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What is the SQ3R Study Method?

To learn, we take information in through our senses and process it.  Next, it must be sorted and categorized so that it can be stored and available for recall later.  The SQ3R study method was designed to assist with this process.  SQ3R stands for SURVEY, QUESTION, and the three R’s, READ, RECITE, and REVIEW.  Below are descriptions for each.

1. Survey - Survey the material by looking at titles, subtitles, captions, bold words and phrases, pictures, diagrams, graphs, and anything else that appears to be important. 

What it does – Surveying material prepares your mental processing system to receive information to be learned.  This provides the basic knowledge required to organize and learn incoming information from reading assignments and notes.

Why do it – When your mental processing system “knows” what to expect in advance, it can understand and store information in a much more efficient manner than if the new information is thrown into the system with no warning. 

2. Question - Before reading, ask yourself questions about what you anticipate will be in the text.  It is helpful to look at the objectives and chapter summary.

What it does – Formulating questions organizes new information and begins to attach it to already existing knowledge. This process of attachment is an important component of learning. 

Why do it – Generating questions helps increase concentration, reduce forgetting, and improve learning speed and recall.

3. Read - Prepare for reading by choosing an environment that is conducive to learning and removing distractions.  Chunk your reading time by reading for a designated amount of time (usually 20-30 minutes), taking a short break, and repeating.

What it does – When you read, you choose which information is most important and necessary to answer questions that were previously formulated.  Being aware that you will have to recite the information helps you remain active while reading. 

Why do it – Staying focused while reading will improve concentration and allow you to properly store information for recalling later.

4. Recite - Say the questions and answers out loud.  When reciting answers, imagine that you are trying to teach someone else what you know.

What it does – This step is very important.  Reciting requires concentration and focus on the relevant information from the reading assignments and notes. Reciting helps you determine what you know and what you don’t. 

Why do it – There are three types of memory:  immediate, short term, and long term.  In order to recall information later, it must be held in the short term memory and then transferred into long term memory. Reciting is so important because it is during this time that information in the short term memory transfers to the long term memory.  This is what makes the SQ3R study method so successful.

5.  Review - Spend time repeating the process of questioning and reciting.

What it does – It is normal to forget, but immediate review reduces the normal forgetting process and leads to more complete retention.

Why do it – The process of reviewing helps to move what has been placed in short term memory into long term memory.  When done frequently, that information will remain in long term memory and be available for recall during tests, quizzes, work situations etc.  Without review, what is stored in short term memory will fade and eventually be lost.