing skills that cannot be learned in a day

You can add reference information to your extracts
(louis_lheureux, Canada, Monday, November 18, 2002 3:05 PM)
I have recently downloaded the JavaScript collection, which presents incremental reading in action. I have noticed that extracts contain very useful reference information (in the pinkish color), which help recover the context of a given extract. What is the way to automatically proliferate reference information in my extracts?
In a given article, before you create new extracts, select a text and then choose an appropriate option from the Reference submenu available in the HTML component menu. For example, for the #Title reference, select text, which is the title of a given article, paragraph, etc., and then choose Reference : Title (Alt+T) from the component menu

Copying material from a dictionary
(Rune, Norway, Monday, April 28, 2003 1:38 AM)
I copy word descriptions from the Collins Cobuilder dictionary and paste them into the answer field. It would be nice, if SuperMemo could create a new learning item and paste the description into the answer field. Now I first have to copy from Collins, create an new element, and paste into the answer field
The best way to handle dictionary items is to paste the entire item to SuperMemo with Ctrl+N. Then extract individual definitions along with the headword with Alt+X. Finally, while learning individual definitions, create individual passive, active or detail items with Alt+Z

Here is an example of learning the meaning of the word trachea. Although there are 19 items on the output, not all these items are necessary to extract the basic meaning of the word. For that reason, the process can be executed incrementally. More specialized meaning can be refined in more advanced stages of learning.

  1. You start with the definition pasted from www.dictionary.com

tra�che�a  ( P )  Pronunciation Key  [trey-kee-uh or, especially Brit., truh-kee-uh]
n. pl. tra�che�ae [trey-kee-ee or, especially Brit., truh-kee-ee] or tra�che�as

  1. Anatomy. A thin-walled, cartilaginous tube descending from the larynx to the bronchi and carrying air to the lungs. Also called windpipe.
  2. Zoology. One of the internal respiratory tubes of insects and some other terrestrial arthropods.
  3. Botany. One of the tubular conductive vessels in the xylem of vascular plants.
  1. In SuperMemo, you clean up the definition to ensure only vital information is included:
  1. Anatomy. A thin-walled, cartilaginous tube descending from the larynx to the bronchi and carrying air to the lungs. Also called windpipe.
  2. Zoology. One of the internal respiratory tubes of insects and some other terrestrial arthropods.
  3. Botany. One of the tubular conductive vessels in the xylem of vascular plants.
  1. With Alt+X you generate three extracts:
trachea   Anatomy. A thin-walled, cartilaginous tube descending from the larynx to the bronchi and carrying air to the lungs. Also called windpipe

trachea   Zoology. One of the internal respiratory tubes of insects and some other terrestrial arthropods

trachea   Botany. One of the tubular conductive vessels in the xylem of vascular plants

  1. The first extract will be processed with cloze deletions as follows:

trachea Anatomy. A thin-walled, cartilaginous tube descending from the larynx to the bronchi and carrying air to the lungs. Also called windpipe

  1. This will result in the following cloze items:
a cartilaginous tube descending from the larynx to the bronchi and carrying air to the lungs

trachea: A [thick/thin]-walled, cartilaginous tube descending from the larynx to the bronchi and carrying air to the lungs
thin (thickness is a relative concept and you may want to skip that property)

trachea: a [bony/cartilaginous/muscle/membranous] tube descending from the larynx to the bronchi

trachea: A cartilaginous tube [descending/ascending] from the larynx
trachea: A tube descending from the [...] to the bronchi

trachea: A tube descending from the larynx to the [...]

trachea: A tube descending from the larynx to the bronchi and carrying [...] to the lungs

trachea: a tube carrying air to [...]
(the) lungs/bronchi

trachea: A tube carrying air to the lungs. Also called [...]
  1. The final list of questions and answers will look as follows:

Q: a cartilaginous tube descending from the larynx to the bronchi and carrying air to the lungs
A: trachea

Q: trachea: A [thick/thin]-walled, cartilaginous tube descending from the larynx to the bronchi and carrying air to the lungs
A: thin

Q: trachea: a [bony/cartilaginous/muscle/membranous] tube descending from the larynx to the bronchi
A: cartilaginous

Q: trachea: A cartilaginous tube [descending/ascending] from the larynx
A: descending

Q: trachea: A tube descending from the[...] to the bronchi
A: larynx

Q: trachea: A tube descending from the larynx to the[...]
A: bronchi/lungs

Q: trachea: A tube descending from the larynx to the bronchi and carrying[...] to the lungs
A: air

Q: trachea: a tube carrying air to [...]
A: (the) lungs/bronchi

Q: trachea: A tube carrying air to the lungs. Also called [...]
A: windpipe

Q: zool: [...]: one of the internal respiratory tubes of insects and some other terrestrial arthropods
A: trachea

Q: zool: trachea: one of the internal[...](function) tubes of insects and some other terrestrial arthropods
A: respiratory

Q: zool: trachea: one of the internal respiratory tubes of[...](main animal group) and some other terrestrial arthropods
A: insects

Q: zool: trachea: one of the internal respiratory tubes of insects and some other [aquatic/terrestrial] arthropods
A: terrestrial

Q: zool: trachea: one of the internal respiratory tubes of insects and some other terrestrial [...](phylum)
A: arthropods

Q: bot: trachea: one of the[...] in the xylem of vascular plants
A: (tubular conductive) vessels

Q: bot: trachea: one of the tubular conductive vessels in the[...](tissue) of vascular plants
A: xylem

Q: bot: trachea: one of the tubular conductive vessels in the xylem of[...](division) plants
A: vascular

Q: trachea: one of the tubular conductive vessels in vascular [plants/animals]
A: plants

Q: bot: [...]: one of the tubular conductive vessels in the xylem of vascular plants
A: trachea

Complex physics posing problems to incremental reading
(anonymous , Wednesday, June 11, 2003 2:24 PM)
I think incremental reading is either very difficult or impossible to use when learning some complex concepts of physics. For example, I have the following text about the Earth and the Sun, how would you handle this with incremental reading?

The Earth is moving very very slowly away from the Sun. This happens for two reasons. The first is that the Sun is constantly losing mass because of the solar wind. As the mass of the Sun decreases its pull on the Earth decreases and so the Earth moves slightly further away. The second reason is to do with tidal forces. In exactly the same way that the Moon is slowly moving away from the Earth, the Earth is very slowly moving away from the Sun. In the Earth-Moon case the Moon pulls on the Earth creating tides and slowing the Earth’s rotation very slightly, making the day longer. This action has a reaction - the Moons orbit is speeded up. If something travels faster it must move outwards to remain in an orbit and so the Moon slowly drifts away from us at a rate of 3.8 centimeters per year. The same situation happens with the Sun but the Earth’s influence on the Sun is much smaller than the Moon’s influence on the Earth. The result is the Earth’s tiny tiny drift away from the Sun

Complex physics is no harder than other subjects in incremental reading. All you need is either an encyclopedic text or some editorial effort to dismantle some more elaborate prose. In your example you encounter two typical obstacles: 

  1. Implicit enumeration. The text mentions two reasons why the Earth moves away from the Sun but it does not name them in an explicit sentence. You need to read the entire passage to find out the second reason. 
  2. Explaining by analogy. The effect of tidal forces on the Sun is explained by describing similar forces created by the Moon. You cannot extract the "second reason" without including and understanding the "Moon example context". 

Some authors make incremental reading very difficult by assuming a great deal of knowledge on the part of the reader or, as it is the case here, loading student's working memory with a great deal of data rather than building knowledge gradually (i.e. from the ground up). 

Here is how your text would be handled with incremental reading (note the editorial effort as well as the need to entirely rephrase one of the sentences):

Incremental reading is a reading management technique
(Andy H., Poland, Tuesday, July 16, 2002 11:30 PM)
If it takes a year to pass a 3-page article in incremental reading, should you not rename it from speed-reading to snail-reading?
Incremental reading is all you want it to be. It can be speed-reading, cram-reading, or mass-reading. It all depends on the priority criteria which you choose. For that reasons, it would be best described as a reading management technique. On one hand, you can speed-read articles faster than in conventional speed reading and yet leave vital paragraphs for future review. On the other hand, you can meticulously dismantle individual paragraphs and convert them into classical questions-answer knowledge that will stay with your for ever. In addition, you can freely manipulate the volume of the material flowing into the reading/learning process. You can focus on a hundred most important articles or you can opt for thousands. Naturally, in the latter case, your time allocation for individual articles will be minute. For example, if you import 10,000 articles to SuperMemo, you might end up with 50,000 to 100,000 extracts within a year of 1-hour daily reading. In such circumstances, low priority articles will indeed linger for months in the process. Naturally, this is exactly the purpose of incremental reading: focus on what is important without neglecting anything that falls within your area of interest. If your focus changes, you can use search and navigation tools to speed up the review of most important portions of your reading material

In incremental reading, you do not need to read articles in their entirety
(Achab, Thursday, May 06, 2004 10:28 PM)
I still haven't understood well how incremental reading works. How can you read tens of articles in parallel and acquire the general idea behind each of them if you don’t (firstly) read those articles in their entirety?
A well-written article will often let you get the basic idea from its first paragraph or even a sentence. Incremental reading is best suited for articles written in hypertext or in an encyclopedic manner. Ideally, each sentence you read has a contribution to your knowledge and is not useless without the sentences that follow. 

When learning at the university, you do many courses in parallel. That's a macro version of incremental reading. Many people love to zap TV channels and play a chaotic version of incremental reading with their TV set. Zapping may not be a recommended way of learning, but it won't leave your mind blank. Another example can be seen in people who have a habit of reading a few novels in parallel. Their limit on the number of novels comes from the limits of human memory. There is a breaking point beyond which a novel, if read in bursts separated by longer intervals, cannot be followed due to fading memories. Incremental reading is based on SuperMemo, and by definition is far less limited by your forgetful memory. The number of articles in the process can reach a hundred thousand, and given basic skills, you will still not be left confused.

