Incremental reading

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Introduction to incremental reading

Traditional linear reading is highly inefficient. This comes from the fact that various pieces of the text are of various importance. Some should be skipped. Others should be read in the first order of priority. Old-fashioned books are quickly being replaced with hypertext. Hypertext will help you quickly jump to information that is the most important at any given moment. Hypertext requires a different style of writing. All linear texts can assume that the reader is familiar with the preceding sections. This makes them context-poor. Within hypertext, individual texts become context-independent, and all difficult terms and concepts are explained primarily with additional hyperlinks. In the same way in which the web helped delinearize the global sources of information, SuperMemo can help you delinearize your reading of whatever linear material you decide to import to SuperMemo. While reading with SuperMemo, you will see a linear text as a sequence of sections subdivided into paragraphs and individual sentences. SuperMemo will help you provide a separate and independent processing for each section, paragraph or sentence.

What is incremental reading?

Incremental reading is a learning technique that makes it possible to read thousands of articles at the same time without getting lost. Incremental reading begins with importing articles from electronic sources, e.g. the Internet. The student then extracts the most important fragments of individual articles for further review. Extracted fragments are then converted into questions and answers. These in turn become subject to systematic review and repetition that maximizes the long-term recall. The review process is handled by the proven spaced repetition algorithm known as the SuperMemo method.

Incremental reading converts electronic articles into durable knowledge in your memory. This conversion requires minimum keyboard&mouse work:

  • Input: electronic articles (e.g. collected from the net)
  • Output: well-remembered knowledge (quizzed regularly in the form of questions and answers)

In incremental reading, 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 months later. Your progress with individual articles may be slow, but you greatly increase your efficiency by paying less attention to less important articles and spending more time on articles that are more beneficial to your knowledge. Difficult articles may wait until you read easier explanatory articles, etc. 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.

Warning! Incremental reading may seem complex at first. However, once you master it, you will begin a learning process that will surpass your expectations. You will be surprised with the volume of data your memory can process and retain!

Five basic skills of incremental reading

Incremental reading requires skills that you will perfect only over months and years of use. This overview will only help you master the basic skills and help you make a start with incremental reading. The 5 basic skills are:

Skill 1: Importing articles

Five article import methods

Initially, you may limit your imports to a simple copy&paste of individual articles. Later, you will want to master automatic imports from the web that offer many advantages.

Here are the 5 main article import methods in SuperMemo:

Import by Copy&Paste

To import an article with copy and paste, follow these steps:

Please remember that if you have many articles opened in Internet Explorer, you can most easily import them with web import as described in the next section.

Import of multiple articles

The most convenient way to import learning materials to SuperMemo is a direct import of multiple articles right from the web. To import many articles at the same time, open these articles in Internet Explorer, and click the Import button on the learnbar (or press Ctrl+Shift+A, or chose Edit : Web import : All on the main menu). To avoid importing advertising and other garbage, in Internet Explorer, select portions of the text that is to be imported. If you select texts before imports, you are less likely to need filters to get rid of troublesome HTML (available by pressing F6 on the imported article). If you prefer to use other browsers, e.g. Chrome or Firefox, you will need to use Copy&Paste method, or re-open the selected articles in Internet Explorer. This is because, at the moment, SuperMemo supports direct imports only from Internet Explorer.

For more details on importing multiple articles see: Web import

Dedicated imports (Wikipedia, YouTube, and pictures)

The most popular sources of learning materials are Wikipedia (for incremental reading) and YouTube (for incremental video). For those sources, you have separate options available on the import menu (right click on the Paste an article button on the learnbar). You can also use shortcuts Ctrl+Shift+W (Wikipedia) and Ctrl+Shift+Y (YouTube) to import from those two sources. If you choose those options, only articles available from those sources will be displayed on the import list. Additionally, a dedicated filter will best prepare the imported pages for convenient learning.

SuperMemo: A topic with an article about the greenhouse effect imported from Wikipedia

Figure: After importing an article about the greenhouse effect from Wikipedia (e.g. with Edit : Web import : Wikipedia (Shift+Ctrl+W)), its entire text is stored in a single topic.

If you want to import pictures, you can also use a picture filter that will ignore all non-picture pages opened in Internet Explorer. Use Import pictures on the Paste an article button menu on the learnbar (right click). You can also click Filter : Pictures in the web import dialog when importing pages (e.g. with Ctrl+Shift+A).

For more details see: Web import

Importing articles from local files

If you want to import articles from files that reside on your local drive, you can use the following methods:

Skill 2: Reading articles

Here is a simplified algorithm for reading articles:

