Published on February 12, 2021

The SQ3R Method: How It Maximizes Your Learning Comprehension

The SQ3R Method: How It Maximizes Your Learning Comprehension

Diving into the learning field, you’ll be able to quickly uncover that there are many different methods of learning and studying a subject. More methods continue to rise to the surface and gain popularity. One among them that I have yet to talk much about is the SQ3R method.

It doesn’t take much to learn this method of studying, but by applying it in your future learning, you’ll be able to make the most from this method. Below, I’ll tell you all about it.

What Is the SQ3R Method?

Whether you’re using this as a study method or for reading, this method is a method to study, understand and remember any written information quickly. The SQ3R method was first mentioned in 1946 in the book Effective Study by education psychologist Francis P. Robinson, which has since been reprinted several times over.

The focus of this method is to help learners efficiently and actively work on reading and understanding texts with a heavy emphasis on educational texts.[1] That said, this method can be applied to any kind of text out there if you’re looking to have a deeper understanding of something.

Benefits of the SQ3R Method

The main and clear benefit of using this method is the optimum use of your reading time. By using the five steps of the SQ3R method, you can actively read something and have a better ability in remembering and explaining what the text is all about.


The second benefit is that from using the first step, you’ll be reading more deliberately and focusing on the most relevant information. This will ensure that you remember the content better.

Some additional benefits include:

  • The ability to add an additional R to the method – Known as SQ4R, the fourth R can mean different things like Relate, Record, or Reflect.[2] This extra step allows you to create links of knowledge to your own personal experiences (Relate), perform a more extensive summary for understanding(Record), or getting a deeper grasp of a topic and clarity (Reflect).
  • A higher awareness of what you are reading allows you to grasp if it’s worth reading or what to be focusing on in a text – This means you’ll be reading faster and efficiently.
  • You’ll have better concentration and thought about the topic or material – This means that you’re automatically entering a mindset to better absorb information. You’re reading with a specific purpose in mind and you’re more likely to excel in that.
  • It gives you an easier time transferring new material to your long-term memory – Information we take in now is stored in our short-term memory and our short-term memory is limited and lives very briefly.[3] Having information be stored in short term and then moved to the long-term via this method is incredible as we’re more likely to retain and use that information.
  • You’ll stave off information overload – This method encourages you to stretch out information over an extended period of time. For this method to work, you can’t cram or overload your mind with information. This is crucial for many people as information is everywhere and it’s so easy to be overwhelmed and overloaded with information.
  • You’ll spend less time studying and more applying the information – Even though this method seems like it’ll take more time to study and process, research shows that people who use this study method spend less time studying for finals than those who don’t use this method.[4] Outside of an academic field, this means you can process information faster than others and thus, be able to apply what you learned faster, too.

How Do You Apply This Method?

The typical method to studying texts or self-improvement books for most people is to read them and highlight the important passages along the way. While that’s not a bad method, it’s not the most efficient and growth-inducing one. If you’re looking to be approaching texts with more efficiency and effectiveness, you’ll have to use the SQ3R method.

Where the SQ3R get’s its abbreviation is from the five steps that you’ll be doing: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review.

Below is a detailed explanation of each of the five steps so you can apply the method yourself.


1. Survey

The first step in the SQ3R method is surveying and in this case, you take a few minutes to scan the entire text. The idea here isn’t to take in any specific pieces of information but rather to get an understanding of the layout, chapters, sections, words in bold and italics as well as any pictures or graphs that are in there.

For educational texts, this preliminary scan will give you an overview, structure, and understanding of the general contents. For other texts, you can see this as getting a general summary of what the author is trying to convey to you. Regardless, this step will provide you with a foundation for when you get to reading and trying to understand the text.

2. Question

Right after you’ve surveyed the book, you’ll want to ask yourself questions based on that. One way you can ease yourself into it is by looking at the chapter titles and turning them into questions.

Be sure to write down these questions and then start by asking yourself what you already know about the topics that they’re covering. It’s also crucial you ask yourself what your goal is for reading this in the first place and comparing it to your answers. If you’re reading a book for a specific purpose, you’ll want a book to be able to answer those questions. You’ll also get an idea of which chapters you really need to focus on to understand fully.

The question step is all about understanding what it is that the author is trying to convey to the readers. Also, feel free to write on the left margin questions that you have. At a later stage, you note down answers in the right margin.


3. Read

After all that is set up, you can then get to reading but not before keeping in mind what you’ve done in the previous steps. Keep the structure you had in step 1 and the questions from step 2 in the back of your mind as you are reading.