Imagine that you would like to learn a few things about Gamal Abdel Nasser. You could, for example, import an article about Nasser from www.wikipedia.com. In the first sentence you will find out that "Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918 - 1970) was the second President of Egypt". If you are new to Nasser, you may be happy to just know he was the Egyptian president and safely jump to reading other articles. Thus you may delay the encounter with the historic role of Nasser and economize some time to finding out, for example, who Shimon Peres is. When you see the Nasser article for the second time, you might find that "He followed by after President Muhammad Naguib and can be considered one of the most important Arab leaders in history". This piece of knowledge is also self-contained and you can patiently wait for your third encounter with Nasser. When you return the next time, you may conclude that another piece about Nasser is of lower priority: "Nasser was born in Alexandria". You can schedule the review of that piece in 2-3 years. Perhaps your interest in Nasser or in Alexandria will grow to the point that this knowledge will become relevant. If not, you can always dismiss or delete such an extract. Alternatively, you can skip a few paragraphs and extract a more important sentence: "In 1952, Nasser led the military coup against King Farouk I of Egypt". Even if your read individual sentences about Nasser in intervals lasting months, your knowledge will progressively expand and will become increasingly consolidated (esp. if you employ cloze deletions, which are mandatory for longer intervals). 

Naturally, not all texts are are so well-suited for incremental reading. For example, a research paper may throw at you a detailed description of methods and leave results and conclusions for the end. In such cases, you may extract the abstract and delay the body of the paper by a period in which you believe the abstract will have been sufficiently processed. Then, if you are still interested in the article, you can schedule the methods well into the future (you will or will not read the methods depending on the conclusions of the article). You can schedule the results and the discussion into a less remote point in time, and proceed with reading the conclusions. 

The hardest texts may not be suitable to reading in increments. For example, a piece of software code may need to be analyzed in its entirety before it reveals any useful meaning. In such cases, when the text (here the code) comes up in the incremental reading process, analyze it and verbalize your conclusions. The conclusions can then be processed incrementally. You will generate individual cloze deletions depending on which keywords you consider important and which become volatile. The original computer code can be still retained in your collection as reference only. 

Unlike classic SuperMemo, incremental reading requires quite a lot of experience and training before it becomes effective. However, your investment will be returned manifold once you become proficient with the method

Importance of derivation steps
(Gundam Fool, Wednesday, March 27, 2002 5:44 AM)
I was wondering if it was important to commit the derivation of formulas into memory. For example, the steps to get from formula A to formula B
It depends on your goals. If you only need the final formula, time spent on learning the derivation steps could be better spent learning other important material. If you are not sure today what you will need in the future, you could just type in the whole derivation into a single topic and memorize the final formula. Later, in incremental reading, you will make incremental decisions whether portions of the derivation are or are not important in your work or further learning. This piece of knowledge will compete with others in the learning process and in the long term you may ultimately decide if you want to memorize the details, keep them for passive review only, dismiss/delete some of the steps or dismiss the entire derivation as redundant (or too costly to learn). Naturally, derivation will often enhance your ability to efficiently use the formula. Hence the decision is never easy

Importing an article to SuperMemo
(Ngoi, Singapore, Thursday, August 01, 2002 4:36 PM)
How do I import a short article in order for it to refresh my memory every day?

Not all texts are suitable for incremental reading
(Sales, Thursday, June 27, 2002 12:48 AM)
I tried to process the following fragment with incremental reading and have no idea how to bite it! Are all texts suitable for incremental reading?

Intelligence as processing power: the raw nimbleness and agility of the human mind. When you see a smart student quickly learn new things, think logically, solve puzzles and show uncanny wit, you may say: This guy is really intelligent! See how fast his brain reacts! The student has a fast processor installed and his RAM has a lightning access time. He may though still need a couple of years to "build" good software through years of study. IQ tests attempt to measure this sort of intelligence in abstraction of knowledge. The difficulty of improving processing power by training comes for similar reasons as the fact that programming cannot speed up the processor

Not all texts are suitable or easy to process with incremental reading. You will not want to process a literary novel with incremental reading. You may still prefer to read it on paper in a bathtub. Examples of texts that are difficult to process are: flowery materials, materials rich in explanations and metaphors, programming code, case studies, mathematical derivations, experimental research documentation, etc. Incremental reading is easiest for encyclopedic materials. Materials that are not suitable will often include a valuable message; however, you may be often better off by phrasing it on your own and processing your summary with incremental reading. For example, you would not want to memorize the Linux source code. However, you could find some specific facts or regularities in the code, describe them shortly and then learn the description incrementally (perhaps with snippet code illustrations). The above text is metaphorical. It reiterates the same message a few times using different words in an attempt to find a metaphor that will strike a cord with the reader. Consequently, it is enough you extract only the core message. For example:

Intelligence as processing power: IQ tests attempt to measure this sort of intelligence in abstraction of knowledge

You could also add:

Intelligence as processing power: The difficulty of improving processing power by training comes for similar reasons as the fact that programming cannot speed up the processor

Once you learn the above 6 cloze deletions, you will most likely be able to recall that it should be very difficult to train for an improved score in an ideally designed IQ test. Incidentally, no test is ideal and improvement is always possible

You can easily mark the context of extracts in incremental reading
(Louis L'Heureux, MonNov18,2002 8:58 am)
How do I add the context in the extracted topics (similar to this in JavaScript Tutorial collection)?
Follow these rules to see it by example: 

  1. Import an HTML article (e.g. with Ctrl+N
  2. Select the title of the article in the text (e.g. with the mouse)
  3. Choose Reference : Title from the HTML component menu or press Alt+T. The title should be highlighted and preceded with the #Title: label 
  4. Select the first paragraph 
  5. Extract the paragraph (e.g. with Alt+X
  6. Use Back to go back to the extract (e.g. with Alt+Left
  7. See the bottom of the extract. Pinkish reference should have been appended

Incremental reading may be a remedy against the monotony of repetitions
(Roel Camorro, Philippines, Tuesday, June 18, 2002 3:54 PM)
SuperMemo has helped me a lot in systematically memorizing definitions in my legal studies. But can we find a way to make it more attractive say, by adding more graphics, etc?
If you have not tried incremental reading yet, you could try and see if this can add to "attractiveness". Incremental reading is by far more challenging and colorful than typical repetitions. Naturally, you can also import there graphic rich material to make learning more enjoyable

Incremental reading should suit your perfectionist nature
(KaHa, Poland, Jul 04, 2003)
I am a perfectionist. I have a problem with the chaos of incremental reading. I tried the method and find it difficult to reconcile with a number of its rules such as incremental improvement of cloze deletions. I do not like the idea of leaving badly formulated clozes behind while I jump onto new material.
If you give incremental reading a more determined try, you will understand that the opposite is true. Your perfectionist nature should accept the overriding rule: maximum quality knowledge at minimum time. It is not the beauty of clozes in your collection that counts, but the beauty of knowledge in your mind. For a skillful student, incremental reading is based on a set of perfectly-formed strict and rigid rules that guarantee the maximum speed of knowledge acquisition. It is true that some of these rules can make you uneasy at first. If you see a sentence that qualifies for a cloze, the rule is: execute the cloze deletion and defer worrying about its exact formulation to its first repetition. Why? Because the mere choice of the cloze keyword will leave sufficient traces in your memory to qualify as a repetition. In such circumstances, perfecting the formulation of the cloze will become art for art's stake. A higher level rule is: minimum work for maximum memory effect. Therefore, you will improve the formulation of the cloze as soon as you proceed with the first repetition. And again, you will do only as much work as it is necessary to successfully complete a single repetition act. Again you defer your attention to details and frills. Ultimately, your cloze will become perfectly formulated, perfectly prioritized and perfectly placed in your knowledge tree. Alternatively, it will be deleted or left lingering in your "to do" subsets. It is the perfect rules of incremental reading and the perfect learning results that should feed your perfectionist needs, not the perfect "look" of your learning material. 

Many people tend to hold the world wide web in contempt calling it the "human information garbage dump". This attitude makes it hard to utilize the web as the "goldmine of human knowledge". Tim Berners-Lee created "perfect rules" (html, http) for knowledge dissemination by the populace. We can adapt our own "perfect rules" for mining the web. Incremental reading uses "perfect rules" to convert web data into golden knowledge. As a perfectionist, you should not worry about the chaos of the web or chaos of your collection. What really matters is the perfect golden end-result: wisdom

Finally, if you still cannot live with imperfectly formulated clozes, nothing prevents formulating them perfectly. You will learn at a slower speed, but the formulations may be more satisfying to your perception

Incremental reading may need some tweaking before it starts working for you
(steven kwong, United Kingdom, Tuesday, August 05, 2003 12:33 AM)
What I can do if I want to import this site and break it down into terms: http://developer.java.sun.com/developer/onlineTraining/JSPIntro/contents.html 
How can I produce a reasonable repetition using the content window!

  1. Start from getting to know incremental reading
  2. Your primary trick here is to "import as you read", i.e. do not import "wholesale". Go from page to page as you would normally do without SuperMemo. Select portions of text, copy to clipboard, and import them to SuperMemo with Ctrl+N 
  3. As for the contents window, it should not be of much concern while learning. Focus on building a healthy structure in your memory. Building a table of contents is time-consuming and does not help you much in the learning process itself. Remember that in SuperMemo, retrieval of knowledge from your collection is of lesser concern. You are supposed to retrieve it from your own memory!

Cloze deletion may, but does not have to use the default template
(Michael Butler, Sun Jan 18, 2004 5:05 am)
When I import an article to a specific branch, and I extract sentences for cloze questions, it asks if I wish to us a particular template every time. Is there a way to bypass this?
Yes. Use Search : Concepts to inspect the concept group to which you imported the article and uncheck Auto-apply item template

Important pictures should best be kept in image components
(Stanley Ross, Jun 01, 2004, 04:28:47)
I would like to cut and paste an photograph into a SuperMemo question. But SuperMemo does not recognize the paste function when I go to paste it
Instead of pasting the picture into the question component, paste the picture into the element (e.g. press Esc a few time to shift focus from the component to the element and press Ctrl+V to paste). Not all components can accept pictures (e.g. plain text or RTF text components display only text). In addition, having pictures pasted into an image component makes it easy to resize, place, or move the image, as well as to change its attributes such as stretch, transparency, display time (e.g. at answer time only), etc. HTML components can keep remote pictures stored on the web but, naturally, you lose them once the picture is removed from the remote server

Before you terminate a source article move its child items to their target categories first (#208)
(Ahmet Karahan, Wednesday, December 25, 2002 10:40 PM)
Is there an easy way to delete all dismissed articles from a concept group or from a branch without deleting the items that I generated?
The recommended strategy is to move the generated items to their target concept groups first and only then delete their source extracts/articles. When you move the last child item of a given extract/article to its target concept group, SuperMemo will take you to this source extract/article and display the following message: "Warning! The last child of the displayed element has been moved or deleted." You can then safely terminate its existence in your collection by choosing Learning : Done (Shift+Ctrl+Enter) from the element menu