  1. Choose an article: Import an article as explained earlier or bring up previously imported articles with Learn (Ctrl+L). Learn will display only articles imported in the past. If you import an article, and want to have it shown later during a learning session on the same day, you must place it in the outstanding queue (e.g. Learning : Later today on the element menu, Ctrl+Shift+J, etc.). If you import many articles that you want to process on the same day, you must place them all in the outstanding queue. For example, open the articles in the browser, and choose Learning : Add all to outstanding (or use Add to outstanding icon on the browser toolbar). Most of the time you can rely solely on Learn to schedule articles optimally for review.
  2. Click the article to enter the editing mode, in which you can modify text, select fragments, etc. Optionally, use filter (F6), if the text is hard to process (e.g. selections are hard, extracts not marked correctly, etc.)
  3. Start reading the article from the top or from the last read point
  4. Extract texts: If you encounter an interesting text in the article, select it and choose Remember extract on the learnbar (or press Alt+X). This operation will introduce the extracted fragment into the learning process as an independent mini-article. If you would like to specify the priority of the new extract, choose Reading : Schedule extract (Reading : Schedule extract, available on the Read toolbar, enables you to specify the priority of a text fragment being extracted) instead of Remember extract. Also, if you have an impression that the article is difficult and you would like to read some fragments later, extract those fragments with Reading : Schedule extract and provide a review interval that will reflect the time you believe you will be better equipped to understand the extracted fragment.
  5. Optionally, use Delete before cursor (Alt+\). This will delete the text that you have read, clean up the article, remove garbage, and help tackle HTML that is difficult to process.
  6. Optionally, if you read a fragment that seems unimportant, select it (e.g. with the mouse) and either delete it (e.g. with the Del key) or mark it with the ignore style. To mark a text as ignore, choose Reading : Ignore on the component menu, click the Ignore text button (Reading : Ignore makes it possible for you to mark an unimportant fragment with the ignore style) on the Read toolbar, or just press Ctrl+Shift+I.
  7. Optionally, if the selected fragment does not include all the important reading context, you can add this context manually. For example, if you are learning history, you may extract the following fragment from an article about Lincoln: On Sept. 22, 1862, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, one of the most important messages in the history of the world. He signed it Jan. 1, 1863. If you would like to extract the fragment related to signing the Emancipation Proclamation, you will need to change He to Lincoln and it to Emancipation Proclamation so that your stand-alone fragment is understandable: Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. You can use the Reference options on the component menu to easily add context to your extracts (see: References). Context added by Reference will be added automatically to all extracts of a given article. For example, select the text that you want to serve as the reference title of all extracts and choose Reference : Title on the HTML component menu (or press Alt+T). This text will appear at the bottom of all extracts (in reference pink font by default).
  8. Optionally, mark your last read point: Once you decide to stop reading the article before its end, mark the last processed fragment as the read-point (e.g. with Ctrl+F7 or by choosing Reading : Read-points : Set read-point from the HTML component menu). Next time you come back to this same article, SuperMemo will highlight your read-point and you will be able to resume reading from the point you last stopped reading the article. To go to your current read point, press Alt+F7. If you forget to set a read-point, SuperMemo will leave a read-point at the place of your last extract or last highlight.
  9. Go to the next article: After you finish reading a portion of one article, choose Learn or Next repetition to proceed with reading other articles. Those buttons are located at the bottom of the element window. You can also use Enter, which will work as long as the selection in the text is not empty (e.g. marked as a reading point), or if you have left the editing mode (e.g. with Esc). If no text is selected, Enter will add a new line in the text (as is the case with standard text editors).
  10. Optionally, determine the next review date (e.g. with Ctrl+Shift+R), or set the new priority for the article (e.g. with Alt+P).
  11. In incremental reading, interrupted reading is a rule, not an exception! With a dose of practice, you will quickly get accustomed to this not-so-natural state of affairs and learn to appreciate the power of the incremental approach. The main role of interruption is to prevent the decline in the quality of reading. Use the following criteria to decide when to stop reading the article:
    • lack of time: if you still have many articles for review for a given day and your time is running out, keep your increments shorter. After some time, being in a hurry will be a norm and you will tend to read only 1-2 paragraphs of each article and dig deeper only into groundbreaking articles that will powerfully affect your knowledge.
    • boredom: if the article tends to make you bored, stop reading. Your attention span is always limited. If your focus is poor, you will benefit more from the article if you return to it after some break. Go on to reading something that you are not yet tired of. If SuperMemo schedules the next review at a date you consider too late, use Ctrl+J or Shift+Ctrl+R to adjust the next review date.
    • lack of understanding: if you feel you need more knowledge before you are able to understand the article, postpone it (e.g. use Ctrl+J or Shift+Ctrl+R and schedule the next review in 100 days or so). If you believe you have already imported articles with relevant explanatory knowledge, you can search for these articles (e.g. with Ctrl+F). Once you find them, you can (1) execute a subset review, or (2) add the articles to the outstanding queue for reading on the same day, or (3) advance the articles (for example, in the browser, you can execute: Learning : Review all, or Learning : Add to outstanding, or Advance : Topics). If you have not yet imported any explanatory articles, you can do it now (e.g. search the web and import articles as explained before). Note that you can select a piece of text in SuperMemo and use Ctrl+F3 to search encyclopedias or dictionaries for more material on a given subject.
    • lower priority: read lower priority articles in smaller portions thus reducing the overall time allocation to low priority subjects.
    • overload: if you have a long queue of articles to read, you will naturally read in smaller portions
  12. Once you complete reading the entire article and have extracted all the interesting fragments, choose Done! (Learning : Done will remove the article from the review process, and delete its contents (without deleting the extracted material) on the learnbar. You can also press Shift+Ctrl+Enter, choose Done! in the Commander, or choose Learning : Done on the element menu. Done! will dismiss the article and delete its contents (without deleting the extracted material). Done will delete a childless article (i.e. an article that did not provide any interesting extract). Using Done will greatly reduce the size of your collection and eliminate "dead hits" when searching for texts.

The Read toolbar docked at the learnbar. It hosts options used in incremental reading.

Figure: The Read toolbar docked at the learnbar. It hosts options used in incremental reading.

Skill 3: Extracting fragments, questions and answers

Extracting texts

In the course of traditional reading, we often mark important paragraphs with a highlighter pen. In SuperMemo, those paragraphs can be extracted as separate mini-articles that will later be used to refresh your memory. Each extracted paragraph or section becomes a new element that will be subject to the same reading algorithm as the original article. Extract important fragments and single sentences with Extract (SuperMemo: Extract button on the learnbar in the element window). Use Alt+X, Extract on the learnbar, or Extract on the Read toolbar.

Adding references

In incremental reading, you always need to quickly recover the context of a question or a piece of text. The easiest way to recover context quickly is via references. References propagate from element to element as you produce extracts and cloze deletions. With all child elements produced from a given text marked with references, you would never need to worry about losing the context of the question. When you import from the web, references are added automatically. You can also define them manually field by field. Exemplary references are shown in pink in the picture below. For details see: References.

SuperMemo: An extract produced from an article about the greenhouse effect (references (in pink) at the bottom are added automatically)

Figure: Typical snapshot of incremental reading. While learning about the greenhouse effect, the student extracts the fragment saying that "In the absence of the greenhouse effect and an atmosphere, the Earth's average surface temperature of 14 °C (57 °F) could be as low as -18 °C (-0.4 °F), the black body temperature of the Earth.". The extracted fragment will inherit illustrations placed on the right, as well as article references. The student can move on to reading another article by pressing Enter. The picture on the right is stored locally in the image registry (on the user's hard disk) and can be reused to illustrate other articles or questions.

Cloze: Generating questions

SuperMemo will show you that extracting important fragments and reviewing them at later time will have an excellent impact on your ability to remember. However, it will also show that once the time between reviews increases beyond 200-300 days, reading and re-reading (passive review) will often result in insufficient recall. For this reason, sooner or later, you will need to convert your texts to specific questions. For that purpose you will use cloze deletion.

A cloze deletion is an item that uses an ellipsis ([...]) to replace a part of a sentence.

For example:

Question: The capital of Sierra Leone is [...]
Answer: Freetown

In incremental reading, cloze deletions are generated from topics that have a form of a sentence or a simple paragraph.

To create a cloze deletion do the following:

  1. make sure a topic contains a short sentence only (e.g. The capital of Sierra Leone is Freetown)
  2. select an important keyword in that sentence (e.g. Freetown)
  3. do one of the following:

Remember cloze will convert a sentence into a specific question with an answer. By using cloze, you will move from passive review to active recall. You do not need to wait until a paragraph or a sentence becomes hard to recall in passive review. For your most important material, you can create cloze items immediately after finding a piece of information that you need to remember well.

The examples below show how to effectively use Remember cloze.

