The SQ3R Method: 5 Ways to Increase Your Comprehension

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    I’ll show you how to increase your comprehension using the SQ3R Method!

    Active reading strengthens the mind by training the complex circuitry and signals of the brain. As your ability to absorb and learn from what you read increases, your brain’s network becomes stronger, more robust and sophisticated.

    When you read and comprehend, the brain lights up with activity. Brain scans even show that, like a physical workout, the brain stays lit up for days after you stop reading.

    With all of the benefits, why wouldn’t you want to be a more effective reader?

    “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”

    In college, I regularly took a full load of classes. I had to manage several different textbooks and process information at a high level. I tried speed reading, photographic memory techniques, and anything I could get my hands on to improve my level of retention.

    Ultimately, I settled on the SQ3R Method, which helped me to ace my exams and communicate more effectively in classroom discussions. The SQ3R Method changed my life.

    What Is The SQ3R Method

    The SQ3R Method gives you a system to increase your retention of written information.

    There are five steps to follow, and the name of the Method is an acronym to help you remember the five steps. The acronym stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite and Review.

    There is also another version of this Method called the SQ4R Method, where the additional R provides an extra step to help cement your knowledge. However, it’s best to start with The SQ3R Method and then modify it to fit your needs.

    The SQ3R Method

    The Importance of The SQ3R Method

    Following a process provides a framework for your brain to conceptualize and conceive of information. Without a process, you are left to reinvent the wheel each time you sit down to study. Using a system to study can also make the time go by faster, and you can also gain additional enjoyment from your studies.

    One of the best ways to learn and retain information is to make the subject matter exciting and fulfilling. By turning the learning process into a sort of game and following the steps of The SQ3R Method, the brain begins to light up and become more engaged.

    The SQ3R Method helps you understand the difference between knowing and understanding a concept. It’s possible to memorize a passage and still not completely understand the meaning of the passage. Critical reading skills taught by The SQ3R Method will make you a more effective reader and provide greater insights.

    Teachers understand that before you can truly understand a concept, you have to have the ability to teach it to someone else. The Method provides a solution for learning at a deep level so that you can not just recite information, but also teach others.

    The Benefits of The SQ3R Method

    The SQ3R Method offers a powerful strategy that can rewire your brain and make it more effective at processing information. The Method may be time-consuming in the beginning stages, but it can save countless hours studying once you get the process down.

    The system is most beneficial for activating a few key areas of memory and comprehension. By activating knowledge and not just memorizing facts, you can begin thinking about the textbook before you start reading. This prime’s the brain for additional work.

    Once you begin reading, the process will help you better review information while you are reading. The Method gives you a process for learning how to analyze, process and catalog important data. Additionally, the system will make it easier to create a study guide and write down key facts without continually reviewing the textbook.

    If you’re serious about retaining more of what you read, you have to make the reading relevant and relate it to your life. The SQ3R Method helps you to establish a link between the reading and your own experiences, which results in more in-depth learning.

    Using the SQ3R Method

    While it may be tempting to skip steps of the Method, it’s important to maintain a systematic approach in the early stages. This process only works when you consistently follow all of the steps. By following a system, your brain will build a deep network of circuitry that eventually makes the process second-nature.

    Without this system, your textbooks are going to be overwhelming and information overload will quickly take control. If you have ever found yourself mindlessly reading words on a page without really understanding the content, you owe it to yourself to give this process a chance.

    1. Survey

    The survey technique is a process that is used in several different learning methods. One method I studied when I was younger was the dubious process of photographic reading. The first step of this process was to survey the text.

    When you survey a text, you don’t begin reading. Think of it as whetting your appetite and priming your brain to discover the essential information on the page. The surveying part of the process provides an overview of the most critical aspects of the text.

    Take a single chapter and scan the text for any headers, bold text, italics, colored text, charts, graphs and illustrations. Define any bold words by looking them up in the glossary.

    By taking a moment to survey the textbook and get some background information, you will gain an increased knowledge of the textbook content. Your brain will light up when it comes across these points in your reading because you have already emphasized critical concepts while surveying the text.

    2. Question

    Many people survey the text but fail to create questions about the content in the survey process. The questioning stage is critical. You have already looked up critical key terms, but you don’t yet really have an understanding of what these terms mean.

    Look at your notes gleaned from your survey step and create questions about the content. If you come across a concept that you don’t understand, you can create a question that you need to answer during the reading stage.

    Since you have completed the survey stage, you should have a decent idea of what the textbook plans to cover. Try to anticipate the questions that the textbook will answer. This prepares you to accomplish the goal of actively thinking about the reading, and it will set the stage for further research if you don’t find your answer in the text.

    Creating questions to answer before you start reading is very useful for learning about important concepts. Many textbooks even have questions located at the end of the chapter for you to answer. Include these questions as a starting point, but make sure you create your own as well.

    3. Read

    Only in stage three do you begin to read the textbook. During this stage, you can begin to read through the textbook, starting with the first page. While it’s tempting to skip introductions, there is often critical information that will aid in your understanding located in these opening chapters.

    As you read through the textbook, it’s essential to keep your questions nearby. As you come across a topic that you think might answer a question, take a moment to reflect. While you are supposed to be reading in this stage, it doesn’t mean you should read aimlessly.

    This stage is a critical point for asking questions and getting answers. As you continue to read through the text, your preliminary work makes it easier for you to understand and retain essential concepts detailed throughout the text.

    It’s also important to note that the read step doesn’t occur in a vacuum. You should also be integrating elements from the recite stage as you are reading. Reciting helps increase your learning and comprehension.

    4. Recite

    As mentioned in the read step, this stage often occurs at the same time. As you are reading along, you should be looking for answers to your questions. When you come across the answer, you should recite the answer out loud or to yourself if you are in a library studying.

    This step is one of the most important steps, and it can mean the difference between a good and a great grade. Without reciting the information, you are not making it real enough for the brain to deem important. Reciting the info out loud breaks up the silent act of reading and helps you accent key points.

    It’s critical to recite both the question and then answer the question during this stage. By doing both, you will be more likely to remember the answer. One thing I like to do is pretend I’m the teacher asking a question, and then I will respond as the student. I then go back into teacher mode and think of at least one follow-up question.

    By practicing this process, it may take a bit more time to get through your reading. However, the benefit of this is that you will be better equipped to retain important information from the text.

    5. Review

    The review step requires you to read the textbook one more time. Now that you have read and answered your own questions, you can repeat the process and discover new concepts. If you’ve ever watched a movie twice, you know that the second time around is usually more revealing.

    Taking the time to read through the textbook a second time and answering any questions you might have is critical to mastering the concepts. You will find that your brain continues to process ideas even after you finish reading.

    When I review, I like to do it at the end of the day before I fall asleep. By doing this, the brain tends to prioritize that information since it’s the last thing I did during the day. This results in better comprehension, and sometimes I even dream about the content.

    In Conclusion

    The SQ3R Method is essentially a formula. You can use this formula to read more effectively, increase your comprehension and be a more effective communicator.

    Developing the ability to retain more from your reading is a process, but it’s worthwhile. You will find that the more you study and go through these steps, the easier it is to retain information.

    • Once you master this process, it will be easier to survey a book in 60 seconds, come up with questions in a few minutes and then read, recite and review to gain better comprehension and knowledge of the textbook.

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