Iknow review

I noticed that since smart.fm switched to a paid service it has magically dissappeared from the language-learning scene. It’s a shame, really.

Ok, for a bit of background, smart.fm was a free program where people could make their own custom courses and study them SRS style. It switched to a paid service around April 2010, rather controversially since people thought their content would be stolen(it was not the case), and it was a hit to us smart.fm lovers. Most people just switched to Anki.

I paid for it, since I never got along with Anki as well as with smart.fm(I use Anki, but differently. And Anki is a great program and if you like it then go for it!). So, how’s Iknow?


  • very user-friendly
  • it features a Core 6000 series, divided into 60 courses.
  • you can see for yourself how it works on http://www.iknow.jp (it has 5 free study sessions), but basically you get to practice spelling, listening, speaking, kanji reading(optional) and it also features hiragana/katana courses, though there are better places to learn those. Personally, I love the way the study sessions are organized
  • well, it’s SRS. (see cons). It works. After finishing a course you can review it to see how well off you are
  • it features a diagnostic to see at what course you are placed at, though you should totally do all of them.
  • you can make your own custom courses
  • it has a listening practice mode.


  • You can’t reset your courses and the review system is not as good as the learning system, so if the system deems you’ve mastered a word when you haven’t it can be problematic
  • It is also problematic since words are universally accounted for, so if you mastered a word and you introduce it to a custom course, then the custom course will also have it listed as a mastered item. Beating the point.
  • the SRS is a bit flawed, or so the people in the feature suggestion part say.
  • the example sentences can be simplistic, even at core 6000 level
  • the customer service is kind of sucky
  • though they’ve recently introduced a user forum, there is basically no user community
  • it’s expensive
  • it stops at core 6000, which you can easily finish in a few months.
  • It doesn’t list the word functions during learning/review. This can be problematic since, for example, “to care” and “care” are both listed under “care”. They’ve been working on it, but not as much as they should be
  • courses can’t have more than 100 items. Problematic for custom courses.
  • recently a review all section has been introduced, but you cannot review all courses ahead of time, you have to review them individually
  • You can set a weekly study target but not a target for when you want to finish a course. This means that sometimes study will go slower than expected if you’re a crammer.

CONs for smart.fm users(this is the biggie. If you were a die-hard smart.fm user, this is what is gone)

  • custom courses can’t be shared. This is the no. 1 problem if you ask me.
  • again, the universally mastered items will make custom courses a bit useless.
  • they took out Brainspeed and are not intending on bringing it back. No new program has been introduced to replace it
  • there is no user community(they’re working on it)
  • they took out the “continue studying after completion” mode in favor of the review mode, which is not as efficient.
  • If you studied with smart.fm and are switching to Iknow, your mastered items will still be there, despite the courses having disappeared. If you took a break from it, I recommend starting over with a new user. I regret having resubscribed with my original one.

Thought this might help. I still like Iknow, despite it not being the smart.fm I fell in love with. If I ever find a drilling program that suits me as well as smart.fm did, though, I’d switch and never look back. It’s a good program if you haven’t found that one drilling program for you and like things to be readily done(because seriously, the amount of customizing Anki needs is a bit silly). It’s good since you can practice listening, spelling, kanji reading and vocab at the same time.

Also, since they realized that their current users are totally not resubscribing because of their customer service, they’re getting a bit better at it. Hopefully they’ll fix their major flaws and become a trustworthy and well-loved program again.


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