Two numbers from the extracted sentence are used as keywords for generating questions and answers (temperatures of 14 °C and -18 °C)

Figure: Two numbers from the extracted sentence are used as keywords for generating questions and answers (temperatures of 14 °C and -18 °C)

A question-answer item (in the form of a cloze deletion) forming the final product of incremental reading used in strengthening the memory of a given fact (here: hypothetical temperature on Earth devoid of atmosphere)

Figure: The sentence extracted during incremental reading (see the previous picture) is converted into a cloze deletion. (i.e. a question-answer pair forming the final product of incremental reading used in strengthening the memory of a given fact (here: hypothetical temperature on Earth devoid of atmosphere)). The picture from the original extract has been inherited (on the right). Pink texts at the bottom of the question are references generated automatically when importing an article from Wikipedia.

When you click Cloze, you will not see your newly generated cloze. Only the selected keyword will change the color. This will speed up your work. However, if you would like to immediately edit the newly created cloze deletion, choose the Back button (Back enables you to go back to the most recently visited element) on the navigation bar or press Alt+Left arrow. This will make it possible to add context clues, shorten the text, improve the wording, etc.

Simplifying questions

While converting extracts into questions and answers, you should make sure your questions are simple, clear and carrying the relevant context. For example, if you have extracted the following fragment from your reading about the history of the Internet:

The Internet was started in 1969 under a contract let by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) which connected four major computers at universities in the southwestern US (UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, UCSB, and the University of Utah)

you may discover that when review intervals become long enough, you may not actually be able to recall the name of the ARPA agency or even forget the year in which the Internet started. You can then select an important keyword, e.g. 1969, and use Remember cloze to produce the following question-answer pair:

Question: The Internet was started in [...] under a contract let by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) which connected four major computers at universities in the southwestern US (UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, UCSB, and the University of Utah)
Answer: 1969

In the course of learning, you will need to polish the above item by manual editing it to a more compact and understandable form:

Question: The Internet was started in [...](year) under a contract let by the ARPA agency
Answer: 1969

Or better yet:

Question: The Internet was started in [...](year)
Answer: 1969

As for the precious information "lost" during the editing, it can (but does not have to) be learned independently with separate questions generated by Remember cloze.

The mini-editing of questions presented above added the following benefits to the newly created question-answer pair:

  1. clearer purpose of the question: the fact that the question is about the year in which the Internet began is emphasized by using the red-colored (year) hint.
  2. brevity: by removing superfluous information, you will not waste time on information that is not likely to be remembered (only actively recalled material will be remembered for years). You will answer the question and never focus on which universities were originally connected by the early Internet. If you believe this information is also important, you will use the original extract to produce more cloze items that will focus solely on the universities in question by naming them in the answer field (if you disagree, read: 20 rules of formulating knowledge).
  3. understandability: "the ARPA agency" phrase may defy grammar rules you have learned in primary school, but it is by far more understandable than just the ARPA. In SuperMemo, understandability is more important than stiff rules of grammar or spelling!

Skill 4: Repetition and review

SuperMemo is based on repetition. You will review the learned material from time to time to make sure you prevent forgetting.

If you have never tried SuperMemo before, you will need to get the hang of standard repetitions as described here.

In incremental reading, your review will be based on similar principles as in classical SuperMemo. The main differences are:

Incrementally processed articles will be subject to periodic review/reading. When you resume reading an article after a certain period, you will proceed to new sections, extracting newly acquired wisdom into separate elements with Alt+X (i.e. Remember extract). Usually, you will delete the remnants of the processed article with Delete before cursor (Alt+\).

The algorithms that determine the timing of (1) repetitions of question-and-answer material and (2) reviewing reading material are analogous but not identical. Most importantly, all repetitions and article presentations happen in increasing intervals by default. In incremental reading, you will see a constant inflow of new articles into your collection. Unprocessed material will need to compete with the newly imported material. Increasing review intervals make sure that your old material fades into lower priority if not processed early. The speed of processing will depend on the availability of your time and the value of the material itself. Articles that are boring, badly written, less important for your work or growth, will receive smaller portions of your attention and may go into long review intervals before you even manage to pass a fraction of the text. That is an inevitable side effect of a voluminous flow of new information into your collection and into your memory. However, intervals and priorities can easily be adjusted. If your priorities change, you can modify the way you process important articles. At review time, you can either read the entire article without interruption, or bring it back for review in a shorter interval. You can manually change its priority (e.g. with Alt+P). You can also use search tools (e.g. Ctrl+F) to locate more articles on the subject that you feel you have neglected. You can reprioritize a bunch of articles by changing their priority. You can shorten intervals of articles, or review them all when needed (see: Subset review).

The algorithm for reviewing questions and answers (e.g. cloze deletions) is quite complex and limits your influence on the timing of repetitions (see: SuperMemo Algorithm). This is to ensure that you achieve a high level of knowledge retention, which might be compromised by manual intervention. However, the algorithm for determining inter-review intervals for topics is much simpler and is entirely under your control. Each article receives a specific priority. The priority determines which articles are reviewed first and which can be postponed in case you run out of time. Each article is also assigned a number called the A-Factor that determines how much intervals increase between subsequent reviews. For example, if A-Factor is 2, review intervals will double with each review. Priority and A-Factors are set automatically, but you can change them manually at any time. Priorities and A-Factors are determined and modified heuristically on the basis of the length of the text, the way it is processed, the way it is postponed or advanced, and by many other factors. You can change the priority and A-Factor of an article by pressing Alt+P. You can also use Shift+Ctrl+Up arrow and Shift+Ctrl+Down arrow to increase or decrease an element's priority. Note that A-Factors associated with items cannot be changed by the user, as they are a reflection of item difficulty that determines the length of optimum inter-repetition intervals (see: Forgetting index).

You can control the timing of article review by manually adjusting inter-review intervals. Use Ctrl+J (Reschedule) or Shift+Ctrl+R (Execute repetition) to determine the date of the next review. Ctrl+J will increment the current interval, while Shift+Ctrl+R will first execute a repetition and then set the new interval. For example, if your current interval is 100 and you specify the value of 3 in Reschedule, your new repetition date will be set in 3 days, and the last repetition date will not change (the new interval will be 103). If you do the same with Execute repetition, your new interval will be 3 and the last repetition date will be set to today. In other words, Reschedule increments the interval (it can also shorten intervals), while Execute repetition sets the length of the interval (while leaving a trace of a repetition executed in the learning process). Note that Reschedule (Ctrl+J) executed at Next repetition stage will first complete the repetition and will have the same effect as Execute repetition (Shift+Ctrl+R). To delay a repetition during learning, use any of the earlier stages of the repetition cycle.

