Is it Better to Read Silently or Out Loud When Studying?

Is it Better to Read Silently or Out Loud When Studying?
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

What is the most effective way to study? Some people study by reading in silence, while others read out loud. If you’re part of the latter group, you probably walk around the room, reciting what you’ve read or learned. Maybe you even have a full-on conversation with yourself. But when it comes to studying out loud or in silence, is one more effective than the other?

We would suggest a combination of both, because as you’ll see below, each method has its benefits. While we would prioritize one over the other, we’re also going to look at the advantages of both.

Studying in silence using visual memory

When you study in silence, ideally you do an initial reading of the text to get a fairly clear understanding of it. But you can’t stop there. After the first reading, it’s important to highlight the important ideas, stop to reflect on the confusing parts, and find information that can clear up any questions you have.

It’s important to highlight and take notes. Using different colored highlighters can actually improve your visual memory of the material. It helps you remember the location of the information on the page. Then this facilitates the process of memory recall. In addition, using colors also makes you pay more attention, because it makes you focus on information you deemed important.

In order to store information better, reading in silence should be complemented with making summaries and outlines.

man studying

Reading in silence allows you to focus on what you’re reading, but if you don’t do anything else, it won’t be very useful. That’s because you have to actively engage in the material, make it your own. This is done by not just reading, but also writing, taking notes, and putting the information into your own words. When you do it this way, studying in silence has a lot to offer.

Studying out loud to cement the knowledge in your brain

When you study by reading out loud, your sense of hearing becomes a part of the experience. It triggers cognitive abilities related to memory, attention, and comprehension. Then this activates your ability to store and retain information.

However, just like with studying in silence, more is needed. It’s much more effective to listen to a recording of yourself reading your own notes than someone else’s explanation.

Why? Because you’ve given what you read a personal value, explained it in different words. You can also ask questions, express doubts, and debate with other people to learn and memorize better.

girl graduating

When you read out loud, you make connections. It pushes you to link what you’re saying to something you read before on another page. You create a mental framework that complements the reading you did in silence. This will reinforce and consolidate the information in your mind.

The benefits of listening to yourself

Colin MacLeod and Noah Forrin researched the effect of studying out loud on learning. In the journal Memory, they published a study called “This time it’s personal: the memory benefit of hearing oneself.”

they worked with 100 students from the University of Waterloo in Canada. The students were given 80 words that they had to repeat out loud. Most of them wrote down the words they remembered just in case.

Afterwards, they did another test. But first they had to choose from four different methods of remembering the words:

  • reading in silence
  • listening to someone else
  • listening to a recording of themselves
  • reading out loud

The results revealed what the authors call the “production effect.” Two weeks after memorizing the words, the participants were given a new set of words. Then they had to indicate whether each word belonged to the initial list they memorized. The participants who read the words out loud performed the best.

Additionally, they discovered that listening to one’s own recording worked better than listening to someone else. Therefore, the more personal the recording, the better you’ll remember the information.

girl taking notes

While studying out loud is a great option, don’t dismiss the others. Make a habit of trying to memorize material with meaning rather than words on their own. A combination of all these techniques will give great results.

Some people do better studying in silence, recording themselves reading the text and then listening to it later. Others choose to study out loud from the beginning, and then study in silence by writing or making an outline of what they’ve learned. The main takeaway is that every person should use the method that works best for them.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.