120 Days to TOPIK #4 – Learn 3600 Words in 4 Months Practicing only 30 Minutes Per Day!

Inspiration

In previous posts, I’ve gone over the first 1-3 points in the following list. Today, we’ll tackle number 4-5 with Spaced Repetition Systems (and after learning about SRS, I am MOST excited about getting started with it myself). In review, for language learning, we want to:

  1. Make our memories as deep and multi-sensory as possible (Day 2)
  2. Study as little as possible (Day 3)
  3. Practice recall as much as possible (Day 3)
  4. Make recall practice challenging but not too hard
  5. Nearly forget vocab, but not forget completely – at just the last minute, recall it, or use immediate feedback (checking flashcards) to immediately get us right back on track

Here are two extremes of memory recall:

  1. Extreme long-term: wait years between practice sessions / forget almost everything
  2. Extreme short-term: practice all the time / be buried in hours of work every day

In our Daily practice, we should:

  1. Learn new words
  2. Remember words from last week
  3. Recall some words from months or years back

Spaced Repetition Systems

Here’s a pretty wild claim from Fluent Forever regarding SRS:

In a four-month period, practicing for 30 minutes a day, you can expect to learn and retain 3600 flash cards with 90 to 95 percent accuracy.

How can we do that?

  1. On the computer (takes care of all the spacing automatically for you)
  2. On paper (more work, but potentially more fun)

The Computer Method:

  • Advantage: shorter time to construct the list and get started (some lists already exist)
  • Disadvantage: shorter time working with each word at first and forming initial memories
  1. SRS: will automatically teach you 20-30 new cards and quiz you on the 100 or so cards you’re about to forget
  2. You: tell your SRS whether or not you remember a particular card
  3. SRS: builds a daily, customized to-do list based upon your input
  4. You: Work on your SRS every day

The Paper Method:

  • Advantage: you’ll learn a lot more while making your cards, plus it just FEELS better because it’s a kind of “I build this thing with my own two hands” kind of feeling
  • Disadvantage: longer time requirement to get started
  1. Materials:
    1. A BUNCH of index cards (1,000-3,000+)
    2. A large flash card file box
    3. 8 index card dividers “New”, “Level 1”, “Level 2” … “Level 7”
    4. A carefully designed schedule (calendar)
    5. Colorful pens/pencils
    6. These simple instructions
  2. Levels: 7 – corresponding to 7 labeled sections in your flashcard box
  3. Basic concept:
    1. Every card starts at Level 1
    2. It moves to the next Level when you successfully remember it
    3. It move BACK to Level 1 if/when you forget it
    4. When a card moves beyond Level 7, congratulations! It is now stored in long-term memory! (If you win, you can expect to remember each of your cards for more than a year)
  4. Rules: 
    1. Pick up a card and ask yourself: “Do I remember what’s on the back of this card?”
      1. The pronunciation
      2. The word/image
      3. The proper spelling
      4. The conjugation/usage
      5. The full phrase
    2. If “YES”, move the card up one Level; if “NO” move the card ALL the way to Level 1 (no matter which level it’s resting at now)
    3. This is your daily practice:
      1. Add 15-30 NEW cards into Level 1
      2. Review your cards according to the Game Schedule
      3. Missed days: Do ALL your reviews from missed days, beginning with your highest level cards first (you can skip learning new cards that day if necessary)
  5. Schedule: (review your cards in the following intervals)
    1. Level 1: Review DAILY
    2. Level 2: Review every SECOND day
    3. Level 3: Review after 4 days
    4. Level 4: After 8 days
    5. Level 5: After 16 days
    6. Level 6: After 32 days
    7. Level 7: After 64 days
    8. WIN! Welcome to long-term memory!