In a heavily overloaded incremental reading process, you will often want to focus on a specific subject on a given day (e.g. before an exam). For that purpose, read about the priceless tool: subset learning.


Skill 5: Handling large volumes of knowledge

In incremental reading, you may quickly import and produce more learning material than you can effectively process. To make sure that you can swiftly handle the overload, SuperMemo uses the priority queue.

Using Alt+P (Priority : Modify on the element menu), you can set each element's priority from 0% to 100%. Note that 0% corresponds with high priority!

By default, the outstanding repetitions will be auto-sorted from high to low priority. This way, if you fail to complete your daily load of learning, it will only be the lower priority material that will suffer. Also by default, at the beginning of your working day (i.e. at your first run of SuperMemo), your outstanding material from previous days will be be auto-postponed (again with high-priority material being least affected).

Read an article about the priority queue to learn more about:

  1. manual sorting of elements,
  2. defining sorting criteria,
  3. turning off auto-sort and auto-postpone, and more.

For more options for handling the overload, see:

Other basic skills

Evolution of knowledge in incremental reading

3 main principles will underlie the evolution of knowledge in SuperMemo:

Using pictures

For additional information, mnemonic cues, and a sheer fun of learning, an article that you read incrementally in SuperMemo can be illustrated with meaningful pictures taken from its contents, or from other sources. Press Ctrl+F8 to choose one of the pictures embedded in the article.

SuperMemo: A topic with an article about the greenhouse effect imported from Wikipedia

If you happen to import from Wikipedia, SuperMemo 16 or later makes it possible to illustrate an article and all its extracts and clozes with full resolution images instead of just thumbs.

SuperMemo: Download images dialog box makes it possible for you to get images embedded in local pages imported from the net and put them to the image registry

Figure: Download images (Ctrl+F8) makes it possible to download remote images referred to in the HTML code of an HTML component and import them into the image registry. In the picture, pictures to illustrate the Donald Trump article from Wikipedia are being downloaded. At first, images are snapped from the browser renderer as thumbs. Full size images are downloaded in parallel. 5 images of the 34 listed have already been downloaded (as indicated in the caption) while the other 2 are still being downloaded (marked with → followed by the current download progress, i.e. 27.9% and 38.2% completed). You can illustrate the element with the thumbs or you can wait until the full images are downloaded. On an average speed connection, images usually download faster than you can review them. In other words, unlike in SuperMemo 16, you usually do not need to wait for image downloads. Insert will insert the picture to illustrate the article and all its extracts and clozes (those which are ready for insertion are marked with ✔). The thumbs/pictures that have not been inserted, will be available for download in all portions of the text that include the corresponding images.

For more, see: Visual learning

Topics vs. Items

In SuperMemo you see pieces of information presented to you in 2 basic forms:

Topics and items are presented in a different manner and at different times. Topics keep the knowledge you want to learn (i.e. things you want to read about), while items keep the knowledge that you want to remember (i.e. the knowledge you already posses, but might forget).


A topic in SuperMemo is an article, its part, or a sentence that you want to learn. Topics can also have a form of a picture, a video, a piece of music, etc. Unlike items, topics do not test your knowledge. They are used in passive reading, watching, or listening only. Short text topics are used to generate cloze deletions. Topics take part in the incremental learning process. Once they are converted to items, they are often dismissed (i.e. ignored in learning) or done (i.e. deleted from the learning process altogether). Both Done! and Dismiss must be executed by the user (i.e. they are not automatic).

Using topics

Topics are marked in Contents with a green T icon (A topic taking part in the learning process). Topics may be very long (entire articles) or very short (single sentences). This is how you work with topics:

On longer topics you read and extract, on very short topics you generate cloze deletions.


Item in SuperMemo is a piece of knowledge that you want to remember. It usually has a question&answer form. The main difference between an item and a topic is that an item actively tests your memory (e.g. with a question), while a topic is used for passive review only (e.g. for reading, viewing, watching, etc.).


SuperMemo 17 introduces a new element type: concept (denoted in Contents with an orange lightbulb icon (SuperMemo: A concept taking part in the learning process)). Such an element represents an important idea or subject. Multiple topics and items (or even tasks) can be linked to a concept. The link associates them with the idea/subject represented by the concept. The concept-based network of links is called a concept map. It forms a skeleton for the spreading activation which underlies neural review.


In addition to items, topics and concepts, you can also use tasks in incremental learning. Tasks are jobs sorted by Value/Time or Value/Price ratio.

For an extensive comparison of items, topics, concepts and tasks in SuperMemo, see: Element types in SuperMemo.

Reading overload

Overload occurs when the student has more outstanding items or topics to review than (s)he can handle. Few users can sustain more than 200 item repetitions per day. When the Outstanding parameter in the Statistics window starts going above that number, overload is likely.

Overload can best be handled with Auto-postpone. However, a one-time big load can be resolved efficiently with Postpone (delaying all elements), or Mercy (spreading all review in time).

You can also postpone a specific topic with all its extracts using the following method:

  1. Go to the topic in question
  2. Press Ctrl+Space to open the topic, its extracts, and clozes in the browser
  3. Choose Process browser> : Postpone on the browser menu

Note that you may need to use Learning : Locate extracts on the element menu if you have moved portions of your learning material to other branches.

See also:

Auto-sort and auto-postpone

As long as you prioritize your learning material well, you should make your life easier by checking the following 2 options:

Auto-postpone always leaves a number of top-priority elements in the queue. The purpose of the postpone is to get rid of the main mass of low-priority material and focus on top-priority material. You are most likely to use Postpone after a day of learning, while Auto-postpone is executed before your learning day begins. This is why it never affects today's material, and does not postpone top-priority material from previous days. If you have Auto-postpone checked on the menu, you will always start the day with all the repetitions scheduled for that day, and a number of unexecuted top-priority repetitions from previous days. Even though Auto-postpone increases the intervals and reduces the retention of low-priority material, it also makes you benefit from the spacing effect. Research shows that longer intervals may paradoxically increase the speed of learning (up to a certain point). This comes from the fact that the default retention in SuperMemo (around 95%) is higher than the retention that delivers the largest number of items remembered per unit of time invested.

You can start with default settings of the sorting criteria, however, if you feel you make insufficient progress with items (e.g. high forgetting index), you can reduce the proportion of topics. If the inflow of new material is too slow, you can increase the proportion of topics. If your priorities are imperfect, increase the degree of randomization. If you think you miss too many high priority items (see: Tools : Statistics : Analysis : Use : Priority protection from the main menu), reduce the randomization. By trial and error, you will arrive at your optimum. Even after you find your optimum, keep experimenting with different randomization and topic levels. This will help you avoid various cognitive biases that develop through the routine of learning. It may also be helpful to execute random review from time to time (just to get a general feel of your overall progress).

