What is the SQ3R method? SQ3R method In A Nutshell

The SQ3R method is a reading comprehension strategy that promotes enhanced learning. The SQ3R method was first proposed by educational psychologist Francis P. Robinson in his book Effective Study. The method was originally designed for college students as a more efficient and active means of absorbing textbook information. However, it is useful in any scenario where the retention of information is important. This allows the reader to learn effectively and make the best use of their time.

Implementing the SQ3R method

To increase understanding of a text and engage in the reading process, follow five steps that loosely represent the SQ3R acronym:

  1. S – Survey. Begin reviewing the text by noting its most obvious elements, including charts, diagrams, headings, and bolded text. This “skim read” gives context to what will follow.
  2. Q – Question. Generate questions about the context of the information. To begin with, turn headings and subheadings into questions. Alternatively, ask yourself more general questions such as “What is this chapter about?” or “How might this paragraph be beneficial to me?” 
  3. R – Read. Search for answers to your questions, making notes or highlighting core ideas. Do not copy verbatim from the textbook, it is instead better to paraphrase. As a rule, core ideas are found in the first couple of sentences in each paragraph. These ideas are also supported by phrases such as “for example”, “in addition”, and “in contrast”.
  4. R2 – Recite. Can you answer your original questions without referring to the answers? If not, go back and re-read the relevant sections and take notes. Recital can be oral or written.
  5. R3 – Review. After 24 hours or so, it’s important to review the learned information to maximize comprehension and retention. Some find that creating a mind map is a good way to review information. Others find discussing the information with someone else beneficial. Whatever the method, do not skip this step. Studies have shown that without a proper review, up to 80% of learned information is forgotten.
  6. Once retained, move on to the next section of information to build on your knowledge. 

Six effective comprehension strategies

Retaining information is one thing, but comprehension is another thing entirely. 

Individuals who are trying to retain complex information can bolster the SQ3R method by considering the following best practice strategies:

  • Monitor comprehension – while reading, be mindful of your thinking. When does the subject matter make sense? When does it not? What does the subject matter make you think about? Mindfulness is an effective way to start thinking about your thinking.
  • Activate and connect – comprehension occurs when we connect something we read to something we already know. To learn, we must develop the ability to connect the old with the new – and update our thinking accordingly.
  • Ask questions – comprehension is enhanced by curiosity. Questions open doors to understanding and encourage us to formulate answers. They also help us develop critical thinking skills.
  • Infer and visualize – inferences occur when we take our background knowledge and merge it with the clues from the text. Inferential thinking helps us draw conclusions, make predictions, and develop interpretations that are not immediately obvious.
  • Determine importance – what is worth remembering? No-one can retain every piece of information they come across, so be selective. Important information is generally any information that supports or expands the personal understanding of a topic.
  • Summarize and synthesize – effective readers are acutely aware of the bigger picture as they read. Their thinking evolves with new information which can lead to the development of a new perspective or unique insight. 

Key takeaways:

  • The SQ3R method is a reading strategy that promotes comprehension and retention of written text.
  • The SQ3R method is named after the five steps that every individual should undertake while reading: survey, question, read, recite, and review.
  • The SQ3R method can be strengthened by six effective comprehension practices. For most people, there is no point in retaining information if it is not understood.

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Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"