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SQ3R Method

Text books are often read in the same way the other books are read; begin

with the first page of the chapter and read to the end of the chapter, without stopping.

This method is fine for novels or other pleasure books, which does not need much

understanding and retention as needed for most textbooks. Many books have been

written on special skills useful in reading book. Some have emphasized increased

speed reading; others, techniques for getting the most stimulation from and author’s

ideas. Students, however, want a skill that will be particularly effective when reading

school textbooks.1

SQ3R can serve as a substitute for a directed reading activity when students

are working on the independent reading level. It can also serve as an alternative

directed reading activity, to be used as teacher guided activity in a group or class –

wide situation to achieve certain purposes. SQ3R is a useful technique for fully

absorbing written information. It helps us to create a good mental framework of a

subject, into which we can fit facts correctly. It helps us to set study goals. It also

prompts us to use the review techniques that will help to fix information in your


By using SQ3R, it is especially helpful as a teacher directed activity in

introducing and reviewing a textbook. It is a useful technique for extracting the

maximum amount of benefit form our reading time. It helps us to organize the

structure of a subject in our mind and to separate important information from

irrelevant data.

Using SQ3R provides a different method of reading textbooks that will most
1 Francis P. Robinson, Effective Study, (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1970), p. 31.
likely improve our understanding and retention of material. It is no a quicker way to

read chapter in a textbook but it is likely to reduce the amount of time that one will

need to spend studying material immediately before that test. This is so because more

time is spent actually understanding the chapter when it is read initially. It is

especially helpful as a student directed activity for mature readers who are reading

expository material without the aid of a teacher’s guidance in the form of directed

reading activity. Parts of it can even be built into a directed reading activity, but it

provides for less guidance by the teacher than does the directed reading activity. That

is why it is best to use SQ3R when the student is working on his independent reading

level, whereas the directed reading activity is best when the student is working on his

instructional reading level.

The abbreviation SQ3R stands for the steps that the student follows in using

the method. A description of each of these steps is given below:2

1. Survey

A survey of headings in a lesson should take only a minute. Some students are so

in the habit of reading once they start that, until they have learned how, they need

to make a conscious effort to look just at the headings and then to estimate what

the lesson is about. It is worthwhile to practice this skill. Take some reading

materials on topics with which you are familiar, e.g., newspapers, digest

magazines, previously read textbooks, and so on. Glance at the headings in an

article or a chapter and then make guesses as to what the material will actually

say. Check to see how well you have done.

2. Question
2 Ibid, p. 32-33.
Now that you have surveyed the entire chapter to build a framework for

understanding the chapter, it’s time to begin the reading process. Turn the first

heading into a question. This will arouse our curiosity and thereby increase

comprehension. It will bring to mind information already known, thus helping us

to understand that section more quickly. The question also will make important

points stand our at the same time that explanatory details is recognized as such

turning a heading into a question can be done at the instant of reading the

heading, but it demands a conscious effort on our part.

3. Read

Reading the section fills the information around the mental structures you have

been building by surveying the chapter and developing questions about the

section. Read one section at time; as you read the section, look for the answers to

your questions and write them down, in your awn words. One question is

probably enough for a section that is only a few paragraphs; however, for longer

sections, we may find that w need to add a question or two. Do not focus on the

details very much; well-written textbooks often provide examples to further the

main ideas. As we read the section, try to separate the details from the main

ideas. Use the details to help us understand the main ideas but do not expect

ourselves to memorize every detail provided in the chapter.

4. Recite

Having read the first section. Look away from the book and try briefly to recite

the answer to our question. Use our won words and cite an example. If we can do
this, we know what is in the book; if we cannot, glance over the section again. An

excellent way to do this reciting from memory is to jot down brief cue phrases in

outline form on a sheet of paper.

Now repeat steps 2, 3 and 4 with each successive headed section: that is, turn the

next heading into a question, read to answer that question, and recite the answer

by jotting down cue phrases in our outline. Read in this way until the entire

lesson is completed.

5. Review

This step helps us to build memory. We learn through repetition. This step

provides another opportunity for repetition of the material and therefore will

improve our recall of the information. Once we have finished reading the entire

chapter using the survey. Question, read and recite steps, go back over all our

questions. Cover the answers to the questions we have develop and written down

and see if we can still recite them.

If some of the answers have been forgotten, reread that section of the chapter to

refresh our memory, recite the answer after we have written it down and then

continue our review process.

This five steps of the SQ3R method – survey, question, read, recite and

review – when polished into a smooth and efficient method should result in faster

reading, picking out the important points, and fixing them in memory. The student

will find one other worth while outcome quiz questions will seem familiar because

the headings turned into questions are usually the points emphasized in quizzes. By

predicting actual quiz questions and looking up the answers beforehand the student
feels that he is effectively studying what is considered important in a course.