With Auto-sort and Auto-postpone, you will nearly never have to worry about material overload. Each time you start SuperMemo for the first time on a given day, it will first postpone repetitions that you failed to execute on previous days. It will use default postpone criteria which you can always modify (e.g. with Learn : Postpone : All elements). After postponing the backlog of repetitions, SuperMemo will sort today's repetitions and those that were left outstanding by Auto-postpone. Auto-sort will use sorting criteria specified earlier with Learn : Sorting : Sorting criteria.

With Auto-postpone and Auto-sort, you can always begin your day with a manageable portion of material sorted by priority. Your learning sequence will be optimized with no action on your part (i.e. no options to choose, and no keys to press).

Overload hints

Subset review

Subset review is a review of a portion of the learning material (e.g. before an exam). The portion may be identified with search, by branch selection in Contents, by concept group, and other means that determine a subset of elements. The reviewed subset material may be sorted by its sequence in the knowledge tree (Contents), priority, difficulty, interval, recency, etc.

For more, see Subset learning

Hints and tips

Importing articles

Inflow of new articles


Generating clozes

Changing the appearance of cloze keywords

This is how you can modify the default cloze style in SuperMemo:

  1. From the main menu, select Tools : Options
  2. In the Options dialog box, click the Fonts tab
  3. On the Fonts tab, click the Stylesheet button
  4. In the SuperMemo Stylesheet dialog box, select the Clozed option in the drop list at the top; then use Font, Color, and Background buttons to set individual properties of that style
Removing cloze keyword formatting

Display the HTML code behind a given cloze text (e.g. with Ctrl+Shift+F6). In the HTML code, replace class=clozed with an empty string.

Before After
HTML This is my example <SPAN class=clozed>element</SPAN> This is my example <SPAN>element</SPAN>
WYSIWYG This is my example element This is my example element

Your cloze keywords will be formatted in the same way as the surrounding text.

Mimic real life situations to combat memory interference

Some texts present knowledge in the form that is difficult to remember. Lists and sets are a good example of knowledge that does not stick to memory. Even if you perfectly know the map of Africa, answering the request: "List all countries of Africa" may be pretty hard. There are proven techniques that will help you tackle repetitive, list-rich, or boring knowledge with SuperMemo. All solutions are costly at memorization stage, but will pay handsomely in the long run due to lesser forgetting rate. The basic 2 principles are:

  1. gradually glue individual pieces to your overall knowledge structure
  2. be as visual and mnemonic as possible

Here are some specific hints:

Example: dealing with enumerations

If you happen to learn the geological periods, you are bound to generate nasty leeches, esp. if you are new to the subject. Using the top-down learning rule, be sure you know the eras, before you learn the periods, and before you move on to the epochs, and further down the tree of knowledge.

A typical mistake would be to start from cramming the meaningless sequence of periods. For example, clozing the Paleozoic Era sequence: "Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian" could result in a question that is bound to cause problems: "Cambrian, Ordovician, [...], Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian". This cloze will trouble anyone who is not privy to the field. In other words, only those who come with the knowledge ready in their mind will be able to tackle this type of question at little cost! Conclusion: there is no point in learning lists the hard way unless you already know what you are trying to learn! Catch 22!

Instead of using the above approach, it would make far more sense to first anchor the Silurian period in your mind with some meaningful event. For example, the appearance of the bony fish. This way, we might start with a cloze based on "The bony fish appeared in Silurian (443-419 mn years ago)". The following question will be far easier to remember: "The bony fish appeared in [...](period)(443-419 mn years ago)". Even if the answer is the same as in the original unfortunate cloze, that question is not semantically equivalent. You will need more cloze deletions. However, working with similar sequences should always proceed incrementally and in proportion to anchoring individual periods in memory. Later on you can move on to clozing dates, epochs, and other details. All the time you should try to add new interesting anchors and work with the material in parallel to the inflow of meaningful information that is likely to stay long in memory.


Re-evaluation of items

You should remember that all items introduced into your learning process require endless attention in reference to their applicability, formulation, importance, logic, etc. In a well-planned learning process, it should not be necessary to review items in the periods between individual repetitions. However, when an item comes up for a repetition, you should make a quick and nearly instinctive assessment of the following:

  1. Do I really need this item?
  2. What is the honest priority of this item in the entire spectrum of my (desired) knowledge?
  3. Is this item difficult to remember? If so, why?
  4. Is it factually correct?
  5. Is it as simple and clear as it could be?
  6. Do I really need to know it now?
  7. Do you need supplementary knowledge to understand all ramifications of the item?

Here are some typical actions you will take depending on the answer to the above questions:

  1. edit the item. You will use keys such as Q, A, or E to enter a desired text field and edit it. In more complex items you will use Ctrl+T to circle between components, Alt+click to switch a component between editing and dragging modes, or Ctrl+E to enter the editing mode
  2. de-prioritize the item. For items that are not important enough, or you are not sure are important enough, use Alt+P and reduce their priority. You can also use Ctrl+Shift+Down arrow for minor deprioritizations
  3. reschedule the item. If you know the item well or for some reason want to manually increase (or decrease) the length of the inter-repetition interval, press Ctrl+Shift+R to select the date of the next repetition
  4. dismiss the item. If you are sure you are not likely to need the item in the future, but you would like to keep it in your collection for reference or archival purposes, press Ctrl+D. Dismissed items are removed from the learning process
  5. delete the item. The key Del is very useful in cleaning your collection from garbage that results from your desire to know more than your memory can hold. In the editing mode or in spelling items (i.e. at times when Del plays text editing functions), you may need to use Ctrl+Shift+Del instead. Please note that deleting an element in SuperMemo will delete all its children! You may therefore wish to learn to always use safer Done (Ctrl+Shift+Enter) instead
  6. delay or forget the item. If you think the item is too difficult at the moment, you can postpone learning it. For this purpose, choose Ctrl+J to set a new interval or use Forget to transfer the item to the pending queue. This will give you some time to import some supplementary material that will help you understand the item


To learn more about efficient formulation read: Effective learning: 20 rules of formulating knowledge


To learn more about using pictures, see: Visual learning


See: Hints for using references

Your own discoveries

In incremental learning, you will quickly discover why some of your own ideas about the learning process might not be optimum. Here are some things that you will discover on your own within the first 2-3 months of intense incremental learning:

Advantages of incremental reading

In incremental learning, you learn fast, you acquire massive loads of knowledge, retain memories for life, remember almost all that you have learned, understand things better, develop harmoniously in all directions, enhance your creativity, and all that while having incredible fun! If that sounds too good to be true, please read more below or just give it a solid try.

