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Why is "practice" so heavily weighted to open units?

The "practice" mode is useless for review as it draws overwhelmingly from active (unfinished) units, instead of picking from old (gold) units. This is annoying for a number of reasons:

  1. If I wanted to work on unfinished units, I'd just work toward finishing them.
  2. It means the only way to review old (gold) units is to select them individually for practice, but it's hard to do that evenly.
  3. If I've just started a new unit (with it at a low level) the algorithm seems to select it most often for 'practice', but of course I barely know this stuff yet having just started into it.

Wouldn't it make the most sense for 'practice' to do pretty much the opposite of what it seems to be doing, having you review 'stale' content before you forget it, rather than the stuff you've currently working on?

June 12, 2019



Agree 100% and for this reason I no longer use the practice option. No one else has ever commented on this so I presumed it was mine just not working correctly. It is not a major problem as I just make sure i evenly practice finished gold units. It could be a good tool though if it did the opposite to what it seems to do now. It should only test you on finished units and not ones that are currently 'work in progress'. By no means is this a moan though. absolutely love Duolingo and really appreciate how good this site is, thanks to all involved :-)


I agree that practice doesn't do what I need it too, reviewing past lessons. I mean I am practicing the open lessons right now so that you be like "Learn" rather than a practice which should be "Review". I still use it when I forget about my streak though.


I love the way the Practice button currently works, it is better then it has ever been before.

Previously, the original post-Crowns Practice button was pretty much a waste. It just drew from really really old material like "El hombre".

It now allows me to practice and level up on all my skills that I am currently working on. It's great because I can randomize what I'm learning and not get hung up on one skill.

The need to practice old lessons is not really necessary with Crowns anyway. If you "hover" over a lot of skills like Duolingo recommends, it can take weeks to bring each individual skill up to Level 5. By that time, the skill is most likely in your long term memory, and it's only necessary to practice that skill very rarely, if at all.


I'm thinking it's the move to the percent-based progress system that's turned the 'practice' button from a mechanism for review into a mechanism for course progression.

Having a course like Spanish with +160 units, where there's now no means of reviewing old material besides going back through it manually a unit at a time, is a really big problem. By contrast, there's never been any difficulty or confusion about how to progress through the course, so building that into 'practice' seems redundant and solving a problem nobody had.


I think that the practice button not yielding crown level progress has actually long been a common complaint.


@stewacide: Yes, it is the move to the word-based progress system that has changed the Global Practice operation.

And it's not really as big of a problem as you think. Are you progressing through the tree as this blog post recommends?


If you are, then there isn't really a need to have to practice on old, completed skills. When you follow that lesson plan, it should take weeks to get a skill to Level 5. By that time, everything you learned in that skill should be burned into your memory.


Sadly, that does not work in (every) reality.

First of all, when you start a tree, there are no previous skills you can go to as suggested. And I don't think it is helpfull to start too many skill in the begining. It will only lead to confusion and being overwhelmed. One simply needs to build a foundation in the beginning.

Second, there are often not enough lessons! The Romanian tree has levels with i.e. only two! lessons. How are you supposed to exercise and get the stuff in your long term memory with so few lessons? The concept does not work with few lessons. You'll rush through the levels, even if you don't want to, especially since they implemented the word-based leveling. So far I've done quite a few levels only with the practice dumbbell. They either should provide more lessons or don't have this "overall word based leveling".

And third, humans forget what they don't use. So, if there are words, that are never used again, you will forget them. And allthough I still get vocabs from all golden skills, some vocabs are more than seldom and some are even never asked for.

I still love Duolingo and the practice dumbbell, but found it to be better when you could just practice without leveling your skills.


This is how I'm going through the course, keeping ~6 units on the go, but I'd still like to have a "grab-bag" practice to maintain stuff I learned a long time ago, and besides it's nice to have something 'easy' to take a break from current units.

I don't understand the intended functionality of the 'practice' button as it works now. It seems more like the "next new lesson" button, but without the gradual progression of actually working through the units.


I agree with your strategy, Michael. I'm also gradually getting older levels up to Level 4 so I can still go back for ovcasional practice after I finish the tree.


@Roody-Roo: Nice work, hovering and gradually leveling up old skills is a great way to memorize :)


Looks like they are trying to find the right balance for it, as before it was weighted the other way, and tended to draw from starting material too much (because you haven't practiced it the longest, but it didn't consider that you didn't practice the most basic stuff because you no longer need to practice it).


I don't do practice sessions when I have any skills at less than level 3: then the practices are more old material than new. That is working well for me.