Highlight and read-point
(Terje A. Tonsberg, 18/06/2002)
If one applies the highlighter font the component ends up in edit mode and does not leave this mode
Highlighting texts automatically sets the read-point. Use Clear read-point to remove the read-point (Ctrl+Shift+F7)

SuperMemo does not show the answer after using cloze deletion
(SCOTT W., Jun 30, 2004, 17:55:05)
I started using cloze deletion but when I click Learn, it doesn't ask me a question. Instead I get the full statement with the cloze deletion part highlighted. At the bottom of the screen I have the option: Next Repetition
There might be three explanations:

  1. you are using the cloze command on an item, instead on a topic 
  2. you are viewing the parent topic, not the cloze deletion item
  3. your cloze deletion has been mistakenly converted to a topic

It often happens that users mistakenly use cloze on items, instead of using it on topics (e.g. source material for cloze should rather be added with Alt+N instead of Alt+A or Add new). This makes A quite likely. However, Next Repetition indicates that you might have been presented a topic (i.e. the grading step was skipped). If so, B or C are also likely. In neither case would SuperMemo "ask the question", but if C was the case, the answer would appear along the question on the screen. In addition, in C, the keyword would not be highlighted but replaced with three dots


A. If A is the case, do not use Add new to add the material for cloze deletion. Use Alt+N to type in new material or Ctrl+N to paste it from the clipboard

B. If B is the case (i.e. you are viewing the parent topic), you can press Ctrl+D and dismiss the topic (assuming you do not want to create any more cloze deletions)

C. If C is the case (i.e. you converted cloze item to a topic), press Ctrl+Shift+P and choose Element type : Item

For learning to be efficient, cloze deletions must be as simple as possible
(Kentaroh Takagaki, Japan, Mon, Jul 08, 2002 11:14)
When I generate cloze deletion elements from imported HTML articles, the element always displays the head of the HTML article, even if the cloze quoted passage is way down in the article
Before you apply Cloze in SuperMemo, you should make sure that the parent passage or statement is as simple as possible. Rarely it would go beyond a short sentence. This is why there are no read-points in cloze deletions. Unlike topics/articles, cloze deletions are supposed to generate an active recall repetition. For that to be effective, cloze deletions must exclude all material, text, individual words or punctuation that is not vital for understanding the question See: 20 rules of formulating knowledge

Use incremental reading for quickly adding new material without learning it
(Janusz Batkowski, Poland, Monday, July 29, 2002 3:34 PM)
I usually add a large number of items and then 'remember' them in several portions (e.g. after my English lesson). I add many items but don't want to remember all of them at once
The simplest way to accomplish your goal is to simply type your material into a single note element (Alt+N). Once the review of the material comes up, you can extract most important portions of this material (Alt+X). Once you decide it is time to remember individual portions, use cloze to introduce them into the learning process (Alt+Z). This process is by far more efficient than the use of the pending queue (as in older SuperMemos) in ways of prioritizing the learning material and gradually establishing memory traces

Why does not cloze deletion create an answer?
(Phil Hamilton , Wednesday, January 14, 2004 8:41 PM)
Sometimes pressing Alt+Z shades the selected keyword but does not insert a [...] or the keyword in the answer field
When you press Alt+Z, the currently selected keyword in the current topic is shaded. The newly created item is not visible (i.e. you will not immediately see the answer not the deletion brackets). You can see the newly created item by pressing Alt+Left. Remember that you should use topics to generate new cloze deletions (e.g. use Alt+N to type new material or Ctrl+N to paste it)

Problems with cloze
(John R. Paddock , USA Educational, Monday, January 26, 2004 7:43 PM)
Problem: when we use the cloze commands, and then hit the Learn button, we get: (a) a sentence with the 'clozed' word darkened but visible; (b) the 'clozed' word by itself on a subsequent repetition; (c) the 'clozed' sentence with the target word removed. What are we doing incorrectly?

  1. First you need to write a complete sentence into a topic; i.e. not item 
  2. Then you need to use Alt+Z (generate cloze) on individual keywords; i.e. not Alt+X (extract topic) 
  3. Once you generate all cloze deletions, mark the original topic as Done (from Point 1); otherwise, it will show up during repetitions

All topics will be deleted with Done in the end
(Jerry Ast, Poland, Thursday, August 12, 2004 12:05 AM)
Should Done be performed on the topics generated by Alt+X in the same way as it is performed on the original source article? Should it be all the way down till you encounter items only and leave them "abandoned" in the learning process?
(Ctrl+Shift+Enter) is executed at the moment when you believe you have completed reading and processing a given piece of text. In the case of the original source article, this usually means skipping all unimportant parts and extracting all important parts of the article. You repeat Done on all topic extracts generated from the article. At the lowest level, short extracts are used for generating cloze deletions. Once you believe your cloze deletions cover all vital keywords of the statement that forms the topic, you execute Done again. In the end, only cloze items remain in the process. 
Note that the process of descending from the source article to individual clozes may take years. The whole process is incremental and is paced by the declining traces of memory. A single cloze generated from a short sentence often allows of retaining good memory of the entire statement for months. Except for mission-critical pieces of information, you do not execute cloze deletions on all keywords until individual keywords raise questions as to whether they can be recalled individually

Topic texts are expendable in incremental reading
(Paul Klonowski, NPO, Jul 02, 2004, 16:57:38)
After selecting and choosing text in an article (Alt+X), the selected text is highlighted. How do I get rid of this highlighting in the original afterwards? How can I mail this text clean to someone?
The underlying assumption is that you gradually convert your texts into learning material. The original text is gradually consumed and then deleted as no longer needed. For that reason, there is no checkbox for preventing the highlights. You will later notice, these play a vital function in processing the learning material. In SuperMemo 2006 you could make the highlights less prominent by modifying the stylesheet used in incremental reading (if you make it invisible, incremental reading may no longer be possible as you will have no record of your previous work).

If you need to retain the original text for reasons other than learning, you could do either: 

In SuperMemo 2006, if you mail your topic file to anyone, he or she will not see the markings due to the absence of the appropriate stylesheet. In other words, you can keep processing the file and it will still look clean on the other end. Naturally, nearly always you would have done some other editing to that file during incremental reading (rewording paragraphs, deleting texts, filtering tables, etc.). 

All incremental reading happens in the learning mode
(Jerry Ast, Poland, Aug 06, 2004, 02:38:44)

Do you do all parts of incremental reading in the learn mode? The fact that you use both Review and Learn makes me confused
Yes. All incremental reading happens in the learning mode. The term "Learn" is usually used to refer to learning that happens after you click the Learn button. The term "Review" is rather used in reference to subset learning. Also, "review" is used when talking about "repetition of topics" because "repetition" better fits active recall, even though all learning proceeds in a sequence of steps called "the repetition cycle". The terminology used in incremental reading is still evolving. The technique is new (pioneered by SuperMemo in 2000). Even the best terminology "design" needs to undergo evolution and exposure to students in the real world. With time, it will become less ambiguous

Incremental reading minimizes the need to type
(Webmail Man, Apr 03, 2005, 14:12:00)
If I do incremental reading, that means I must cut and paste into cards?
Incremental reading is a technique for converting texts into questions and answers. The advantage of incremental reading is that you read and learn while processing the text. Your source text may either be pasted to SuperMemo (e.g. with Ctrl+N), imported automatically, or typed in (e.g. after choosing Alt+N). Most of the time you will prefer to paste ready-made material for its reliability and the minimum use of the keyboard. However, if the material is not available, you will need to resort to typing

You cannot use PDF format in incremental reading
(Jerry Ast, Poland, Thursday, August 05, 2004 11:42 PM)
I imported PDF to SuperMemo but I was not able to extract any texts from these files. The text may be active, you can mark it but you can't do anything with it
SuperMemo uses HTML in incremental reading. The choice of HTML came from the open access to Internet Explorer interfaces published by Microsoft. As these interfaces still show lots of bugs and instability, it will take a while before incremental reading becomes a frustration-free experience. As for PDF, this is a proprietary format that does not show a quarter of Microsoft's openness. This makes PDF-based incremental reading unlikely. If you import PDF to the HTML component, HTML component treats is as an Active Document. This means that SuperMemo has only indirect access to its properties. Unfortunately even copy and paste with PDF will be very difficult due to erratic behavior of mouse selections in Acrobat Reader and partial loss of data on pasting to HTML. See also: Using PDF in SuperMemo

Who invented incremental reading?
(Robert, Poland, Jul 28, 2003)
Who invented incremental reading?
The name incremental reading first appeared in SuperMemo 2000. However, the concept is not new. It originated from combining our natural reading habits with the demands of spaced repetition (SuperMemo). We rarely pick up a book and read it cover-to-cover in one go. At school we often dig through a number textbooks used for different courses. At home we stop reading a book to read a newspaper and then stop reading the newspaper to watch TV. A combination of needs and interests determines how far we go with the reading of an individual text. SuperMemo drives this concept to an extreme by letting you read just one sentence from one chapter from one book and then go on to reading extracts from a thousand other books or articles. SuperMemo's contribution here is only the management of this multi-source reading process. As for the creative aspect of incremental reading, Niels Bohr is known to have used the power of intermitted reading and intermitted thinking to maximize his creative output. He would keep dozens of shelves with outlines of ideas. He would return to individual shelves from time to time, esp. if he was inspired by a conversation, thinking, experiment or reading. He would then keep reading a single shelf, adding new notes, thinking, etc. Many of those shelves ended up as scientific publications. In that sense, Niels Bohr employed rudimentary incremental reading in his creative work.

The approach used in incremental reading is widely employed by many creative individuals. Even if it is far less formal that incremental reading or even Bohr's approach. One of the most creative neuroscientists of the present day, Prof. Michael Gazzaniga puts it this way: "I think the creative process is directly related to the amount of time one spends mulling something over. I come back and revisit ideas, data, thoughts, all the time. I think this keeps key semantic networks active and then "bingo" an inconsistency or consistency suddenly presents itself to consciousness and the beginnings of a new idea appear"

Wikipedia is an excellent source of materials for SuperMemo
(Michael D. Butler, Tuesday, August 09, 2005 6:33 AM)
How can I effectively import articles from Wikipedia to SuperMemo?
Starting with SuperMemo 2006, SuperMemo features a dedicated Wikipedia import procedure (Edit : Import web pages : Wikipedia (Ctrl+Shift+W)).