Massive learning

Incremental learning offers a possibility of studying a huge number of subjects in parallel. In traditional reading, very often, one book or academic subject must be completed before studying another. With incremental learning, there is virtually no limit on how many subjects you can study at the same time. The volume of processed knowledge can be staggering. Only the availability of time and your memory capacity will keep massive learning in check.

Lifetime memories

As incremental learning is based on spaced repetition, all memories that you form while learning will be indefinitely protected from forgetting. See: General principles of SuperMemo. Only SuperMemo makes it possible to implement incremental reading. Incremental reading requires continual retention of knowledge. Depending on the volume of knowledge flow in the program, the interval between reading individual portions of the same article may extend from days to months and even years. SuperMemo (repetition spacing) provides the foundation of incremental reading, which is based on stable memory traces that would not fade between the bursts of reading

High retention

In incremental learning, the review of the learning material is governed by a spaced repetition algorithm known as the SuperMemo method. The algorithm ensures 95% knowledge retention by default. That fraction can be increased at the cost of higher cost in time (i.e. more frequent review). Retention can also be reduced to increase the overall speed of learning. In heavily overloaded collections, 95% retention figure refers only to top-priority material. To save time, low priority material may be reviewed less frequently, resulting in lesser retention.


One of the limiting factors in acquiring new knowledge is the barrier of understanding. Building knowledge in your brain is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Some pieces cannot be placed in the puzzle before the others. Some pieces capitalize on others. There is no point in memorizing facts about Higgs boson before you learn what the standard model is and that, in turn, should follow the general understanding of particle physics which itself requires some ABC of physics. In incremental reading, if you encounter texts related to Higgs boson you can manually delay it until the time you hope your Physics ABC will provide the ground for understanding the boson. In traditional reading, you would just waste your time on reviewing Higgs boson material just because you would not have tools to effectively reschedule and reprioritize your reading in the middle of a longer article. Traditionally, your decision to skip the material would provide no definite way of coming back to the skipped material in the future. With incremental reading, you waste no time on reading material you do not understand. You can safely skip portions of material and return to them in the future. You become the master of the conscious knowledge building process. You can gradually build understanding of complex phenomena.

All written materials, depending on the reader's knowledge, pose a degree of difficulty in accurately interpreting their meaning. This is particularly visible in highly specialist scientific papers that use a sophisticated symbol-rich language. A symbol-rich language is a language that gains conciseness by the use of highly specialist vocabulary and notational conventions. For an average reader, symbol-rich language may exponentially raise the bar of lexical competence (i.e. knowledge of vocabulary required to gain understanding). Incremental reading makes it possible to delay the processing of those articles, paragraphs or sentences that require prior knowledge of concepts that are not known at the moment of reading. The processing of the learning material will only take place then when the new information begins to slot in comfortably in the fabric of the reader's knowledge. You can then gradually proceed through this material and gradually build the understanding from basic or simple facts towards details or more complex components of knowledge. You will build understanding, resolve contradictions and ultimately creatively discover new truths about the learned material. Over time, you will optimize the structure of knowledge in your mind in terms of coherence, integrity, and representation. Incremental reading will make it possible to tackle the hardest material that might otherwise seem unreadable.

Uniform progress

Instead of focusing on a single subject of study, the student will review dozens of subject areas in a single day. Instead of monopolizing his or her knowledge with a single area of expertise, he or she will harmoniously deepen all facets of his knowledge in proportion to needs and/or interests. The growth of the knowledge tree will also be guided by the present level of understanding of individual subjects, in proportion to the growth of the supporting knowledge and specialist terminology. Instead of growing a few thick branches, the knowledge tree will grow twigs in all possible directions while still adding bulk to the trunk and main boughs. Incremental learning is inherently incapable of producing medical experts who have never heard of the Kuiper Belt, or astronomers who have no idea what constitutes a basic healthy diet. SuperMemo helps you prioritize the acquisition of knowledge in various fields. It also helps you fine-tune the balance between specialization and general knowledge. See also how SuperMemo prevents tunnel vision

Creativity boost

The key to creativity is an association of remote ideas. By studying multiple subjects in unpredictable order, you will increase your power to associate ideas. This will immensely improve your creativity. Incremental reading may be compared to brainstorming with yourself. SuperMemo will throw at you various articles, paragraphs, statements and questions in a most unexpected order. In the long run, the greatest creative advantage comes from knowledge permanently stored in your memory (as opposed to knowledge that requires Google). It is only a matter of creative effort and invested time before different pieces of knowledge can be associated to form new quality. This will also provide your brain with an entertaining form of mental training that will be highly appreciated in all forms of professions based on intellectual performance.

With incremental mail processing, it is also possible to mesh your learning, creative writing, and creative problem solving with a creative mail exchange with other people. This may appear helpful in collective problem solving or in complex projects when you need to strike a balance between focused individual work and pulling the team brains together. This process is called incremental brainstorming. Incremental brainstorming is slower, but it does not need synchronization (circadian rhythm, time zones, motivation, etc.), and you do not need to interrupt each other's work. Incremental brainstorming will never replace face-to-face interactive collaboration, however, it has many advantages associated with incremental learning (creativity, prioritization, attention, meticulousness, long-term viability, etc.). It may provide an excellent knowledge-based supplement, or be your best creative collaboration tool when working at a distance (esp. via different time zones). The creative process is unpredictable, and when you hit your best ideas when the rest of the team is asleep, it makes a good sense to strike the iron while hot: employ creative elaboration and send your idea out.

For more on the employment of incremental learning in the creative process see:

Consistency (resolving chaos and contradiction)

Contradiction and chaos in your learning material comes from bad sources, from errors, from disagreements in science, or from the fact that you start the process from importing a set of unrelated or even chaotic articles describing a studied complex problem.

If your learning material contains contradictory information, your brain will quickly alert you to this fact. In classical learning, you would often relearn new facts that would contradict earlier learned facts. Then you would relearn the older version again and this wasteful cycle might repeat more than once. In SuperMemo, the same process can take place; however, there will be two mechanisms that will turn chaos and contradiction into a self-limiting condition. The first mechanism relies on high retention of knowledge in SuperMemo that will often make you instantaneously spot the contradiction: Wait a minute! I have already learned this fact and the answer was different! Unfortunately, even SuperMemo isn't hermetic to contradiction (your retention actually never reaches 100%). The second mechanism is the convergence of contradictory material in time. If you, for example, learn two different answers to What is the size of human population?, say, 5.5 billion and 6 billion, you will naturally provide a wrong answer to one of these questions. Once you relearn it the new way, you will provide a wrong answer to the other question. Inter-repetition intervals for these two contradictory items will get shorter with each relearning cycle. The repetitions of contradictory items converge in time. Sooner or later, the red alert will be raised by your brain. You will quickly resolve the difference and delete one of the items. Similar process will affect hazy or incompletely specified information. Your knowledge will grow in consistency with time.

