There is a myth that I hear almost every day that I’m trying hard to dispel about studying in college: that rereading and reviewing are one and the same.
Say this with me:
Reviewing is not rereading. Rereading is not reviewing. They are not the same and they are done for different reasons.
Let’s first discuss the difference between reviewing and rereading.
Rereading is an excellent reading strategy that is used when a reader does not fully grasp or understand the material that has already been read. For example, a student in an Anatomy class might read an entire chapter on the Autonomic Nervous System and realize at the end of the chapter that he/she still does not understand the chapter. In this case, rereading will help because the student will have at least some idea of the chapter (since it’s already been read once), but will need to read again for a fuller, richer understanding.
Rereading is not a good study technique. If it takes you five hours to read a chapter then it will take another five (or even more) to reread it. Rereading is not a good strategy to use if you are short on time or “cramming” before an exam. Rereading is also not very much fun, especially if it’s material that you found boring or uninteresting the first time.
To reread, you start at the first word of the chapter and read the whole of the material, in its entirety, again. Material that is especially complex or challenging may require several rereadings to be fully understood.
Reviewing is a study strategy that is best used when you have already read and understood the material and just want to “keep it fresh” in your short and long-term memory. To continue from our example above, the student who read and then reread that Anatomy chapter on the Autonomic Nervous System will want to continue to review that chapter to remember it long-term.
Reviewing, unlike rereading, is an excellent study technique. If it takes you five hours to read a chapter, it may only take 15 minutes to review it. The amount of time spent reviewing is determined by how new, challenging, or complex the material is to you.
To review, simply look over the material, briefly, to review your notes, summaries/paraphrases, and look at the key terms and main ideas you have pulled out through annotation. You can also look at the highlighted/underlined bits of text and the graphics/pictures. If you come a particularly hard section or paragraph, you may decide to reread a short section to jog your memory or refresh the ideas. Otherwise, very little, if any, rereading is done.
Reviewing is Not Rereading
Reviewing is one of the most important things a student can do to improve performance on exams. It’s not hard to do, it does not take long, and it can help just about anyone who has memory problems.
Next time you read (or even reread) your textbook, put together a review schedule for yourself so you can remember it long-term. Your review schedule might look like this:
20 minutes a day, every day, for one week.
15 minutes a day, three times a week, for two weeks.
10 minutes a day, twice a week, for two weeks.
5 minutes a day, once a week until one week before the exam.
Change your schedule as needed based on your background with the material, your comfort level, and how familiar you are/become with the material over time. Then, when it comes time to prepare for your exams, you’ll be able to create great study tools for the still-hard to learn material and not have to worry nearly as much about the material you’ve reviewed all semester!