I was turned off a little when the skill strength bars were taken away, and the crowns don't show how long since I've practiced older lessons. However while I also thought the general practice was "broken" I think it merely puts a lot more emphasis on newer/unfinished topics, and doesn't completely forget about older lessons like you think. I've found that the first few completions will always draw upon the most recent things I've learned (trying to help keep it in short-term memory or something I guess). However after a couple runs I'll start getting older things I haven't practiced in a while. Of course, if you only do 1-3 practices a day you'll only ever see the newer content unfortunately. Try doing a few more maybe and see if you start getting older stuff pop up.


This does seem to work. Thanks. I also got all skills to at least level 2 not sure if that helps.


It does? What makes you think so? I thought it was just based on your own words list and the “oldest” words (although there is clearly a glitch in that some words pertain to units they have since deleted so they never get renewed with the practice button). If it only focused on unfinished units then what happens when you complete them all? I also find it’s giving me better more difficult content in recent weeks.


I have 5 lessons open right now, and 40 completed (gold) in Spanish. As an experiment I just selected 'practice without timer' and 15/20 questions that came up were from those 5 open units.

If I select 'practice' on one of those 40 completed units I'll quickly come across words I haven't seen in months, despite doing the global practice quite often.


I didn’t notice that. But I have to say the practice button has improved a lot from before. I used to have the entire Spanish course completed before the update and back then I found the practice button was worthless because it would give me stuff like “the boy eats apples”. It’s now much more challenging and seems to be improving the more I use it.


If you've recently gone through the course to get your owl back, you probably refreshed all or the vast majority of the most basic skills, so the practice just starts you past them. If you'd spent more time with it previously, the same thing would have happened eventually. It may have taken quite a while, though.


I think it's intended to be that way so that one can practice when one is struggling to grasp the new material. I use the practice feature only to refine skills I'm struggling to learn since it favors the incomplete skills and if I want to practice a gold skill I just select it for a review session. I don't find it difficult because I review material frequently so I have a good idea at all times what I haven't practiced in a while. I think the ability to refine a skill one is struggling to grasp is vital. Perhaps their needs to be an option for randomized practice instead.


"It means the only way to review old (gold) units is to select them individually for practice, but it's hard to do that evenly."

and as another also has said if you dont rush through each top and are working on them over some time, you will find you shouldn't need to be practicing the old stuff much.

It is when someone is quickly getting taking the subjects up to level 5 and not working outwards on their tree to which duolingo recommends (duolingo says not to focus on getting each to top level before moving on) will they need to be coming back to those past already done topics more. I see you are doing what duolingo recommends not to do and you aren't really working to extend your try outwards and just working to take each up.

https://www.duome.eu/stewacide/progress You can see what old stuff is needing practice there . If you are needing practices more often then this.. consider it's cause you have rushed upwards through the topics and never worked on them with the exercises over time enough to get them into your long term memory well.

As someone who is doing things according to duolingo recommendations, I'd find it annoying if the practices were full of the old stuff I've worked on over a long period of time and know well.


And that link also shows the very important detail that the vast majority of the OP's skills are at 100%. That's why they're not coming up in practice sessions. So, this probably ends up being another drawback to quickly getting all skills to crown level 5: they then stay at 100% for longer than they ought to given actual retention.

I have looked into how the practice system works a lot. A very good prediction of the material that will be focused on for any given hit of the whole-tree practice button is the highest-up skill at less than 100%.


Do skills still degrade? I thought that was removed?

For me there are only two that are completed but not at 100%, and those seem to be bugged out. No matter how much I practice they're stuck at 75%.


No, it wasn't removed. For a while it wasn't shown, but it still happened. That's why Duome can show it. Now it is shown for level 5 skills, at least for some users.

EDIT: The last sentence was true a few days ago at least. It was presumably a test. It may have quickly failed.


Those 'stuck' skills for me have been like that for a long time (I noticed by having the Strength Viewer userscript installed). I'm guessing it happened because words/lessons were added to those older completed units, but with them already at gold there's no way to 'complete' them in a way the system registers.

I was under the impression skills no longer degraded and 'strength' is just a proxy % unit completion, hence practice always pulling from the least-finished units (since they're the lowest 'strength')


No, they're different measures. For example, if you get a skill from crown level 0 to 1 in a short period of time, the strength level of that skill will be at 100% afterwards. However, it will decay much quicker than a skill you've gotten to crown level 5. My impression is that skills at level 5 generally decay quite slowly. Skills on which one had spent a lot of time and achieved a high level of accuracy under the pre-crowns system also decayed quite slowly.


Interesting. I had never noticed till I read this. I usually just click on each unit individually, but that is curious!

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