Why Rereading the Textbook is a Waste of Time

Why Rereading the Textbook is a Waste of Time

During my freshman year of college, I saw lots of people study up close for the first time. Living feet away from thirty other 18-year-olds, I could watch as they studied independently and together. And I saw tons of different methods. 

My roommate was a chronic rereader. She would read the text, highlight it, and then read it again. And again right before the test. Thinking it must work, I tried it but found it wasn’t effective for me.

Rereading the textbook is a technique that many of us have heard before. Many students, teens and adults alike, will reread the textbook as a form of studying. But is this an effective study strategy? Will you perform better on tests or quizzes if you reread? In a word, no.

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Why Rereading the Textbook is a Waste of Time

rereading textbook

I’m reading the book, Make It Stick by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger, III, and Mark A. McDaniel. The book looks at current research into how we learn. Turns out we learn in very different ways than we thought we did!

Click on the video below or scroll down for the written version (you do you!) to find out why and what you can do instead of rereading!

Research into Rereading

New research into rereading the textbook (or repetitive reading as it’s called in the fancy academic journals) doesn’t help. One recent study gave students a text to read. Before testing the students, some were allowed to reread it. The students who reread the text did no better on the tests than the students who did not.

In other words, rereading is not worth your time. There are way better things you can do with your time rather than just reread the text. Your brain is not a camera – rereading the text multiple times is not a good way to learn.

Do I need to read at all?

YES!! The textbook is still an important source of information for you and you should definitely read it. Keep a few things in mind when you read, though. Be sure that you understand what you’re reading. If not, talk to your teacher ASAP. Also, take quality notes. Those notes are what you should actually review before a test, not the book itself.

Study Strategies to Use Instead

Rereading is one of those “study techniques” that focuses on getting information in your head. When reviewing for a test, instead you want to focus on getting the information OUT of your head. Not only does this help you remember the information better, but it also gives you a more accurate understanding of your own learning. Check out this post on retrieval practice for even more ways to get information out of your head!

So, here are 4 different strategies that work on getting information out of your head and will help you review better!


Make and use simple flashcards to actively review information. Flashcards are easy to make, portable, and you can squeeze in review between other activities. While I love physical cards, you can easily make digital cards on a site like Quizlet.

To be as effective as possible, write the definition in your own words, not the textbook’s. Your brain remembers your own language better. Also, when looking at the front of the card, be sure to make yourself say the definition BEFORE turning the card over.

DIY Study Guide

If your teacher didn’t give you a study guide, make your own! The process takes about 30 minutes and is studying in itself. Then use your study guide to review several days.

Review Games

There are so many review games around! Check out Kahoot and Quizlet to see some. You can also create your own.

Talk It Out

This is my favorite review activity and it requires almost no prep. Just talk to someone else (preferably human, but your dog will do in a pinch) about what you are studying. This is a perfect activity for a study group, as well!

Hopefully, when it’s time for your next test, you will grab your notes and not your textbook!

How do prepare for tests other than rereading the textbook? Let me know in the comments below!

Related Posts: Learn Anywhere: How to Thrive in Online Classes, How to Avoid These Common Study Fails, How to Actually Use Your Academic Planner, 3 Reasons Audiobooks are Awesome for Students, Can I Study Better By Listening to Music?

2 thoughts on “Why Rereading the Textbook is a Waste of Time”

  • I am an obsesive perfeccionist and, as such, I usualy do an exploratory reading before reading and taking notes. But I am trying to stop rereading my textbooks in such a way. However, since I am an obsessive compulsive, this comes very hard for me.

    • Oh my – yes perfectionism can take up all your time. I try to ask myself, “Is this good enough?” and then walk away from it.

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