Reading Strategy: SQ3R

For some, reading is easy and pleasant. For others, reading is often very difficult. If you find reading to be a challenge, you are not alone. Reading can be an arduous task in both your native language and your second language. However, there are a few reading strategies that can help you understand the words you are reading. One popular strategy is the SQ3R method.

What is the SQ3R method?
The SQ3R method was developed by Francis Pleasant Robinson in 1946. He created the book, Effective Study, for college students, but this method to improve reading can be used by everyone. SQ3R stands for survey, question, read, recite, and review. This method can be used to help you improve overall reading comprehension.

How do I employ the SQ3R method?
The SQ3R method is actually quite simple. Follow these steps to help you understand what you are reading.

Before you read, survey the assignment! Look at the title. What do you think the book or chapter will be about? Flip through the pages and look at the pictures or graphics. What do the pictures tell you about the plot and characters? What do the graphics tell you about the information presented in this chapter? Is there a short summary on the back of the book or at the end of the chapter? Here is a list of things you can survey, or check, before you read an assignment.

  • Title
  • Chapter titles
  • Chapter headings
  • Pictures
  • Charts, graphs, maps
  • Captions
  • Vocabulary words, bold or italicized words
  • Book or chapter summaries
  • Topic sentences
  • Introductory and concluding paragraphs
  • Questions or study guides given to you by your teacher.

After you have thoroughly surveyed the reading assignment, ask questions. Turn the items you surveyed into questions. For example, if you are assigned to read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, ask yourself, What is the relationship between the lion and the witch? or Where is this wardrobe? You could ask questions about the characters and the plot: Is the lion or the witch the protagonist? or What happens with the wardrobe?

After you ask yourself about the items you surveyed, ask yourself about the topics. What did my teacher say about this book already? What do I already know about this topic? For example, if you are assigned to read about plants and photosynthesis, ask yourself, What do I already know about plants? Have I heard about photosynthesis before?

Most students find it helpful to write their questions down. When you write your questions down, you can visit them again later.

As you read the assignment, be sure to look for the answers to your questions. Read not only the text, but study pictures, graphics, and captions. Reread passages if they are difficult and read only one section at a time.

After you finish reading a section of your assignment, stop and recite. Recite the answers to your questions. Say the answers out loud or write them down. Underline or highlight key ideas or words. Remember that the more ways to recite what you read, the better you will understand. See it. Say it. Hear it. Write it.

Repeat the steps Question, Read, and Recite for each section of the text you are reading.

Reviewing what you read is one of the best ways to help you remember what you learned. Studies show that you are more likely to remember what you read when you review your questions, answers, and notes within 24 hours of the first time you read the assignment. After the first 24 hours, you should review your notes once every day until your test or assessment. Here are a few things you can do to help you review:
  • Make flashcards of key words
  • Identify the main ideas and points of the assignment
  • Write your own study guide using your questions
  • Orally recite the answers to your questions
  • Retell the story in your own words
  • Summarize the material in your own words
  • Create a table of contents highlighting the topics and subtopics
  • Develop mnemonic devices to help you remember important material
As you use the SQ3R method, you will make your study time more valuable. Have you used the SQ3R method? How did it work for you? Are there other reading strategies you enjoy?

The students at Nomen Global use the SQ3R method as well as other reading strategies in our Novels and Integrated Skills classes. Find out more about Nomen Global and its program at our website!

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