If you use a earlier version of SuperMemo (e.g. SuperMemo 2004), or different browser than Internet Explorer (e.g. Firefox, Google Chrome), or import articles from non-English Wikipedia, read this

When is incremental reading cost-effective?
(Dariusz, Jan 19, 2006, 01:38:11)
Would incremental reading (which seems to take a long time to get from importing to reading to extracting sentences to cloze) be a good option if I do not truly want my memory to last long?
It depends on your current incremental reading skills. The stronger the skills the shorter the desired memory span that makes using incremental reading effective. For a proficient user, even a next day's assignment might make sense to be done with incremental reading. For a beginner though, it is enough to consider that it may take you a few months of practise to truly understand the flow of knowledge in incremental reading (and in your memory). This alone might make it ineffective for learning for a test that comes in a month or even two. The most important thing to consider, however, is that incremental reading skills will equip you with new learning powers for life. Consequently, the timing of your exams should never become part of your decision.
Important! You can determine the frequency of presentation of topics. You can determine the level of retention for items. You can execute forced ahead-of-time review of any material. In other words: You determine the speed of learning in incremental reading!

Topics are split into smaller topics until they form single sentences
(Samson, Feb 07, 2006, 13:32:54)
I don't know how to review a section of an article (I mean the green "T" elements, not blue "L"). Am I supposed to glance the information, do nothing or try to remember everything on it?
Elements marked with a green T icon as topics. Topics may be very long (entire articles) or very short (single sentences). This is how you work with topics: 

  1. read the topic from the top 
  2. if you find some interesting information, extract it (e.g. with Alt+X); the extract will form a new independent topic; the new topic will be shorter and will be handled in the same way as all other topics 
  3. decide how far you want to go into reading the topic depending on its priority and available time (e.g. interrupt fast, if you are in a hurry, or read it all, if the topic is of top importance) 
  4. if you finish reading the topic, execute Done (e.g. Ctrl+Shift+Enter); this will delete the topic without deleting the material that it produced 
  5. only if the topic is as short as a single sentence, create cloze deletions (e.g. with Alt+Z
  6. return to reading the topic next time it comes for review 

In other words, you neither just glance, nor try hard to remember. On longer topics you read and extract, on very short topics you generate cloze deletions.

Cloze techniques can also be used with pictures
(Skimming, Glen, Aug 09, 2004, 17:14:56)
How can cloze be used with pictures?
This is how you can create a collection with graphic deletion (occlusion) tests: 

  1. Use File : New collection to create a new blank collection 
  2. Choose Add New (Alt+A) to add a new item
  3. Apply the Occlusion template (e.g. press Ctrl+Shift+M and choose "Occlusion") 
  4. Paste the image prepared for the graphic test (e.g. Ctrl+V into the image component) 
  5. Use Ctrl+T a few times to select the occlusion rectangle 
  6. Size the rectangle so that to occlude the portion that makes the question 
  7. Type in the question (e.g. "What portion of the image is covered by the red rectangle?") 
  8. Type in the answer 
  9. Use Shift+Alt+L to test your new occlusion test 
  10. Use Edit : Duplicate on the element menu (Alt+D) to generate more tests with the same picture

Cloze deletions are universal
(Maria Blees, Dec 28, 2005, 08:09:58)
I read an article from www.lefigaro.fr. I extract a single sentence (e.g. Kiev de son c�t� d�ment). Now I want to highlight d�ment and make the sentence with the highlighted word as the question and the definition of d�ment (in French or English) as the answer. I don't want to make a cloze deletion because I'm not trying to remember that sentence from the article
Cloze deletion will still be the fastest way to accomplish your task. You can insert a question mark after d�ment, select the inserted question mark, and execute the cloze deletion. You will then replace the question mark from the answer field with the definition pasted from a dictionary.

In similar context you may yet need Edit : Swap Q&A (Shift+Ctrl+S). Cloze and swap will cover most of typical situations in generating textual question-answer pairs.

Wordy articles may require rewording sentences before generating clozes
(Joanna, May 02, 2006, 13:34:56)
You say that all texts can easily be processed with incremental reading. However, I am totally stuck on the fragment listed below. How can I split it into smaller portions without producing monster clozes? 

In 1892 the Russian botanist Dimitri Iwanowski showed that the sap from
tobacco plants infected with mosaic disease, even after being passed
through a porcelain filter known to retain all bacteria, contained an
agent that could infect other tobacco plants.

In 1900 a similarly filterable agent was reported for foot-and-mouth
disease of cattle.

Before you begin to learn, you can save lots of time by looking for articles that are properly structured and written in a concise language that will help you save lots of time. For example, Wikipedia is an excellent source. As it is edited by many people in an incremental manner, it is highly context independent. In comparison, Britannica is wordy, full of pronouns, definite clauses, and various context references.

Where Britannica might say (fictitious example): "Over the next five years, he struggled to obtain a patent for his invention", Wikipedia might say explicitly "In the years 1883-1889, Edison struggled to obtain a patent for a filament of carbon of high resistance". This context-independent style can save you hours of parsing and re-editing.

In your example, the first sentence is causing trouble because the author tried to tell you far more than you might wish to process in one go. 

One strategy is to start with, as you say, monster clozes, and simplify them incrementally while learning. However, you could save lots of time with another strategy, in which you split the sentences into more manageable portions. Unfortunately, in his case, some editing will be necessary in the beginning. You will also need to carefully parse the meaning of the passage. You could, for example, separate who and what components of the sentence:

who: In 1892 the Russian botanist Dimitri Iwanowski showed that the sap from tobacco plants infected with mosaic disease contained an infectious agent smaller than bacteria.

what: In 1892, Iwanowski showed that the sap from tobacco infected with mosaic disease even after being passed through a porcelain filter known to retain all bacteria, contained an agent that could infect other tobacco plants.

From those two mini-topics, you can generate several clozes that will cover the essence of the passage:

Q: In [...](year) the Russian botanist Dimitri Iwanowski showed that the sap from tobacco plants infected with mosaic disease contained an infectious agent smaller than bacteria
A: 1892

Q: In 1892 the [...](nationality) botanist Dimitri Iwanowski showed that the sap from tobacco plants infected with mosaic disease contained an infectious agent smaller than bacteria
A: Russian

Q: In 1892 the Russian [...](specialty) Dimitri Iwanowski showed that the sap from tobacco plants infected with mosaic disease contained an infectious agent smaller than bacteria
A: botanist

Q: In 1892 the Russian botanist [...](name) showed that the sap from tobacco plants infected with mosaic disease contained an infectious agent smaller than bacteria
A: Dimitri Iwanowski

Q: In 1892 the Russian botanist Dimitri Iwanowski showed that [...](what?) from tobacco plants infected with mosaic disease contained an infectious agent smaller than bacteria
A: sap

Q: In 1892 the Russian botanist Dimitri Iwanowski showed that the sap from [...](type) plants infected with mosaic disease contained an infectious agent smaller than bacteria
A: tobacco

Q: In 1892 the Russian botanist Dimitri Iwanowski showed that the sap from tobacco plants infected with [...](disease) contained an infectious agent smaller than bacteria
A: mosaic disease

Q: In 1892 the Russian botanist Dimitri Iwanowski showed that the sap from tobacco plants infected with mosaic disease contained [...] smaller than bacteria
A: an infectious agent

Q: In 1892 the Russian botanist Dimitri Iwanowski showed that the sap from tobacco plants infected with mosaic disease contained an infectious agent smaller than [...]
A: bacteria

Q: In 1892 the Russian botanist Dimitri Iwanowski showed that the sap from tobacco plants infected with mosaic disease contained an infectious agent [...] than bacteria
A: smaller

Q: In 1892, Iwanowski showed that the sap from tobacco infected with mosaic disease even after being passed through a [...](type) filter, contained an agent that could infect other tobacco plants
A: porcelain

Q: In 1892, Iwanowski showed that the sap from tobacco infected with mosaic disease even after being passed through a porcelain filter known to [...](property), contained an agent that could infect other tobacco plants
A: retain all bacteria

Q: In 1892, Iwanowski showed that the sap from tobacco infected with mosaic disease even after being passed through a porcelain filter, contained an agent that [...](property)
A: could infect other tobacco plants

The above questions are only a rough beginning. Only during learning will you be able to identify holes in these items. You will see where they cause trouble, why they may be hard to remember or what questions are imprecise or confusing. You will fix those deficiencies incrementally while learning.

Is incremental reading through SuperMemo the same as Photo reading?
(Dushant K, Nov 16, 2006, 15:43:19)
Is incremental reading through SuperMemo the same as Photo reading? And how come schools and universities haven't made it mandatory as of yet? I think they must
No. Incremental reading helps you read many electronic articles in parallel. But it does not mean that you see all those articles in front of you all at the same time. It means that you read a tiny portion of one article, and then a tiny portion of another article, etc. SuperMemo manages this process and makes it possible to read pieces of dozens of articles on the same day and thousands of articles in parallel. All that without getting lost and with a solid recall of what you have read and learned. 

Photo-reading is supposed to help you photographically "scan" entire pages of articles while reading. Sort of super-speed-reading in which a human brain is said to work like a scanner. However, Photo-reading is missing on the science side. Its principles quarrel to a large degree with the physiology of perception. 

As for mandatory use in schools, incremental reading is not well suited for class-room environment. It requires quality learning conditions, quality concentration, solid speed-reading skills, typing skills, and even a special personality traits. In other words, it would be nice if teachers told the kids about the existence of such a technique. However, a mandatory use might be counter-productive. The only way incremental reading can play its role is in a quiet home environment, without pressure, with passion and within the framework of individual interests.

One sentence is usually used to create many cloze deletions
(John R. Paddock, USA Educational, Sep 10, 2004, 03:21:09)
What is the logic behind requiring the user to write a complete sentence into a topic, find the key word and cloze it, and then dismiss the original topic so it does not show up during repetitions? Why can't I just type a sentence as an item, cloze the key word, and move on to create another sentence-to-be-clozed (another item)?
In incremental reading, when you encounter an important statement, you will often determine a couple of keywords that should be clozed. The average might be 3-4 keywords per statement. These new cloze deletions are attached as children of the source topic for instant context recovery wherever you find it hard to match the context at repetitions. Wherever you manually type in a sentence that is to become a single cloze deletion, it is far easier to add an item and type in directly to question and answer fields. Moreover, in many cases, cloze deletion is an awkward substitution for a properly formulated question. Cloze deletions became ubiquitous in SuperMemo only as part of incremental reading. They are simply the fastest technique for converting statements into questions. The topic/statement that is the source of new cloze deletions remains in the learning process until it is determined that all vital "memory links" are established (i.e. keywords clozed). The process of generating clozes is incremental and may take months or years for a single statement! Hence the name "incremental reading". Only when this process is completed, you will execute Done on the original topic

Traversing external link makes HTML components become read-only
(FL, Thursday, September 16, 2004 4:54 AM)
Following a link within a page stored as a link in SuperMemo, selecting text and clicking Schedule extract does nothing!
Incremental reading options do not work in pages that have not yet been integrated with your collection. SuperMemo allows you to traverse the links in the HTML component; however, as soon as you navigate to an external page (on the web or on your computer), the HTML texts becomes read-only. 

