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SRS Scoring Heuristics: How To Decide What Score To Give Yourself When You’re On The Fence, So You Can Move The Heck On With SRSing and Life in General

ニャ@SRS Scoring and Second-Guessing

How do you score a card when you had it totally right on first instinct, but then you second-guessed yourself and decided that you were probably thinking of something else and that you didn’t really know the word, only to find out that your initial instinct was right after all? In one sense, you were immediately, instinctively right. In another sense, you failed completely, because in the end you wouldn’t have said/written anything out of fear that it was wrong.

Mariah@How To Score Reps In Surusu

One thing that’s always bugged me with this is, what do you rank it if you have to use the hint? For example, if you can’t remember it at all and then read the hint and get it completely correct, would you still rate it as a zero? Or if you partially remember it but then fully remember it after reading the hint, would you rank it a one? Because I feel like I might be grading myself too harshly by doing this…

Time wasted on decisions is the worst kind. Not only does it waste time 1, but it weakens the body. Notice how virtually none of us these days do manual labor, yet at the end of the day, we are often as tired as if we’d been lifting 90-pound roof tiles. That there is the very real, physical — somatic — cost of worrying, of fretting, of being unable to make decisions quickly.

Being able to make decisions is great. The more decisions you’re allowed to make, the freer you are. But a decision can and will also become toxic if allowed to remain “in the body”, “in the system”, as it were, for too long.

OK, enough shady pop philosophy. Here’s an SRS scoring heuristic to make your decisions faster = life easier.

It’s simple.

  • If you’re stuck between two scores, say a 4 and a 5, take the high ground: give yourself the higher score.
  • If you’re stuck between many (i.e. three or more) scores, say: a 2, a 3 and a 4, move to the middle: give yourself the midpoint score.

Let’s review:

  • Two? Take the top.
  • Many? Move to middle.

GLOAF. Give your body and mind a rest. Don’t wear it down by letting petty decisions, like the SRS score on one card, sit and stew. No stewing. Score and move on.

PS: What if “many” is an even number (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4)? No problem. All that means is that your midpoint score is two scores. So do it in two moves, which is to say:

  1. move to the middle (e.g. 2,3), and then,
  2. take the top (e.g. 3).

PPS: In most cases of confusion or uncertainty, I would just go for the (overall) midpoint score, which happens to be a 3 in Surusu. Think of it as your default.


  1. Time wasted wasted time. You can tell I ate my insight bar this morning.

  7 comments for “SRS Scoring Heuristics: How To Decide What Score To Give Yourself When You’re On The Fence, So You Can Move The Heck On With SRSing and Life in General

  1. Squimpleton
    April 13, 2012 at 11:49

    I pick the first score that comes to mind. The way I see it, if I’m wrong, the next time the card comes around my knowledge (or lack thereof) will let me score appropriately.

    Yes, there are times when I pick a score and I go “oh **** I really should have gone with the other”, but then I just let it go. No point worrying about it. Grab a score and go. 

  2. Thomas Smith
    April 13, 2012 at 21:13

    I’ve been SRSing for about 9 months now. Although I’m usually an anxiety goblin who worries about everything, it never occurred to me to worry about how to grade a card. So I’ve just been bashing the keys on instinct and immediately. My reaction to this article was 100% surprise to learn that anybody worries about grading.
    The point for you guys is this: I’ve done zero worrying for 9 months and the scheduling has been fine. So if you want to worry less, you can rest assured that the scheduling will still be OK. It is safe to chill. 🙂

  3. Perry
    April 14, 2012 at 13:18

    For Anki, if I don’t know it or I need to read the story to write the kanji, I grade it a 1 and do it again. When it comes up again I just hit spacebar, which let’s Anki decide the best grade (which is usually a 2 if you answered it wrong that day.)
    If I can answer it correctly I just hit spacebar and move on. If I felt it was ridiculously easy, like 木、I’ll grade it very easy. Usually it’s just a hit of the spacebar, minimal thinking, minimal effort.

  4. Clint
    April 20, 2012 at 05:51

    I use Surusu and I…so rarely give myself a 5. I only really do it if I’m just sick and tired of seeing the card, and would like it go away for months/years. Maybe I’m grading myself too harshly, but it seems right for me. I like having more reps I think 😀

    But yeah, my default is 4 if I got it right, 3 if I got it right after serious hesitation (30-60 seconds or more), 2 if I got it wrong but was, like, super close mentally and 0 if I just totally drew a blank. I hardly ever use 1…can’t fathom a purpose for it.

    Sometimes I’ll score myself a 3 knowing I will see it in exactly the same amount of time as the last interval, if I just really like the card or am having some struggle with it. 

  5. April 26, 2012 at 13:07

    I don’t think I’ve ever been consistent about this, but maybe it’s not that important, because:
    A, I’ll certainly see the card again, B, it’s one freaking entry out of thousands, and C, anything really important will turn up again in another context.
    In short, I just wing it.

  6. Kimura
    May 5, 2012 at 02:55

    The way I’ve been doing it for the Lazy Kanji deck in Anki:

    *Remembered the keyword just by seeing the kanji: Very Easy
    *Didn’t recall from the kanji itself, but remembered after reading the sentence with the kanji: Easy
    *Didn’t recall even with the sentence, but was on the right track: Hard
    *Total failure, not even close, “D’oh I missed!”: もう一度 (but I almost never use this button outside of the first or second review)

    If I stick to these guidelines, I can usually power through a 25-block of kanji in about two minutes (I have all my decks timeboxed to questionlimit=25, another reason I really don’t like using the もう一度 button because it messes up the cardcount for the rest of that day).

  7. Thomas
    August 13, 2012 at 14:42

    I think this all depends on the software you use to learn.
    Mnemosyne/iSRS make you give a score between 0 and 5, that is 6 scores in total ! That’s way too much
    Some other methods give you the choice of Yes or No. Not enough.
    I moved to using JapanEasy[1] (seems to be iOS only) and they ask for Yes/No/Maybe which is to my mind the best way to do it. I don’t spend time worrying whether I should rate this card 2 or 3 like I did with other methods and this gave me tremendous results. (and I like the example sentences that you can access from all the cards btw)


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