Improve Your Reading Speed and Comprehension with the SQ3R Method

Read with purpose to get the most out of your study time.
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Throughout college and graduate school, you can expect to be assigned a great deal of reading and students who aren't comfortable with reading or who feel like their skills are deficient will find it hard to succeed. Attend class without having read and you'll hurt only yourself.

The most efficient students read with purpose and set goals. The SQ3R Method. Is designed to help you read faster and retain more information than ordinary reading methods.

SQ3R stands for the steps in reading: survey, question, read, recite, review. It might seem like it takes more time to use the SQ3R method, but you'll find that you remember more and have to reread less often. Let's take a look at the steps:


Before reading, survey the material. Glance through the topic headings and try to get an overview of the reading. Skim the sections and read the final summary paragraph to get an idea of where the chapter is going. Survey - don't read. Survey with purpose, to get a background knowledge, an initial orientation that will help you to organize the material as you read it. The surveying step eases you into the reading assignment


Next, look at the first heading in the chapter. Turn it into a question. Create a series of questions to be answered in your reading. This step requires conscious effort but is worth it as it leads to active reading, the best way to retain written material.

Asking questions focuses your concentration on what you need to learn or get out of your reading - it provides a sense of purpose.


Read with purpose - use the questions as a guide. Read the first section of your reading assignment to answer your question. Actively search for the answers. If you finish the section and have not found an answer to the question, reread it.

Read reflectively. Consider what the author is trying to say, and think about how you can use that information.


Once you have read a section, look away and try to recite the answer to your question, using your own words and examples. If you can do this, it means that you understand the material. If you cannot, glance over the section again. Once you have the answers to your questions, write them down.


After reading the entire assignment, test your memory by reviewing your list of questions. Ask each one and review your notes. You've created a set of notes that provide an overview the chapter.  You likely will not have to reread the chapter again. If you've taken good notes, you can use them to study for exams.

As you review your notes, consider how the material fits with what you know from the course, experience, and other classes. What is the information's significance? What are the implications or applications of this material? What questions are you left with? Thinking about these bigger questions help to place what you've read within the context of the course and your education—and is likely to lead to better retention.

The extra steps of the SQ3R method may seem time-consuming, but they lead to a better understanding of the material so you'll get more out of the reading with fewer passes.

How many of the steps you follow is up to you. As you become more efficient you may find that you can read more - and retain more - with less effort. Regardless, if an assignment is important, be sure to take notes so that you don't have to reread it later.