The simplest workaround is to use Shift+Click on links in SuperMemo to open the external pages in your web browser (a click may suffice in some settings). You can then review those pages in the browser and import to SuperMemo when relevant

Incremental reading is not easily explained step-by-step
(John R. P., USA Educational, Sep 11, 2004, 22:42:39)
Say I decide to learn the DSM-IV-TR (diagnostic criteria for psychiatric disorders), something that no practitioner really ever masters . . . but now CAN with SuperMemo. Why not give us an embarrassingly concrete example of how to proceed on this kind of project FROM THE START
To master DSM-IV, you would best employ incremental reading. However, there is no linear algorithm in which step-by-step instructions proceed from the beginning to the end without branching. This is why incremental reading is explained as a set of skills which you need to combine to optimize your progress in consuming DSM-IV or other extensive reading material. In the attempt to explain incremental reading, you are first given the reasons why mastering those skills is worth your time. Then the skills are listed in the order in which you are likely to first use them. The rest is up to you, after a few months of practice you will indeed be ready to tackle even the most voluminous loads of material

Incremental reading does not have to be incremental
(Alex, Oct 03, 2006)
I read the list of advantages of incremental reading and I am still not convinced I will benefit from this technique. My main problem is that I love to finish what I started reading. I just cannot stop
Probably there are no incremental readers who did not begin with this same misgiving. Paradoxically, the stronger your misgivings, the better candidate for a good incremental reader you might be!

A popular misconceptions is that there are impatient people who are predisposed to be incremental readers - let's call them "sippers" - and those who love to devour knowledge in large chunks - let's call them "gulpers". The truth is that all creative individuals are of a gulper nature. Incrementalism is both a skill and a habit all gulpers may learn over time.

Nobody loves SuperMemo as of the first day. It may take a few weeks to notice its power. And yet, as we do not have sensors of the speed of forgetting, you need a dose of rational mathematical appreciation of what SuperMemo does to your brain. You cannot easily sense the power of knowledge and how fast it is being undermined by forgetting.

Incremental reading takes far longer to be appreciated than SuperMemo itself. To employ SuperMemo, you need to learn only two operations (Add new and Learn). For incremental reading, you need a toolset that keeps growing and improving over years of use. Yes! Even after a few years of learning, you will discover new ways you can speed up your own learning with incremental reading. It may take a year before you might notice first signs of addiction to incremental reading (a benign form of addiction with few negative side effects).

Your paradoxical suitability for incremental reading comes from your hunger for knowledge. The fact that you cannot stop reading is a powerful expression of this hunger and it is the primary driving force that will help you become an addictive reader. What you are missing now is the understanding of the power of incremental reading and the hunger to switch for more. Incremental reading will help you develop a hunger for maximizing the value of information you are processing at any given moment.

You can begin incremental reading today without ever having to stop reading an article that you find fascinating. In incremental reading, interrupted reading is a norm, but is NOT compulsory! You can read all articles from front to back and only use incremental reading tools for prioritizing articles and extracting most important sentences and converting them to clozes. In other words, you do not need incrementalism to work for a solid retention of knowledge. An ordinary web surfer has only two alternatives when encountering an article: (A) Fascinating, let's read. and (B) Not fascinating enough. Perhaps I will read some other time. In contrast, an incremental reader can determine the priority of the article and always read only the articles from the top of the current priority list (perhaps with a user-defined degree of randomization). Moreover, at any time, he or she can say: Interesting, but not as much as I thought. Let's downgrade the priority and come back later (if ever).

A gulper is driven by a natural neural mechanism that underlies all human progress: curiosity. The same mechanism can be used to magnify incrementalism: curiosity of what article or paragraph comes next. Once you develop a healthy incremental reading process, you will add another natural neural mechanism: impatience. Impatience is also a buttress of progress. We do not like long stretches of low efficiency. We like instant gratification of success and the bigger the success the better. In incremental reading, you are constantly driven by curiosity and yet you itch-to-switch as soon as the text you are reading does not bring sufficient value-per-time. The healthier your incremental reading process, the more value per second you can extract. You will develop a sense of average value stream, and each time you fall below that expectation, you will add up to the incremental nature of reading (even if the fault is yours, not the authors, e.g. when gaps in your knowledge produce poor comprehension). By combining curiosity with impatience, you can convert from a gulper to a sipper. And yet you will still be able to read top-quality articles top-to-bottom without interruption (and likely with multiple passage extracts). Incremental reading helps you prioritize by content instead of reacting to transient evaluative impressions.

You will notice that incremental attitude is a habit you grow as your technical and parsing skills improve. Rarely will you delete lower quality articles, but these will fade in priority and may indefinitely linger in the process. As a result, you will maximize the educational effects of every precious second you spent on learning.

As an incremental reader, you might gradually develop a dislike of old-style books (as opposed to importable e-books and articles). If you choose to read a book you effectively say "this is the most important material in the whole world (of what I know and have)". Then the whole series of paragraphs in the book are considered the most important paragraphs to read in their precise sequence as they appear in the book. You give the author of a book God-like powers to stream information into your brain in a flawless, omniscient, and omnipotent way.

Gulpers and sippers are not biologically different. The conversion from one to the other goes via the understanding of incremental reading, mastering its toolset, honing the skills, and gradually pumping up the average value of knowledge streamed into one's memory.

Use "Done" to delete processed articles and save space
(Terje A. Tonsberg , Saturday, May 24, 2003 11:57 AM)
I would like to see the ability to delete articles without deleting the items derived from them
Use Learning : Done on the element menu (Ctrl+Shift+Enter). Done deletes the article, repetition history, components, etc. However, it leaves the original empty element as a source of reference and as a holder of the derived structure of extracts and cloze deletions

Use "Done" to delete source material without deleting extracts and clozes
(John Butler, United Kingdom, Sep 18, 2004, 16:41:45)
When I try to delete the unnecessary topic used to produce a cloze question, I am in danger of deleting the child to which I wish to remain as a cloze deletion question
Yes. Instead of Delete, use Done on the element menu (e.g. with Ctrl+Shift+Enter followed by all necessary confirmations with Enter)

Incremental reading is an extension of traditional book reading
(G.W., Mar 04, 2007, 23:09:08)
Is not incremental reading an attack on traditional books? If you read in pieces and with endless interruption, does it not destroy the storyline? If Gutenberg was a blessing then incremental reading might be a curse!
Whether incremental reading is a curse or a blessing depends on the way it is employed. There is no sharp transition between traditional reading and incremental reading. In the simplest case, you can use incremental reading exactly in the same way as you would read a book. Partitioning of texts and interruptions are not compulsory. You can read the entire text from top to the bottom without a single interruption. This would apply if you needed a storyline for context, and did not want to bother with committing it to long term memory. If you do take breaks or skip portions of texts or change the natural sequence of reading, it all happens in situations that have their counterparts in the world of books:

In other words, in extreme cases, there may be no difference between traditional and incremental reading. Gutenberg's blessing is safe. If you believe interruptions or multiplicity of subjects are beneficial, you can employ them at greater ease that it is the case with book reading. At the other extreme, you may wish to take on thousands of independent articles, make interruptions a norm, focus reading only on portions that you deem most important, etc.

A rule of the thumb is: use traditional reading when you read stories or you read for enjoyment. Use incremental reading to process learning material, textbooks, notes or scientific literature.

Does interference disqualify incremental reading?
(anonymous, Jan 20, 2007, 05:06:45)
I read a paper about interference in learning. When students learn two things one after another, they perform worse than if they focus on one thing. To my mind, that should disqualify incremental reading, shouldn't it?
No. It is true that interference can ruin learning. If you read about a subject without fully understanding it and follow it with another subject that is confusingly similar in nature, you will indeed perform worse in tests. However, this effect is much less pronounced if the first subject is studied with solid comprehension. Incremental reading, make is possible to read only as much as you understand. Then it encourages long-term retention by producing cloze deletions. Finally, it periodically rediscovers weaknesses in the learning process and fills the gap. When well executed, incremental reading produces an opposite effect. It minimizes interference by forcing you to resolve contradiction in your material. It ruthlessly punishes all cases of incomplete understanding. In classroom conditions, you can get a foggy pass at subject A, then worsen the fog by digging into subject B. In incremental reading, SuperMemo will force you to jump from A to B and back to A, until the two form a harmonious body of knowledge with minimum interference and maximum connectivity. Note that the same research on interference produces diametrically different results when the interfering topics are subject to continual re-reading. Re-reading is frequent in SuperMemo and multiple active repetition of cloze deletions is a norm. The outcome of the experiment may also be obscured by adding a degree of novelty to old reviews greatly improves attention. Better learning follows in the wake

Generating cloze deletions should be incremental (#2223)
(tomas, Czech Republic, Oct 21, 2004, 19:02:12)
The current way of incremental reading generates a vast number of topics. You read an article, extract a sentence which creates new topic, then do a cloze on that topic which creates an item. My suggestion is to skip the creation of the new topic, and go directly for the creation of an item. For example: You select the sentence in an article, press a button or shortcut, a little box with the extracted sentence will appear, in that little box you select the word or part to cloze, press another button or just press enter and the item is created. The creation of the topic is skipped. One has just the article and items. It seems as a clean way of working and I prefer having as little data in my collection as possible.
Your approach would quarrel with the basic premise of incremental reading: incrementalism. By driving your quest for neatness, you might go to the extreme of creating ready-made, well-formulated questions and answers while reading the article. The incremental nature of the learning process, variegated coloring and a complex extract hierarchy seem to quarrel with the perfectionist nature of many. However, the purpose of incremental reading is the maximum effect in minimum time. For that reason, at extract time, you are already forming passive trace memory engrams of the extracted sentence. The optimum strategy then is not to proceed with generating cloze deletions, but to move on to other elements in the queue or to other extracts in the same article (if the high priority of the article justifies it). In addition, the tree structure provides a rough reflection of article semantics and your incremental reading progress. Although this structure is not central to learning, it is quite frequently used for various reasons (e.g. tracking progress, tracking context, etc.). 

