How to Use the SQ3R Study Method

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Dry, academic reading material isn't as gripping as that new bestselling novel, so you may need help focusing on it. SQ3R is a reading strategy that makes it easier to remember the material you read. The method dates back to 1946 when Francis Pleasant Robinson developed it. SQ3R stands for the five steps of the process -- survey, question, read, recall and review. The technique helps you tackle the reading portion of studying.

Survey the Source

  • The SQ3R method starts with a quick glimpse at the entire passage to get an idea of its purpose and contents. Identify the portion of the passage you plan to study -- the next chapter, an assigned reading for class or a resource, for example. Certain elements in the text provide clues for the survey portion. Look for headings, italics, bold words, charts, diagrams and side notes. For assigned readings, survey the text before you learn the information in class so you know what to expect.

Question the Contents

  • Before you delve into the actual reading, prep your brain for what you'll learn by creating guiding questions. These questions relate to the information you gleaned from the survey step. Use the key information you found, such as headings or information in a diagram, to write questions. Finding the answers to those questions keeps you engaged as you read and helps you focus on the important details in the text.

Read the Passage

  • Grab your list of questions and extra paper for the reading phase. The SQ3R requires more than just reading the words on the page; it uses active engagement with the text to retain the information. Refer to the questions as you read to ensure you're finding the answers. Pause after each section to check for understanding; if you turned the subheadings into questions, you have a way to quiz yourself. Jot down any additional questions or details you don't quite understand.

Recall Key Information

  • Reading alone isn't enough to fully understand and retain the information. When you finish the passage, go back to review the key points. Put the information in your own words to make it meaningful to you. Simply memorizing the text won't ensure you truly understand it. If you can't rephrase the meat of the text, seek additional information to clarify. This is also the time to make connections in the text. When you get to the end, you are better able to see how the concepts relate. At the end of this step, you should be able to recall the answers to your questions from memory.

Review the Material

  • The review phase gives you another chance to practice the material before the test. Reviewing isn't a one-time activity. Reviewing throughout the semester helps you retain the information without having to cram at the last minute. Refer back to your questions as a review guide. Check out any related notes you made to refresh yourself on the details. Mind Tools suggests going over the material with someone else, which gives you a chance to synthesize what you read and check for understanding. Explaining the information to a classmate allows the two of you to compare understanding. Choosing someone who doesn't know the material can test how well you really understand it. If you can't explain the content so the person can understand it, go back and study until you have a better understanding.

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