In scientific research, acquiring engineering knowledge, studying a narrow topic of interest, etc. we are constantly faced with a chaos of disparate and often contradictory statements. By introducing the chaos of new research into SuperMemo, you will gradually locate contradictions and strive at building better and more consistent models in your memory. Incremental reading stochastically juxtaposes pieces of information coming from various sources and uses the associative qualities of human memory to emphasize and then resolve contradiction. You will quickly lean towards theories that are better supported by research findings. Those supported poorly will be less firm and will often cause recall problems. Naturally, it may happen that you wish to learn contradictory statements too. For example, the opinions of dissenting scientists. In those cases, SuperMemo will help you emphasize the need of rich context. You will label individual statements with their proponent names or with the school of thought labels.


Observers and new users of SuperMemo believe that complexity of incremental reading must make it stressful. Some report that even reading about incremental learning is stressful. However, even though complexity always leads to a degree of stress or confusion, in the long-term, the opposite is true: SuperMemo helps you combat stress. Stressless learning is one of the greatest advantages of incremental learning. All the advantages listed in this section contribute to the sense of fun and relaxation. However, SuperMemo's ability to combat information overload might be the chief factor. Conversely, low stress levels have a miraculous impact on the effectiveness of learning.

Not everyone is stressed with information overload. 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 met in a great proportion of the 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 crystallized 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. The information era tends to overwhelm us with the amount of information we feel compelled to process. Incremental reading does not require all-or-nothing choices on articles to read. All-or-nothing choices are stressful! Can I afford to skip this article? For months I haven't had time to read this article! etc. SuperMemo helps you prioritize and skip articles partially (by decision) or automatically (i.e. behind the scenes). Oftentimes, reading 3% of an article may provide 50% of its reading value. Reading of articles may be delayed without your participation, i.e. not by stressful procrastination, but by a sheer competition with other pieces of information on the basis of their priority. In incremental reading, instead of hesitating or procrastinating, you simply prioritize.

If you happen to open a dozen of tabs in your web browser, you will often be stressed about the optimum course of action. You might be late for sleep, or late for work, and yet you do not want to lose the information. In SuperMemo, you just import&prioritize. Or just import. Nothing is lost. You will encounter the imported material as soon as your learning time allocations permit. Similarly, you can clear your 1,000 pieces mail Inbox in a few hours with all pieces of mail well prioritized and scheduled for review.

Once you know you can rely on SuperMemo in presenting review material for you, you can eliminate the stress and anxiety related to having too much to study or too much to read. You will never manage to read or learn all that you would hope for, but you will at least not lose sleep over planning and scheduling. SuperMemo is a promise of the best use of your potential. With this conviction, you can devote all your energy to comprehension, analysis and retention of the learned material.

SuperMemo helps you take away a big deal 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.


Human brain has an in-built limit on the attention span. We all get bored with things. This is particularly visible in kids. Limited attention helps maximize the learning input. This is why most toys have a short lifespan, and other kids' toys seem always more interesting. The same is true of reading. Even the best articles can become taxing if they get too long. Millions of people do a daily channel zapping on TV. This absurd activity is driven precisely by the craving for dense action and information variety. A gripping movie goes "too slow" for a typical channel zapper. This is why he or she prefers to watch three movies at the same time (even though the coherence of the plot of each will suffer). Incremental learning is a perfect remedy to the limited attention span. Even a single unlucky paragraph in an article may greatly reduce your enthusiasm for reading. If you stumble against a few frustrating paragraphs, you may gradually develop a dislike of reading a particular article. You may even become fed up with reading for the entire evening.

In incremental reading, once you sense any sign of boredom or distraction, you can jump to the next article with mostly positive side effects (expressed mainly in better memories produced by spaced learning). Unlike in channel zapping, you won't miss any information. Just the opposite, you will maximize attention per paragraph. Your attention to the same piece of information may depend on your mood, amount of prior reading, today's interest that may depend on the piece of news you heard on the morning radio, etc. With incremental reading, you can fit your best attention to each individual piece of reading. You can change the approach depending on your circadian status (i.e. the time of the day, mental energy, etc.). You can deprioritize articles that undermine attention. You can split intimidating articles into more manageable portions. The boost in attention is one of the main reasons why incremental reading is more fun than ordinary reading.


Everything we learn must be reviewed from time to time in order to be remembered. If you read an article in intervals, you already begin the consolidation of memory which may save you lots of time. In traditional reading, you would need to read the whole article, and then to review the article later several times. With earlier releases of SuperMemo, you would need to read the whole article, and then only review the most important parts of the article in SuperMemo at intervals determined by the program. Now you can begin the consolidation-review cycle already during reading! Incremental reading combines the process of extracting pieces of valuable knowledge with memory consolidation. This pre-consolidation will often dramatically reduce the number of repetitions required before your material gets to be reviewed in long intervals of months and years. By the time you convert parts of the material into clozes or question-answer items, you will already have it well-consolidated. This consolidation will be based on solid context, a degree of redundancy (that helps retention), and an easy-to-remember formulation based on cloze deletion. Extracting pieces of information from a larger body of knowledge provides your items with all the relevant context. This slow process of jelling out knowledge produces an enhanced sense of meaning and applicability of individual pieces of information. Semantically equivalent pieces of information may be consolidated in varying contexts adding additional angles to their associative power. In other words, not only will you remember better. You will also be able to view the same information from different perspectives.


You always have a long queue of articles to read, and there are always more articles to read than you can ever hope to remember. In incremental reading, you can precisely determine the priority of each article, paragraph, sentence or question. Evaluating articles and prioritizing them is difficult because you cannot do a good evaluation without actually reading a part of the article in question. In incremental reading, you can read the introduction and then decide when to read the rest. If an article is extremely valuable or interesting, you can process it entirely at once. Other articles can slowly scramble through the learning process. Yet others may ultimately be deleted. The prioritization will continue while you are reading the article. If the evaluation of quality or content changes while reading, so will the reading-review schedule.

Prioritization tools will ensure that important pieces of information will receive better processing. This will maximize the value of your reading time. This will also reduce the impact of material overflow on retention. You will always remember the desired proportion of your top-priority material. While the lesser priority material may suffer more from the overflow and be remembered less accurately. Priority of articles is not set in stone. You can modify it manually while reading in proportion to the value you extract from a given article. The priority will also change automatically each time you generate article extracts. It will change if you delay or advance scheduled reading. The priority of extracts is determined by the priority of articles. The priority of questions and answers produced from individual sentences is determined by their parenting extracts. Multiple prioritization tools will help you effectively deal with massive changes in your learning focus. With the prioritization tools you can always determine your learning focus in numbers!