Last but not least, one of the chief complaints about SuperMemo is complexity and an overwhelming number of options, dialogs and documentation pages. Adding yet one dialog militates against the proposition as well. Although the number of inactive/dismissed topics might reach 30-40% of your collection, they shall not significantly affect the size of data or the performance. Moreover, once you move final items to their final category destinations, SuperMemo will prompt you to delete unused extract topics. Naturally, this may happen years after introducing the source article into the process.

Handling printed books with incremental reading (#526)
(Jerry Ast, jan 26, 2005, 23:51:31)
What would you do if you had a printed book and wanted to learn it using incremental reading? Would you scan it, OCR it, and work incrementally on it in the electronic form?
Using OCR adds substantial cost to reading the book. The ultimate decision will depend on the importance of knowledge, its character, the density of valuable information, availability of alternatives, etc. The choices may differ widely. 
You might: 

You could naturally read the book in a traditional manner without SuperMemo, but our claim is, as you would expect, that this manner of reading may leave very little knowledge in your memory with sufficient lapse of time (unless you use the acquired knowledge frequently enough)

Enter is used as the default repetition key (#26538)
(RONSAYERS, Jul 20, 2004, 00:52:44)
I have noticed that the Enter key sometimes works funny in text fields and causes me to advance to another item rather than going to the next line. I discovered that holding down Shift while pressing Enter gives the expected response
This behavior is by design. If there is any text selected, Enter will act as if you were in the presentation mode. This means that Enter will proceed with the next repetition. This makes it easier to execute single-key default review with Enter (i.e. this key may be used to pass many repetitions without the need to focus on the keyboard). Although this behavior is surprising for new users, with time you may find it indispensable for easy handling of the repetition cycle with the keyboard

Enumerations can often be effectively ignored (#13047)
(MM, Saturday, August 10, 2002 12:38 AM)
Could you please help me with extracting items from the following text? I am really not sure where to mark the boundaries of extracts and how to use cloze deletion:

Changing Rates of Mental Illness 

Mental illness is becoming an increasing problem for two reasons. First, increases in life expectancy have brought increased numbers of certain chronic mental illnesses. For example, because more people are living into old age, more people are suffering from dementia. Second, a number of studies provide evidence that rates of depression are rising throughout the world

This fragment is difficult to process because it is an enumeration (list of things) that forms one large logical structure. However, for understanding the subject, you do not really need to remember how many factors affect mental illness. You primarily need to remember the relationship between the cause and the effect. If you ignore the enumeration, you can simply produce the following topics that will each be easy to process further:

If you believe that you cannot live without the enumeration, you can first extract the facts listed above, and then simplify the enumeration by deleting all superfluous information:

Mental illness is increasing for two reasons. First, increases in life expectancy have brought increased chronic illnesses. Second, rates of depression are rising

Done is executed during learning (#941)
(Jerry Ast, Poland, Thursday, August 12, 2004 12:05 AM)
What is the recommended way of using Done: in the learning process or just while browsing?
Done (Ctrl+Shift+Enter) should be executed at the end of processing a piece of text in the learning process. In SuperMemo, you rarely just browse through your collection. To capitalize on each exposure with information, if you need to deal with subset of information, you do that more through subset learning (review) than through browsing. For that reason, Done is almost always executed during learning or during subset review.

Why can I not use Enter to delete selections? (#2950)
(SMPedia, Mar 20, 2007, 09:56:11)
When I edit text, I often want to remove certain words and start a new line. I do this by highlighting what I don't want and hitting enter. But that gives me the message "nothing more to learn" or something like it. It would be nice to have enter work like enter while in editing mode
If you want to delete a selection, use Del or Backspace instead of Enter. Selections followed by Enter are interpreted as read-points with requests for the next element in learning. When you hit Enter for editing purposes, make sure there is no selection in the HTML component.
It may also happen that the selection is empty, and Enter still calls up the next element. This unwanted behavior comes from a bug in Internet Explorer. To avoid this bug:

Postpone dialog makes it possible to employ a large number of postpone rules (#2702)
(O.W.L., Wednesday, August 09, 2006 2:07 AM)
In the article about incremental reading you write With the help of Postpone you can postpone all topics or all topics except the most important articles as indicated by Interval, Priority, etc.. How can I do it? At Learn : Postpone I find only Topics/Items/All
In the Postpone dialog you will find a number of options that make Postpone a flexible and universal tool in reducing your repetition load. When you choose Learn : Postpone : Topics, SuperMemo opens the Postpone dialog box with default settings for postponing topics. By changing those settings, you can modify the way postpone works. For example, on the Parameters tab, in Skip conditions group, in the Topics column, in the Priority row, you can set priority to 1. This will ensure that Postpone will not postpone topics with priority from 0% to 1%

Localized pictures will be deleted only after a confirmation (#636)
(mahabharatta, Feb 12, 2005, 09:34:23)
When I localize pictures in incremental reading, SuperMemo stores the downloaded images in a subdirectory with the HTML file (the standard pair: 18429.htm, 18429_files). With incremental reading, I eventually get rid of that element, using Done (Ctrl+Shift+Enter). Does this eventually delete the 18429_files folder, therefore making images invalid in cloze deletions?
When you try to delete the file with localized pictures, you will get the following warning:

Warning! Objects used by this HTML file will be lost.
Extracted elements may lose part of their content.
Do you still want to delete the file?

If you answer "No", your pictures will be retained. As "No" is the default answer, you will not mistakenly override the default with a successions of Enters at Done. You should remember though, that the original topic file will linger unregistered in your text registry (i.e. it will not be part of any element in the collection). The only way to spot it is to read warnings displayed at File : Repair collection, or manually review the registry

Maximizing attention (#6797)
(Isaev, Vladimir, lis 23, 2005, 15:45:17)
What do you think is the best way of increasing the span and quality of attention in learning and in creative work?
Attention is subject to daily fluctuation along the circadian cycle. It is also subject to homeostatic depression with prolonged mental work. In other words, everyday you got only short windows of time when your attention is maximum. In addition, your total mental energy that can be extracted in each window is limited. Understanding the timing of your circadian rhythms and the natural limits on the attention span might be the first step to take to optimize the timing of mental effort. Once you know the optimum time for creative work, you can maximize attention through neurohormonal control. Again you may need some understanding of psychophysiology and your own mental needs to accomplish this goal. Your primary tool here is passion. If you learn how to become passionate about the task at hand, you are likely to maximize attention. In addition, you can learn to apply lesser tricks such as exercise, caffeine, ambient temperature, intervening tasks, etc. Those need to be used with caution as they can easily backfire. Again, nothing works better than trial and error backed up with some knowledge of the physiology of mental effort. Last but not least, in learning, you can substantially increase attention of less interesting subjects is you use the incremental approach. Incremental reading improves your attention by including attention along your priority criteria. In incremental reading, you can always temporarily de-prioritize the material that undermines your attention. As the effect on attention is highly context dependent, you can always find the best moment at which you tackle a particularly difficult subject

Sorting criteria can help reduce the inflow of new material (#12783)
(Georgios Zonnios, Jan 18, 2007, 16:26:08)
In the Sorting Criteria, there is a setting for the proportion of topics. Which topics is this referring to (i.e. new topics, semi-processed topics, etc.)? And, what is it a proportion of? Is is a proportion of daily repetitions?
Proportion of topics tells you how many topics you will be served during your repetitions as compared with items. If you want to ensure that you keep a high retention of previously added material (as per SuperMemo definition), you cannot overload the learning process with new material (new topics) because you will not have enough time left to do your daily item review. In a healthy learning process, you should limit the inflow of topics to 1:4 or less (i.e. allow of repeating at least 4 old items per each new topic served)

What is the meaning behind "prioritized reading"? (#18385)
(Prajjwal Devkota, Saturday, March 22, 2008 6:51 PM)
I need to do a lot of technical reading. I am curious about what exactly you mean by "import articles from the Internet for prioritized reading" -- does this mean that you can actually import the articles, and do some degree of language processing so that flash cards are automatically generated?
You can import articles from the Internet to SuperMemo. You can prioritize these articles and read them gradually. You can extract portions and prioritize these portions as well. All your reading will happen in order of priority. In the end, you will produce flash card using the tools provided by SuperMemo. This process is manual. You will need to choose appropriate portions of text by yourself, and you will need to point to texts that are to become flashcards as well. Flashcards are prioritized and reviewed in intervals that maximize their retention in memory. You can read more about "incremental reading" here: http://www.supermemo.com/help/read.htm

Every operation in incremental reading should leave a trace in your memory
(marjur, , Thursday, October 15, 2009 16:25)
I plan to start the learning process late at night. The topics and items are mixed. However, I prefer to leave the topics for the end of my learning session, so whenever I get a topic, I execute "Learning->Later today". When I finish with the items, I start working with the topics. But I suddenly may feel tired and decide to go to sleep. What am I supposed to do with such untouched topics? Shall I just leave them untouched? (in that case, will they be automatically rescheduled by SuperMemo) Or maybe I have to manually reschedule them before I close SuperMemo? Or should I quickly display each of them and execute "Learning->Execute repetition" (btw: when do you recommend using "Learning->Execute repetition")

You should always keep in mind two essential rules of incremental reading: Every incremental operation should leave a trace in your memory. One operation on a piece of data is better than two operations at the same time. Those rules will immediately produce the answer to your question. If you have unprocessed topics in the queue, leave them to SuperMemo. Let auto-postpone and auto-sort do the work for you. One of the greatest offences incremental readers commit is to do processing operations without actually learning anything. For example, when a topic arrives, and you take a little peek, you may think: I do not like this one. Let's do it tomorrow. Or I am too sleepy for this one. Or this one will take too much time. If you find yourself in a loop and constantly rescheduling the same topic, or spending time rescheduling a number of topics, you are hurting the efficiency of learning! This is the time that could be spent on more productive steps. If you do not like a topic, you can deprioritize it, or schedule it at a remote date once. Otherwise, you should do something. Anything that will bring you closer to either processing the topic or deleting it altogether. You could just read the first sentence and decide how to process it. If you then Execute Repetition, you will at least be one step closer to having that topic processed or eliminated.
Working on your items before you work on your topics takes away some fun from learning. Consider simply reducing the topic load in the outstanding queue with the help of the sorting criteria.
Execute Repetition is probably most useful when deciding the timing of the next review for a topic you are just reading. Less often, it might also be used on items that you worry you might forget before the expiration of long intervals proposed by SuperMemo, or that you want to review before a given exam date. However, in most cases you should trust SuperMemo and thus increase the efficiency of learning.