While reading, pay attention to the chapters, sentences that are printed in bold, and explanations under graphs and images. Make a point of reading actively as in writing down additional questions as you’re reading along and actively look for answers to the previously asked questions. This also means writing down answers and explanations in the text.

Don’t be ashamed if you have to slow down either. This step encourages you to take your time on the more complex parts or parts that require more focus. Take the time to read it again if you need to. At the same time, pay less attention to the unimportant information or things you already know.

4. Recite

After reading, reciting is the next step which is taking all that information you’ve read and compiling it into your own words. You want to use this time to ask yourself questions about the text again and answer them based on what you’ve learned from the text. A few other angles you can try are things like explaining what you’ve read to someone else or someone in your own imagination. You can also consider making a summary in your own words as extra support.

5. Review

The final step of the SQ3R method is to review. While you’d think that reciting is all that you need to do, reviewing is an extra step in reinforcing everything. For information to retain better, it’s important that it’s reviewed and repeated several times—regardless of it being an educational text or a personal growth book.


In either scenario, you’re going to be having notes or takeaways from the text and it pays to be looking back at those and build on it. The first time you’ve looked at a text, there may be harder parts or parts that you don’t quite understand. But after studying those particular parts again for a second or third time, you can expand on your understanding and the notes you initially set up.

What’s also worth noting is this step can become extremely helpful if you do this final step one day after doing the previous four steps.

Final Thoughts

The SQ3R method is a structured method that can provide you with a deeper understanding of a text and overall improve your comprehension of a text. By using this method, you’ll be able to remove irrelevant information and focus on the more important information. Beyond that, you’ll be able to retain that information thanks to the various techniques the SQ3R method enforces.

More Tips on How to Improve Your Learning

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on April 26, 2021

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

One of the biggest realizations I had as a kid is that teaching in school could be hit or miss for students. We all have our own different types of learning styles. Even when I was in study groups, we all had our own ways of uncovering solutions to questions.

It wasn’t only until later in my life did I realize how important it is to know your own learning style. As soon as you know how you learn and the best way to learn, you can better retain information. This information could be crucial to your job, future promotions, and overall excelling in life.

Best of all about this information is that, it’s not hard to figure out what works best for you. There are broad categories of learning styles, so it’s a matter of finding which one we gravitate towards most.

What Are the Types of Learning Styles?

Before we get into the types of learning styles, there’s one thing to know:

We all learn through repetition.

No matter how old you are, studies show that repetition allows us to retain and learn new information.[1] The big question now is what kind of repetition is needed. After all, we all learn and process information differently.

This is where the types of learning styles come in. There are eight in total and there is one or two that we prefer over others. This is important because when reading these learning styles, you’ll feel like you’d prefer a mixture of these styles.

That’s because we do prefer a combination. Though there will be one style that will be more predominate over the others. The key is finding which one it is.

Visual Learning

A visual learner (also known as the spatial learner) excels at deciphering anything visual – typically maps and graphs.

If you are this type of learner, you likely excelled at geometry in math class but struggled with arithmetic and numbers. To this day, you might also struggle with reading and writing to a degree.


While visual learners are described as “late bloomers,” they are highly imaginative. They also process what they see much faster than what they hear.

Verbal Learning

Verbal learning, on the other hand, is learning through what’s spoken. Verbal learners excel in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Because of that, they are likely the ones to find thrills in tongue twists, word games, and puns.

They also thoroughly enjoy drama, writing, and speech classes. But give them maps, or challenge them to think outside of the box and they’ll struggle a bit.

Logical Learning

Not to be confused with visual learners, these learners are good at math and logic puzzles. Anything involving numbers or other abstract visual information is where they excel.

They can also analyze cause and effect relationships quite well. Part of that is due to their thinking process being linear.

Another big difference is their need to quantify everything. These people love grouping information, creating specific lists, agendas or itineraries.

They also have a love for strategy games and making calculations in their heads.

Auditory Learning

Similar to verbal learning, this type of learning style focuses on sounds on a deeper level. These people think chronologically and excel more in the step-by-step methods. These are likely the people who will watch Youtube videos to learn or do something the most.

These learners also have a great memory of conversations and love debates and discussions. Chances are likely these people excel at anything oral.

Also as the name suggests, these individuals have great musical talents. They can decern notes, instruments, rhythms and tones. That being said, they will have a tough time interpreting body language, expressions and gestures. This also applies to charts, maps and graphs.


Social Learning

Otherwise known as the interpersonal learner, their skills are really unique. They don’t particularly excel in classrooms but rather through talking to other people.

These are the people who are excited for group conversations or group projects. Mainly because they are gifted with coming up with ideas and discussing them.

