Repeated study typically improves episodic memory performance. Two different types of explanations of this phenomenon have been put forward: 1) reactivating the same representations strengthens and stabilizes memories, or 2) greater encoding variability benefits memory by promoting richer traces. The present experiment directly compared these predictions in a design with multiple repeated study episodes, allowing to dissociate memory for studied items and their context of study. Participants repeatedly encoded names of famous people four times, either in the same task, or in different tasks. During the test phase, an old/new judgement task was used to assess item memory, followed by a source memory judgement about the encoding task. Consistent with predictions from the encoding variability view, encoding stimulus in different contexts resulted in higher item memory. In contrast, consistent with the reactivation view, source memory performance was higher when participants encoded stimuli in the same task repeatedly. Taken together, our findings indicate that encoding variability benefits episodic memory, by increasing the number of items that are recalled. These benefits are however at the expenses of source recollection and memory for details, which are decreased, likely due to interference and generalisation across contexts.