You can edit references in the reference field
(marjur, Poland , Oct 31, 2009, 01:06:20)
Is it possible to edit references once I have them in elements, e.g. delete some parts? If so, how (directly in elements or perhaps in the registry)? Most of my references have this format:
I just wanted to leave #Title, #Author, #Date, #Source, and delete the rest. I'm not sure if it's safe and I don't want to ruin my collection. On your website you wrote something like this: "Important! Do not add texts below references. All reference field area is owned by SuperMemo. Any modifications to that area will be treated as changes to reference fields. Illegal changes will be discarded without warning." What are "illegal changes"? Given this information, I'm not sure if the program will accept reference changes at all
You can edit references in the reference area (which is pink by default). You can safely delete reference fields, but you need to decide if that change should be local (for that element only) or global (for all elements using this reference). You will not be able to delete #Article or #Category fields because they are added automatically to references (not being a part of reference). You can freely change the text of references. Illegal changes are all changes that do not comply with the reference format, e.g. lines that do not start with reference field tags, or lines that start with unknown reference field tags (e.g. #Country). If you are unsure how this process works, import a single article from Wikipedia to a newly created collection, create some extracts and play with editing to see how references are processed.

Should items be converted to plain text in the end?
(marjur, Oct 29, 2009, 20:51:00)
Once fully processed, do you recommend changing ready items from HTML into plain text?
Plain text takes much less space. Your collections will be faster to back up. All you need to make sure is that HTML does not contain information that may be needed to effectively remember the item (e.g. is the context fully retained once references are removed)? In the long run, simple plain text items might do their work better by depriving you of additional cues as to the correct answer. However, you will always get the best answer to your question by simply experimenting on your material. Leave some of your items as HTML and convert some to plain text. After some time you will probably have your own conclusions and preferences.

You can make cloze deletion keyword styles invisible
(jm lopez, Wednesday, November 24, 2010 9:33 PM)
Is there any way to turn off marking words in the clozed deletion? In 2001, I found the following FAQ: Currently you cannot customize cloze deletion behavior. In the future, cloze formats are likely to be customizable. That was 9 years ago, and I could not read any documentation that made the statement clearer.
You can turn off cloze deletion styles using stylesheets. Note, however, that those markings are vital for efficient processing of topic extracts. If you turn off the markings, you will effectively disable incremental reading. If you would like to turn off the markings only in generated cloze deletions, you can use a separate template for generated cloze deletitions that would use styles with invisible cloze styles. In the future, SuperMemo will remove cloze keyword marking from cloze deletions, while leaving them in the processed topic. This will allow of applying incremental reading without generating "unclean" looking clozes

A-Factors can be left unattended
(Henrik, Thursday, May 26, 2011 22:16)
What is your recommended strategy for assigning A-Factors?
Now that you have a priority queue, A-Factors are best left unattended. In items, A-Factors play an important role in the learning algorithm and cannot be changed. However, in topics, the main function of A-Factors is to determine the speed at which the material is getting diluted in incremental reading. For most important articles, you will probably set the next interval manually and thus ignore the A-Factor altogether. For the remaining articles, speed of dilution is of less concern. The sequence of learning is determined by topic priority. Low-priority topics with high A-factors will simply be slightly less likely to be subject to review than topics with lower A-Factors

Is it possible to read PDF articles incrementally?
(Karolina, Poland, Nov 21, 2011, 13:57:39)
Is it possible to read PDF articles incrementally?
You cannot import PDF to HTML components, unless you convert them to HTML (or plain text) first. Alternatively, you can copy and paste from Acrobat to SuperMemo, however, Acrobat will not let you do multipage selections that would paste fast and nicely. Some PDF documents do not even allow of selecting texts. If you want to work incrementally, you can use an alternative strategy:

Cloze deletions work on topics (not on items)
(Benoit, France, Sat, 25 Feb 2012 15:05:28 +0100 (CET))
I have a problem with clozed questions. I click on Add New, then I select a word, click on the "T" or "Alt+Z". But it doesn't work. Logically, the word selected after having pressed "Alt+Z" should be missing in the question and present in the answer. But in the answer I can only see "#p" or "#X" and the word selected is still in the question.
Add New should be used for adding items, while cloze deletion works on topics. You have two choices:

After you execute Cloze deletion, you will not see the cloze (because its appearance is obvious from the shape of the topic). Instead, to save time, you will remain in your topic ready for generating more cloze deletions.

Conglomerating information in spaced repetition results in slower learning
(L.S., Nov 09, 2012, 11:04:45)

I tend to disagree with some of your "20 rules claims". For example,

Q: What was decided at the Council of Trent, beginning in 1545, and how long did the Council go on?
A: The basic beliefs of the Catholic Church; 18 years.

Mixing two questions in one is more efficient and also links related pieces of information together that should be linked together. It is more effortful to remember the answers, I agree, and that is a concern. Occasionally I'll rewrite or simplify a question, or break it into two, if it becomes too difficult.

E.g., asking what the Council of Trent was and how long it went on makes sense because they are both very basic questions about the Council of Trent. If I were to separate them, the neurons wouldn't fire together. It would take a little extra effort to discover that the thing that formed the basic beliefs of the Catholic Church lasted for 18 years. Since he'll be learning both facts at about the same time, why not learn them together?

In the same way, contrary to your advice (sorry!), I do still have full sentence and even two-sentence questions--only occasionally. But the point is that sometimes, the thing that needs to be committed to memory is a narrative, a whole sequence of events and not just particular items from the sequence. Maybe I am wrong, but I think a narrative is best remembered by practicing the narrative.


Two separate memories should be separated in SuperMemo due to the fact that they nearly always will require different timing of repetitions. If you can always activate the same mental pathway in thinking about the Council of Trent ("neurons firing together" in the same pattern), your particular item has a good chance of surviving long in the process without a memory lapse. However, once you build a large database of similar items, and you review your sizeable material under the pressure of time, your review will always tend to strip redundant pieces of information. Overtime, your nice item will be reduced to the bare bones of information that will often fail its primary test: applicability in real life. It may happen, that despite zero memory lapses, in 2-3 years, someone will ask you about a Council of Trent in a new context and you will be amazed that you won't be able to reasonably answer the question despite having all the necessary pieces of information included in your item. Two memories of different difficulty might be compared to two different planes of different flying characteristics. The difficult piece (e.g. 18 year duration of the Council) might be compared to a slow flying plane. The easy piece (here the reference to the Catholic Church) might be compared to a modern jet. Review of the conglomerated item might be compared to flying both planes at the same speed. In an extreme case, this might be impossible. The compromise speed might be too high for a slow plane, which might disintegrate beyond a certain speed limit, while the faster plane cannot slow down enough without stalling.  In our memory, forgetting is equivalent to forgetting, while stalling is caused by the spacing effect. By doing complex and repeatable reasoning at each repetition, you might act as if handling both planes using remote control. However, this is always difficult and requires lots of focus and deliberation at repetitions. Your brain has natural defenses against such "enforced repetitive reasoning". It is designed to be "intellectually lazy" and thus energetically efficient. Practice shows that incremental reading produces many more items. However, those items are usually much easier to remember. In the end, you spend less time on reviewing 5-10 items than you would spend on an item that would conglomerate information and suffered repeated memory lapses or very short intervals.

In the course of the evolution, the brain developed strategies for abstracting away from the details and retaining only the most essential, useful and frequently used information. Those strategies are great for survival, but aren't as good in reaching our educational goals. Council of Trent is a typical example of knowledge we wish to have, but that is pretty expensive. This is because, for most people, it does not get reinforced in run-of-the-mill conversations, TV shows, daily applicability, or at water cooler at work. The situation might differ if you, in particular, read a lot on the subject matter. This might help the memory establish itself in an efficient manner. Incremental reading makes it possible to root such difficult-to-retain knowledge firmly in the context, and still make sure that individual repetitions focus on a very specific and cheap-to-retain memories.

This is how the same paragraph might be processed with incremental reading, and paradoxically cause a significant saving in time in the long run:

Q: The Council of [...], which began in 1545 and lasted for 18 years, made decisions about the basic beliefs of the Catholic Church
A: Trent

Q: The Council of Trent, which began in [...](year) and lasted for 18 years, made decisions about the basic beliefs of the Catholic Church
A: 1545

Q: The Council of Trent, which began in 1545 and lasted for [...] years, made decisions about the basic beliefs of the Catholic Church
A: 18

Q: The Council of Trent, which began in 1545 and lasted for 18 years, made decisions about the basic beliefs of [...]
A: the Catholic Church

Q: The Council of Trent, which began in 1545 and lasted for 18 years, made decisions about [...]
A: (the) beliefs of the Catholic Church

Q: [...], which began in 1545 and lasted for 18 years, made decisions about the basic beliefs of the Catholic Church
A: The Council of Trent

In the end, if you are sure this item works for you, check its performance in the course of the next few years. If you pass the interval of two years without a lapse, you can say that this particular item indeed works for you. In that case, there is no disagreement between you and the 20 rules. It is just that for most people, this item is pretty likely to generate a lapse within two years even if reviewed at correct timing. Depending on the item difficulty, the number of repetitions in the first 2 years might be as low as 3 or well above 20. If your default forgetting index is 10%, this translates to a span from 70% chance of retaining the item to the totally unacceptable 90% chance of forgetting! This last number is little understood and little realized by the users of SuperMemo, and should always make you think a lot about the rules of efficient formulation of knowledge.

For more on the theory of conglomerating information in spaced repetition see Formula 9.4 in the article on building memory stability: http://www.super-memory.com/articles/stability.htm

How do I digest Medical Biology collection?
(Zhanna, Jan 24, 2013)
How do people actually "digest" collections such as cell biology, anatomy, etc. As one of the 20 rules is to understanding before memorizing, do people just open a collection, read the first one. If they understand then great, and if they don't they go digging in alternate sources until they can finally understand that card (compiling new excerpts/learnings along the way) and then proceed with the next one? Is that how people typically deal with non-vocabulary type collections? To contrast this "you're dropped in the water to learn to swim" phenomena, the 'ABC of SuperMemo' collection makes an attempt at gradually informing the student of new information in a reasonable order.

If this "dropped in the water to swim" approach was intended, then is the value of a collection "Cell Biology" that it gives you a wide enough "base" such that when you're done learning those cards and doing all the prep work to really understand the cards (by adding potentially 1, 10, 20, etc.. supplementary cards), that you are assured that you would have sufficient coverage over the general category of "Cell Biology"?