They also have a good understanding of people’s emotions, facial expressions, and relationship dynamics. They are also likely the first people to point out the root causes of communication issues.

Intrapersonal Learning

The reverse of interpersonal learning, these people prefer learning alone. These are the people who love self-study and working alone. Typically, intrapersonal learners are deeply in tune with themselves meaning they know who they are, their feelings, and their own capabilities.

This type of learning style means you love learning something on your own and typically every day. You also have innate skills in managing yourself and indulging in self-reflection.

Physical Learning

Also known as kinesthetic learning, these people love doing things with their hands. These are people who loved pottery or shop class. If you’re a physical learner, you’ll find you have a huge preference in using your body in order to learn.

This means not just pottery or shop class you enjoyed. You may also have loved sports or any other art medium like painting or woodwork. Anything that involved you learning through physical manipulation you enjoyed and excelled at.

Though this doesn’t just apply to direct physical activities. A physical learner may also find that they learn well when both reading on any subject and pacing or bouncing your leg at the same time.

Naturalistic Learning

The final learning style is naturalistic. These are people who process information through patterns in nature. They also apply scientific reasoning in order to understand living creatures.

Not many people may be connected to this one out of the types of learning styles primarily because of those facts. Furthermore, those who excel in this learning end up being farmers, naturalists or scientists.


These are the people who love everything with nature. They appreciate plants, animals, and rural settings deeply compared to others.

How to Know Which One(s) Suit You Better?

So now that you have an idea of all the types of learning styles we have another question:

Which one(s) are best for you?

As a reminder, all of us learn through a combination of these learning styles. This makes pinpointing these styles difficult since our learning is likely a fusion of two or more of those styles.

Fortunately, there are all kinds of methods to narrow down which learner you are. Let’s explore the most popular one: the VARK model.

VARK Model

Developed by Neil Fleming and David Baume, the VARK model is basically a conversation starter for teachers and learners.[2] It takes the eight types of learning styles above and condenses them into four categories:

  • Visual – those who learn from sight.
  • Auditory – those who learn from hearing.
  • Reading/writing – those who learn from reading and writing.
  • Kinesthetic – those who learn from doing and moving.

As you can probably tell, VARK comes from the first letter of each style.

But why use this particular model?

This model was created not only for discussion purposes but for learners to know a few key things — namely understanding how they learn.

Because our school system is focusing on a one-size-fits-all model, there are many of us who struggle learning in school. While we may no longer go to school, these behaviors persisted into our adult lives regardless. While we aren’t learning about algebra or science, we may be learning new things about our job or industry. Knowing how to best retain that information for the future helps in so many ways.


As such, it can be frustrating when we’re in a classroom setting and aren’t understanding anything. That or maybe we’re listening to a speech or reading a book and have no clue what’s going on.

This is where VARK comes back in. To quote Fleming and Baume:

“VARK above all is designed to be a starting place for a conversation among teachers and learners about learning. It can also be a catalyst for staff development- thinking about strategies for teaching different groups can lead to more, and appropriate, variety of learning and teaching.”

Getting into the specifics, this is what’s known as metacognition.[3] It helps you to understand how you learn and who you are. Think of it as a higher order of thinking that takes control over how you learn. It’s impossible to not use this while learning.

But because of that metacognition, we can pinpoint the different types of learning styles that we use. More importantly, what style we prefer over others.

Ask These Questions

One other method that I’ll mention is the research that’s done at the University of Waterloo.[4] If you don’t want to be using a lot of brainpower to pinpoint, consider this method.

The idea with this method is to answer a few questions. Since our learning is a combination of styles, you’ll find yourself leaning to one side over the other with these questions:

  • The active/reflective scale: How do you prefer to process information?
  • The sensing/intuitive scale: How do you prefer to take in information?
  • The visual/verbal scale: How do you prefer information to be presented?
  • The sequential/global scale: How do you prefer to organize information?

This can narrow down how you learn and provide some other practical tips for enhancing your learning experience.

Final Thoughts

Even though we have a preferred style of learning and knowing what that is is beneficial, learning isn’t about restriction. Our learning style shouldn’t be the sole learning style we rely on all the time.

Our brain is made of various parts and whatever style we learn activates certain parts of the brain. Because of this fact, it would be wise to consider other methods of learning and to give them a try.

Each method I mentioned has its merits and there’s not one dominate or superior method. What method we like is entirely up to our preferences. So be flexible with those preferences and uncover what style works best for you.

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[1] BrainScape: Repetition is the mother of all learning
[2] Neil Fleming and David Baume: VARKing Up the Right Tree
[3] ERIC: Metacognition: An Overview
[4] University of Waterloo: Understanding Your Learning Style

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