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Published on February 12, 2021

The SQ3R Method: How It Maximizes Your Learning Comprehension

The SQ3R Method: How It Maximizes Your Learning Comprehension
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Featured photo credit: Eliott Reyna via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done

How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done
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Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

How Serious Is Information Overload?

The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem.

This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

When we see some half-baked blog posts we don’t even consider reading, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it.

We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on.

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The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control.

Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it.

But first, admit that information overload is really bad for you.

Why Information Overload Is Bad for You

Information overload stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here.

When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

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You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work or enjoy your passion.

How to Stop Information Overload (And Start to Achieve More)

So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with setting goals.

1. Set Your Goals

If you don’t have your goals put in place, you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

2. Know What to Skip When Facing New Information

Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks, you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans, then skip it. You don’t need it.

If it does, then ask yourself these questions:

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  • Will you be able to put this information into action immediately?
  • Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks?
  • Is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away?

If the information is not actionable in a day or two, then skip it.

(You’ll forget about it anyway.) And that’s basically it.

Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant.

Self-control comes handy too. It’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future, then SKIP IT.

3. Be Aware of the Minimal Effective Dose

There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour BodyTim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs.

Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose, no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life.

Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

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4. Don’t Procrastinate by Consuming More Information

Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article, we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

The focus of this article is not on how to stop procrastinating, but if you’re having such issue, I recommend you read this: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

Summing It Up

As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance.

I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over.

I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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