Medical Biology collection attempts to sort items by their importance. Usually, basic level items come early, however, some advanced level items may also show up if their importance to understanding medical biology is high. Independent of the student level, this will always make it hard to learn the collection efficiently without supplementary material. SuperMemo provides a wide set of tools needed to memorized the entire collection fast and with understanding, however, the exact strategy will depend on your level, interests, goals, etc.

The most important tool you will need to master the collection efficiently is incremental reading. Incremental reading will help you import supplementary materials from the Internet and convert it into new knowledge that will explain or supplement the material collected in Medical Biology.

Here is an exemplary strategy that might work for you:

  1. review a new item from Medical Biology
  2. if you understand the item, set its priority (see: Priority Queue for more)
  3. if you do not understand the item, your actions will depend on the importance of the item for further learning: if you do not wish to learn the item, dismiss it or delete it
  4. if the item you do not understand seems important, import supplementary material (e.g. from Wikipedia)(see: Web imports), set item's priority, and postpone the item (e.g. use Ctrl+J and provide an interval, e.g. of 30 days, to review the same item later, once the supplementary material is well consolidated)
  5. make sure your auto-sort and auto-postpone options are on
  6. continue with the next item (or the stream of new topics, extracts and items generated with the supplementary material)

You do not need to limit the speed of learning, or the amount of items learned per day. As long as you set your priorities right, you will be amazed with the progress. Remember to reformulate items that are difficult to remember, add comments, make sure your knowledge is up-to-date with new research, etc. Continue learning about SuperMemo and incremental reading. Your strategies and techniques will evolve. Remember that it takes considerable time to become a master student. Where you hesitate today, you will automatically execute optimum actions that will make for your optimum strategy.

Grouping and organizing is a great idea to deal with enumerations
(Karl, Mar 5, 2013, Tue, 13:45)
You state to avoid enumerations wherever you can and if you cannot avoid them then to deal with them using cloze deletions (overlapping cloze deletions if possible). Also you state that cloze deletions should be simpler than grouping in most cases. Wouldn't grouping though, be avoiding enumerations all together?
Yes. Grouping or organizing your enumerations changes their semantic structure and status. Grouped enumerations obtain a new meaning and as such are no longer enumerations in the learning sense. Cloze deletions might be simpler in that they require just a few clicks, while grouping requires some effort. However, grouping will always be superior and the extra effort will be paid back with better learning and better recall. In other words, you should avoid enumerations, use cloze deletions at the very minimum, and, if possible, try to better organize knowledge for learning. Naturally, once you group your enumerations, they are still best tackled with cloze deletions.

Does incremental reading make you smarter?
(T.Sz., Mar 7, 2010)
Say I use SuperMemo for a couple of years. How will that affect how I am perceived by others? Will they see the difference? Will I be smarter and appear smarter? Will I be able to shine with knowledge in social circles? What do people say after 20 years of using incremental reading?
Incremental reading is only roughly a decade old, so you won't find users with 20 years of experience. Moreover, the essential concept of the priority queue is just four years old (introduced in 2006). Without the priority queue, massive learning may lead to massive chaos.

Incremental reading is faster

Despite the young age of incremental reading, it is easy to theorize about its power. This is because learning with incremental reading isn't much different in its ultimate effect as other forms of learning (e.g. extensive reading, studying for the university, research, etc.). For that reason, the results will be comparable. The main difference is that you will get to the levels of higher knowledge much faster (assuming sufficient skills). This way, someone with a few months of intense incremental reading, may get the knowledge and act not much different than a university graduate. Naturally, incremental reading will not substitute for laboratory practice, problem solving, discussions with friends and professors, etc. So there will be differences. You can then ask: how does the university make you into a better person?

No amount of learning can eliminate ignorance

If you hope that incremental reading will make you a universally knowledgeable and smart, you are wrong. Human knowledge is vast enough for a 2-year-old to know things than a PhD does not know (esp. if he is trained for the trick: Capital of Burkina Faso anyone?).

Incremental readers are different

Incremental reading is more likely to be less focused and more general. At the university, you may learn extensively on a specific subject, while in incremental reading you are more likely to stray to multiple related areas depending on your interests and the encountered gaps in knowledge. Your priorities will reflect your individual profile and your knowledge may be far more customized to your own needs and passions. All in all, an incremental reader will not differ much from a well-learned person. The main difference may come in personality because only a few have the mental characteristics needed to get interested and then sustain the incremental reading process. Thus incremental readers may appear more knowledgeable just because of their natural curiosity or even obsession with knowledge.

Nobody likes a smart aleck

It is not how others perceive you that matters, but how your thinking and ability to solve problems changes. In most cases, few people in your surroundings care about your problems and your goals. The knowledge you obtain for those goals will be of little interest to others (beyond a narrow circle of close friends). If you ever attempt to show off at parties, you will rather be politely dismissed as an annoyance. Being a smart aleck is universally perceived in a negative light. If you shine with your knowledge in a relevant context (i.e. not for the sake of shining), the perception will be different. We all love the doctor that can provide an accurate diagnosis at a glance and instantly come up with a solution to your health problem. However, chances are rather slim that you will be able to show off your specialist knowledge at a party (unless it is a professional party of your colleague in the field).
Reward in higher awareness

The greatest advantage of incremental reading may show in the areas of general knowledge. These are the areas that most of people neglect due to a simple lack of time and lack of sufficient pressure or motivation. A student may need to study for his geography course, a medical researcher may need to read dozens of papers, but they both may have too little time or need to refresh the ABC of physics that might otherwise be useful in understanding things that happen around them. An obsessive incremental reader might therefore reach a sort of higher level of awareness. If you hear about a chaffinch for the first time in your life, you might likely say "I have never seen that bird". However, you might then be amazed if you see the bird a few times in the course of the following week. 
With a narrow focus, few people are able to point to the galaxies that are likely to collide with the Milky Way. Knowledge and understanding of similar facts and processes may seem to have little application to daily activities, however, it does seem to change how people view their place in this universe.  Ignorance is blind. Knowledge makes you see things that others do not see. That should be sufficient reward.

Incremental reading can make you smarter

All smart learning makes you smarter. Incremental reading helps you learn faster. As a result, if you do things smart, with incremental reading you can get smart faster. The smarter you get, the faster you get smarter.

For more ideas see: Get smarter with incremental reading, with suggestions like (1) incremental reading bolsters generalization, (2) incremental reading expands the limits of possible, and (3) incremental reading generates a vast data bank of information useful in daily decision-making.

Interleaving improves learning
(SuperMemoUser, Aug 5, 2014, Tue, 00:55)
Dr Robert Bjork says that successful interleaving allows you to “seat” each skill among the others: “If information is studied so that it can be interpreted in relation to other things in memory, learning is much more powerful” . There’s one caveat: Make sure the mini skills you interleave are related in some higher-order way. If you’re trying to learn tennis, you’d want to interleave serves, backhands, volleys, smashes, and footwork—not serves, synchronized swimming, European capitals, and programming in Java. Incremental reading makes interleaving possible, but also destroys the required unit. You can get topics about European Capitals, programming in Java and a boxing training video all in the same session. Also, this faq says that interleaving Spanish and martial arts lessons should be beneficial, contradicting what was said there. Answer:
Bjork's advice is correct. Note that he is not saying "Mixing Spanish with martial arts is not beneficial". All he says that for the sake of efficient concept learning or neural generalization, mixing martial arts with boxing, or mixing Spanish with Portuguese might be even more beneficial due to a neural or conceptual overlap. Naturally, there is more to learning and life than just learning efficiency. This is why all forms of exercise benefit learning as much as all forms of learning benefit learning for trophic reasons. This simply means that a healthy body and a health brain are also beneficial and your optimizations will always be multicriterial. Perhaps to maximize your Spanish results, you might do 70% Spanish, 15% Portuguese (for conceptual overlap) and 15% martial arts (for overall health benefit).

A more general problem in incremental learning is the degree to which you employ interleaving. You will always want to find a golden mean between these two extremes:

In incremental reading, you can always seek the optimum between the two with the help of knowledge selection, prioritization, subset review, and other tools. Your optimum will very from day to day. You will shift towards subject review when preparing for an exam or in creative mode (e.g. incremental writing, problem solving, etc.). You will shift towards interleaved learning when free to look for solid long-term learning outcomes.

One of the chief tools in working in the optimum zone is managing overload.

Incremental reading impairs deep reflection
(anonymous, USA, Oct 28, 2015, Wed, 12:37)
If you hurry through boatloads of information. Where is the time for deep reflection in incremental reading? All yours texts speak of speed, productivity, massive learning, thousands of articles, etc. It looks like there is no space for slowing down, big picture, or deep reflection!
One of the main advantages of incremental reading is its support for deep reflection! Note that among the advantages of incremental reading listed here, several contribute to boosting deep reflection. These are: comprehension, creativity boost,  stresslessness, meticulousness, attention and fun! In short, you reflect better if you understand better. Creativity generates new material for deep reflection. Stresslessness frees your mind to soar. Meticulousness helps your reflect without missing a detail. All that would not be possible without reaching your best level of attention while simply enjoying the reading/thinking process.

Here are some areas of help in deep reflection:

Pure reflection: What if you already have your article ready? If so, you do not need article selection, preview, prioritization, etc. If you do not plan to use spaced repetition, you can just read once and reflect. Indeed, if you take away all extra variables, reading in SuperMemo may no longer have its advantages. However, there are no disadvantages either (beyond the usual opportunity costs). Moreover, the experience shows that once you get the gist of incremental reading, the proportion of reading "outside SuperMemo" will continually decline. This has little do to with a psychological change, let alone negative psychological change. The process is simply driven by human love for productivity. The advantages of incremental reading compared with reading on paper, as simply staggering. You can enjoy your "deep reflection" with incremental reading as much as you enjoy it with a paper book. The degree of the depth of your "reflection" is really up to you. Technology only makes life easier by taking away bookkeeping and all needless worries associated with information overload.

Misperception: Incremental reading is often misperceived as having qualities that might result in a false diagnosis like yours:

In reality, when employed judiciously, incremental reading will help you achieve "deep reflection" where information overload or insufficient time may make it hard. If you happen to have your perfect book on an uninhabited island with sufficient time for reflection, you do not need incremental reading. However, you are more likely to be faced with dozens of relevant articles that you need to read in order to get a grasp of an issue.

What is deep reflection?

Last but not last, "deep reflection" should rather be called plain thinking (as a process), or plain understanding (as an outcome). We do not need a new term for thinking or understanding. Whether it is deep or not, it largely depends on the thinker, and not on a particular reading strategy.