Here’s a calendar (called the Leitner Game Schedule):

Week 1

1


Level 2, 1

2


Level 3, 1

3


Level 2, 1

4


Level 4, 1

5


Level 2, 1

6


Level 3, 1

7


Level 2, 1
Week 2

8


Level 1

9


Level 2, 1

10


Level 3, 1

11


Level 2, 1

12


Level 5, 1

13


Level 4, 2, 1

14


Level 3, 1
Week 3

15


Level 2, 1

16


Level 1

17


Level 2, 1

18


Level 3, 1

19


Level 2, 1

20


Level 4, 1

21


Level 2, 1
Week 4

22


Level 3, 1

23


Level 2, 1

24


Level 6, 1

25


Level 2, 1

26


Level 3, 1

27


Level 2, 1

28


Level 5, 1
Week 5

29


Level 4, 2, 1

30


Level 3, 1

31


Level 2, 1

32


Level 1

33


Level 2, 1

34


Level 3, 1

35


Level 2, 1
Week 6

36


Level 4, 1

37


Level 2, 1

38


Level 3, 1

39


Level 2, 1

40


Level 1

41


Level 2, 1

42


Level 3, 1
Week 7

43


Level 2, 1

44


Level 5, 1

45


Level 4, 2, 1

46


Level 3, 1

47


Level 2, 1

48


Level 1

49


Level 2, 1
Week 8

50


Level 3, 1

51


Level 2, 1

52


Level 4, 1

53


Level 2, 1

54


Level 3, 1

55


Level 2, 1

56


Level 7, 1
Week 9

57


Level 2, 1

58


Level 3, 1

59


Level 6, 2, 1

60


Level 5, 1

61


Level 4, 2, 1

62


Level 3, 1

63


Level 2, 1
Week 10/1

64


Level 1

1


Level 2, 1

2


Level 3, 1

3


Level 2, 1

4


Level 4, 1

5


Level 2, 1

6


Level 3, 1

Printable:

4-leitner-game-calendar

What this looks like in practice:

  1. Day 1: Level 2 is empty, so just create your first set of 30 cards and review them until every card can be moved to Level 2. Then you’re done.
  2. Day 2: Level 3 is empty, so just create your second set of 30 cards, review them until every card can be moved to Level 3, and you’re done.
  3. Day 3: Review Level 2 (every card once) which now has 60 cards – if you remember, move it on to Level 3; if you forget, move it back down to Level 1. Next, create and review your third set of 30 cards (along with your forgotten Level 3 cards) and move everything into Level 2. Now, you’re done for the day.
  4. Days 4-64: Continue in this manner until you complete the cycle completely.
  5. Days 64+: Repeat the cycle in this manner indefinitely (or until fluency).

Challenge

Decide whether you want to use the computer-based system or follow the handmade paper-based system and GET STARTED TODAY!

  1. Gather up all your materials
  2. Create your cards (or add a list that you’ve previously created)
  3. And work through the cards until at least 30 of them are in Level 2
  4. Then, commit yourself to coming back tomorrow to continue in this manner (and print off the calendar if you’re doing the paper-based system)

Resources

For computer based SRS, be sure to check out the following resources:

  1. Anki (we also have Anki decks built for our full 960-word Beginner vocab list here)
  2. Quizlet (here’s our page)
  3. Memrise (upcoming)
  4. Printable Leitner Calendar

Over to you

So what do you think about today’s Challenge? Have you ever used a SRS before? Do you know of any more Resources that I don’t?

Frankly, I’d heard about SRS before, but never understood them in such great detail. I’m excited to get started! This sounds like a really promising and effective way to nearly DOUBLE my vocabulary before the TOPIK test.

I’d personally love to get through this cycle TWICE before October 18, and today (June 25) marks only 115 days until the test. So, in order to do that, I’d need to start on around Day 13 or 14 of the cycle, and it might not be quite worth it. I’ll consider what I’m going to do and let you know in the next post.

Now, why don’t you let me know about YOUR PLANS in the Comments below? Or, if you’d like to share on social media, use the hashtag #120TOPIK so we can find each other. Best of luck!~

2 comments

  1. Thank you so much for your blog and your wonderful posts! I just bought 2400 note cards and am currently working on my own Leitner game/schedule!

    1. Excellent! I used to HATE vocab because I didn’t really know HOW to do it. But after reading about these methods, it’s really empowered me – so I wanted to share what I learned with my readers.

      In only 10 days using this schedule, I’ve already gone through 300 vocabulary words with about 50 in Level 4, 80 in Level 3, 30 in Level 2, 40 in Level 1. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing some MASSIVE progress by the end (at least massive compared to what I HAD been doing 🙂 Keep up the good work!~

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