This is one of the most important things about incremental reading: efficient fishing for pieces of golden knowledge!

Speed (of reading)

Incremental readers can beat speed readers in the speed of reading! This is true even for relative beginners with little or no speed-reading training. The caveat: all that is possible at the cost of delayed comprehension. In speed-reading, you always need to worry about the comprehension level. High comprehension is where speed-reading skills are vital. However, in incremental reading, you can quickly skim through less important portions of the text without worrying you will miss a detail. The skimmed fragment will be scheduled for later review. You can optionally determine when the review will happen and at what priority (low priority review may be delayed further, often automatically). You can quickly jump from paragraph to paragraph, get the overall picture, mark fragments for later reading, mark fragments for detailed study, etc. This speed-reading method, with a bit of training, is stress free. You will eliminate the greatest bottleneck of speed-reading: fear of missing important pieces of information. When you come back to the skimmed fragments in the future, they may have already become irrelevant or less important. That is one of a savings in time generated by incremental reading. You always focus on top priority material and you spend little time worrying about things that are left for later reading. Incremental reading is speed-reading without the loss of comprehension. Once you speed-read the entire article, you can slowly digest it again from the very beginning in the incremental reading process. Needless to say, speed-reading does not come close to incremental reading when it comes to long-term retention. Memories are always subject to forgetting. All valuable information that you collect while reading may be forgotten at any time. Pieces that would be retained without SuperMemo (e.g. through regular use) produce minimum workload. Other pieces will allow you to never need to come back to the article in question. 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. This is not to say that speed-reading skills are not useful in incremental reading. If you are already a solid speed-reader, you can add to your speed and comprehension with the help of incremental reading. In the process, you will hone your skills further and become even a faster reader.

See also: Speed-reading on steroids, which also explains the bell-shaped curve of changes in the cost of topic review.

Speed (of formulating items)

Cloze deletion is the fastest tool for converting texts into items. In addition to massive imports, you can introduce your own rough notes into SuperMemo and later gradually convert them into well-structured knowledge. Less important material may remain unstructured and, as such, less well-remembered. You will see how passive notes gradually fade in your memory and how their individual components will need to be reinforced by formulating specific well-structured items. You will make such reinforcement decisions on the one-by-one basis depending on the importance of the fading material and the degree of recall problems. Naturally, due to a typical learning overflow, you will always neglect some portions of the material. This is how you will gain additional speed understood as the time invested per item. You will generate items faster, re-formulate them with greater ease, and save additional time by neglecting less important material. This is prioritization via formulation. Less important material will remain in a less processed and messier state characterized by lower retention.


With well-prioritized stream of information, you are served knowledge in smaller chunks. This makes it possible to truly focus on most important pieces and discover things that would never get noticed in the mass of voluminous learning. Good attention brings meticulousness and creative discovery. In other words, this is a marriage of prioritization, attention, and creativity advantages with a new twist: noticing things that are hard to notice in massive learning.


With massive incremental reading, you will hone a set of skills that are vital for efficient learning. By repeating the same procedures over and over again, day in and day out, over the months and years, you will become a master of processing and retaining knowledge! If you want things well done, do them often. Here are some examples of skills that will get a boost and change your learning:

Knowledge database

Once your collection grows rich in materials from various domains, you can use it before you use Google to search for information about a subject within the material that you already want to learn. The search results will not be as rich, but they will be far more focused on the areas of your interest. While doing search&review, you will be able to reduce the future workload in many areas. This is fun!

All-in-one archive

Once you become proficient with SuperMemo you can use it as an all-encompasing archive of all your media files. Those files do not need to be part of the learning process, however, you can combine archiving functions with the incremental process (e.g. when annotating your family photo album collection). SuperMemo may be a great way to get rid of those dusty paper documents, tape recorder cassettes, CDs, photo albums, school notebooks, etc. You can archive this in dedicated folders on your computer and import it all to SuperMemo. Incremental processing of archive has many advantages. For example, while annotating family pictures from two centuries ago, you can fill in the gaps in information by simple face recognition that may rely on a degree of learning or creative juxtaposition of photographs from different sources in close intervals. Incremental audio can also convert your jukebox SuperMemo into a stream of music with a maximized fun factor. There are millions of ways of sorting tracks on your media player device, by filename, by date, by annotation, by priority, by recent viewing... all that does not compare to the incremental review process. This is because the quality of your experience when processing music or photos is based on the same forgetting mechanisms that affect learning. You want to see or listen to some things more often than others, but not too often. Forgetting is the key to experiencing music or imagery or videos again and again with a heightened degree of fun, pleasure and, last but not least, learning.


The sense of productivity might be one of the most satisfying emotions. This is why incremental learning should be highly enjoyable. This only magnifies its powers. To experience the elation of incremental learning, you may need a few months of focused practice. You will first have to start with the basic tools and techniques. Then you will need to master knowledge representation skills. Finally, you will need a couple of months of heavy-load incremental learning to perfect the details and develop your own "incremental learning philosophy". You will also need to grow your collection as size matters for the fun of learning. Last but not least, incremental learning requires good language skills, some touch-typing skills, and patience (SuperMemo will often want you to go against your own intuition). Although the material is originally imported from electronic sources, it always needs to be molded, shortened, provided with context clues, restructured for wording and grammar, etc. The skills involved are not trivial and require practice.

If you have used SuperMemo and/or spaced repetition, you may have concluded that learning with SuperMemo is boring due to its repetitive nature. Those who can compare the classic SuperMemo with incremental learning will testify that incremental learning is by far more fun. In contrast to classic SuperMemo, where you focus on the review of the old material, incremental reading interweaves the old with the new. Novelty adds to the fun and efficiency of learning. Incremental learning is by far more challenging and colorful than typical repetitions. In addition to review and reading, you can import rich graphics, audio and video to spice up your learning process.

In the end, you risk becoming seriously addicted to incremental learning. The statement "I do not read books" should no longer be considered in a negative light! As long as you keep incremental learning in rational check, it will benefit you and others around you.


Most of disadvantages of incremental learning come from factors that are a disadvantage in nearly all human pursuits: opportunity and overhead costs. However, there are also disadvantages that come from the fact that Incremental learning is not for everyone. Poor selection of knowledge may result in wasting time on low-quality learning. Moreover, incremental learning may lead to frustration, stress, addiction, compulsive use, and other undesirable effects on user's psychology.

Here is the short list of disadvantages to consider:

Incremental learning must be fun to work!

Incremental reading: Summary

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