Summaries of information, for instance, often work as well as—and sometimes even better than—longer versions of the same material.
In a series of experiments, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University compared five-thousand word chapters from college textbooks with one-thousand-word summaries of those chapters. The textbooks varied in subject: Russian history, African geography, macroeconomics.
But the subject made no difference: in all cases, the summaries worked better. When students were given the same amount of time with each—20 to 30 minutes—they learned more from the summaries than they did from the chapters. This was true whether the students were tested 20 minutes after they read the material or one year later. In either case, those who read the summaries recalled more than those who read the chapters.
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