Rereading is another student favourite. This involves simply repeatedly reading a text in order to remember the information. It is the most reported learning technique employed by students (Carrier, 2003; Kornell & Bjork, 2007), but is it actually useful for learning and comprehension?

Rereading is hypothesised to be effective because it improves the reader’s understanding of the text as they process more higher-level information and organise that information internally (the “qualitative hypothesis”) Kiewa et al. (1991) found a very small positive effect of repetition on the amount of higher level information in students notes (students who heard lectures more than once were more likely to have more complicated information in their notes). There has been some evidence to support rereading’s efficacy (Bromage & Mayer, 1986Rawson & Kintsch, 2005) and spaced rereading (where subsequent rereading sessions were separated by a moderate time-gap) was found to be more efficient than massed rereading (Verkoeijen, Rikers & Ozsoy, 2008). However, these studies merely tested participant’s ability to recall facts about the text they had read rather than their comprehension of it or their ability to use that information to answer more in-depth questions.

There have been several studies that found massed rereading had no significant effect on recall when tested 1-2 days later (for example; Callender & Daniel, 2009 and Griffin, Wiley & Thiede, 2008) and overall there is a serious lack of evidence to support it’s efficiency (with most studies finding small positive effects).

In conclusion, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence to suggest rereading improves recall (let alone comprehension) so you would better spend your time using other learning techniques. However if you are going to use it, try and space out reading sessions in order to make use of the spacing effect.

Bromage, B.K. & Mayer, R.E. (1986). Quantitative and qualitative effects of repetition on learning from technical text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 78 (4), 271-278.
Callender. A.A. & McDaniel, M.A. (2009). The limited benefits of rereading educational texts. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 34 (1), 30-41.
Carrier, L.M. (2003). College students’ choices of study strategies. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 96 (1), 54-56.
Dunlosky, J.; Rawson, K.; Marsh, E.; Nathan, M. & Willingham, D. (2013). Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 14 (1), 4-58.
Griffin, T.D.; Wiley, J. & Thiede, K.W. (2008). Individual Differences, Rereading, and Self-Explanation: Concurrent Processing and Cue Validity as Constraints on Metacomprehension Accuracy. Memory and Cognition, 36, 93-103.
Kiewa, K.A.; Mayer, R.E.; Sung-Il Kim, M.A. & Risch, N. (1991). Journal of Educational Psychology, 83 (1), 120-123.
Kornell, N. & Bjork, R. (2007). The promise and perils of self-regulated study. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 14 (2), 219-224.
Rawson, K.A. & Kintsch, W. (2005). Rereading Effects Depend on Time of Test. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97 (1), 70-80.
Verkoeijen, P.P.J.L.; R.M.J.P. Rikers & Ozsoy, B. (2008). Distributed rereading can hurt the spacing effect in text memory. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 22 (5), 685-695. (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-63654510-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

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