What Is SQ3R Reading Method? [Ultimate 5-Step Guide]

Want to know what is SQ3R reading method? Then you’re in the right place. This is a widely acclaimed method of reading.

It’s a proven mode of study through which we get to input information and retain it for long periods of time. It’s a strategic approach to learning which was developed by Francis Pleasant.

Its suitable for learning to all students be they in high schools, college or even higher levels of study. It has found use beyond even the classroom and is now used in all learning situations even those at work where people want to retain what they learn.

Its success has been attributed to its effectiveness in discovering important facts and pieces of information from a reading material, mastering it and retaining it for long periods.

I recommend this method to you and urge you to employ it in all your reading. Let’s take a look at what in involves. SQ3R is actually an abbreviation used to stand for survey, question, read, recite and review.

These are the five major action areas in this reading method.

These five areas help us in our aim to retain as much information as we can for the purposes of the exams whereas at the same time understanding the wider concept to enable us get the full benefits of our education.

The main aim of this method is to improve our recall abilities for the material we have read. Our brain and ability to recall is greatly enhanced by repetition.

When we repeat something several times, that piece of information is permanently stored in our brains. The more we encounter something, the easier it gets for us to remember.

The SQ3R method will take some time and effort to master, but once we do it, you realize it is the best method of reading and revising. Let us now look more deeply at each of the five steps in this method and what to do at each step.

What Is SQ3R reading method?

1. Survey

This is the first step in this method.

Survey involves going through an entire reading material to get an overview of what it’s about. You don’t read word for word but rather look out for some information that will help you understand what the chapter is all about.

We can also call this step skimming or scanning. The purpose of this stage is to alert our brains as to what we are preparing to read.

The brain is a complex organ that we have not yet fully understood its functioning, but what we know is that when there is some order in what we do, and then we are more likely to grasp and understand.

When you are surveying a certain chapter, the brain tries to get all information you’ve ever come across regarding that chapter close for use.

This helps in interrelating which is another strong point in our efforts to recall information. In short, this stage allows you to form a mental framework of what you are about to read.

Some information that you will be quickly looking up at this step is what the heading of the chapter is, are there any subheadings? Is there a general overview of the chapter with stated objective that the learner should achieve? Are there any diagrams, bullet points, charts, images? Do we have discussion questions at the end of the chapter?

Go through them first at this stage.

What’s the application of the information you are going to read? When we go through all this information at this stage, we are forming a good mental picture of what we are about to read and will greatly aid in our understanding.

The survey step shouldn’t take much of your time. It will depend on the breadth and complexity of your subject, but shouldn’t take more than 25 minutes. 15 minutes would be ideal.

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2. Question

This is the second stage of our efficient reading method.

This involves writing down any question that you might have on the subject matter at this stage. The questions will be informed by your intention to study that area.

A question might also arise from the survey you did at the first step. The purpose of this stage is to set out what you’d want to achieve after your reading session.

Are you reading for the sake of an exam? If so, then what are some of the questions likely to be asked in the exam paper? You can get these from past exam papers.

This stage helps you organize your information when reading and know where to lay more emphasis. When you do this, you prepare your mind for learning by arousing interest and curiosity (1).

When you set out on the next step which is reading, you are more likely to look out more keenly for this information.

3. Read

Now this is the next stage where you are going to read to get a deeper and full understanding of what the chapter contains.

Try to answer your questions and look out for key information. If you are reading from one material and fail to fully understand, then you can research for more information from another source.

Online sources are diverse and different sources will introduce different angles to a concept. This will help in understanding better.

You need to take notes at this stage.

We have already discussed some effective note taking techniques in the another article; make use of the most suitable one for your case.

If the information is complex, don’t just assume you have understood whereas you have not. Take your time to fully grasp.

It’s better to read some little information, but fully understand it rather than read a whole book but retain nothing.

Remember in most curriculums, knowledge is built upon earlier learned knowledge, so when you fail to understand a concept and still go ahead to read further information, there’s a high likelihood you will still not understand.

However, if it proves to be a challenge to fully grasp a concept, do not despair, that’s why you have some colleagues you study with or your teacher. They will gladly help you.

Take note of any such topic and seek out someone to help you as early as you can.

SEE ALSO: How To Remember Better When Studying [New 7-Step Guide]

4. Recite

This is the next stage.

Reciting is answering the questions you set or those found in your text book, or those from past papers you might be having regarding this topic. You answer all questions without referring to your notes.

This in essence will be reciting or recalling what you’ve just read. It’s a way of moving information from the short-term memory to the more permanent longer term memory.

Running through this information on your mind gives you a pretty good idea of whether you have understood what you’ve been reading and whether you are ready for a test.

If you notice that you are having difficulty recalling certain information, you should go back to it and read it again. If you notice there are some important pieces of information which are not covered by the questions, then try reciting them.

When we repeat something, it becomes easier for us to remember (2). It would greatly help if we recited in a loud voice since now we’ll be activating another of our sense which is hearing.

The more senses we use to get some information; the longer it sticks in our memory. If you are not causing any disturbance to people, then recite loudly.

If you have a study partner, explain to them what you’ve just read. Let them take your notes and ask you questions. At this stage you can summarize your notes through your own words using any abbreviation, mnemonics ideas, diagrams or images.

This will be your own way to recall this information.

5. Review

This is the last step.

It involves going through all information you have read and noted down right from the survey stage to the reciting stage. We quickly go through this information to make sure we have covered all areas we intend to study and we can recall it.

If you are not yet confident answering questions, this stage is critical and you need to spend more time on it. You should also discuss more
of this information with your classmates or your teachers to fully comprehend it.

They might also help you with a few suggestions and points of action. Try to relate this information with any other learnt during the semester.

The review stage is actually not a one-time stage.

You need to keep on reviewing your notes to keep everything fresh in the mind. When exams are around the corner, you won’t rush around if you have been reviewing your notes often.

You’ll just need to give them another regular review, and you are set to go.

Thank you for reading this article about what is sq3r reading method and I really hope that you take action my advice.

I wish you good luck and I hope its contents have been a good help to you.

Przemkas Mosky
Przemkas Mosky started Perfect 24 Hours in 2017. He is a Personal Productivity Specialist, blogger and entrepreneur. He also works as a coach assisting people to increase their motivation, social skills or leadership abilities. Read more here