The re-reading myth: The 1 Habit that has been holding you back in your studies

When we think about study tips, we always think about things to add, the things that can finally break the code turn us into Einstein overnight.

But what if we remove the habits that have been holding us back this whole time?

One of these habits is re-reading. While it might seem intuitive, it’s proven to be an unproductive way to study.

In fact, re-reading can be dangerous — by constantly re-reading the same thing over and over again, we become fluent and familiar with the text, and this creates an illusion of knowledge. We think we know the information well when in truth, we’re just familiar with the text.

Try re-reading a text a few times, and test yourself after. Can you recall what you re-read?

Not only that does it tricks us, re-reading:

  • is time-consuming
  • doesn’t result in durable memory
  • tricks us into thinking we’re productive when we put in the hours

Many surveys of college students have shown that re-reading is a popular study strategy amongst students. While the initial reading is useful, re-reading the same text over and over again after your first pass is a waste of time.

So What Does Work? If you want to learn effectively, you need to retrieve facts and concepts from your memory without referring to the source. Research has shown that this act alone works better than re-reading your notes or writing notes with your reference open.

My advice? Once you’ve learned the material, your future revisions of the topics should revolve around testing yourself. Try to pull out as much information as you can, and look at the source material once you’re done. This way, you’ll be able to gauge what you know and what you don’t know.

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