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

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Last Updated on August 11, 2021

23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless. Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent, free online education awaits on the following 23 sites.

1. Coursera

Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups. However, the free courses are now quite limited, so you’ll have to

2. Khan Academy

Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well-organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

Among the more well-known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly user-friendly, which may make it easier to keep learning goals. If you’re looking for a free online education, you can’t go wrong with Khan Academy.

3. Open Culture Online Courses

If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos, and podcasts from universities around the world.

The site features a lot of material found only on universities’ private sites, all in easy-to-browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses without having to visit and search each university’s site.

Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales, and many state universities around the United States. It’s a very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

4. Udemy 

Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.


Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top-quality content. This is another site, however, that mixes free and paid content.

5. Lifehack Fast Track Class

Lifehack believes in skills that multiply your time, energy, and overall quality of life.

In this rapidly changing world, traditional education skills just don’t cut it anymore. You can’t afford to take years learning a skill you’ll never really practice. Besides offering some paid courses that will help you become a better self, it offers a list of free courses which aim to train some of the Core Life Multipliers including:

These are cross-functional skills that work across many aspects of life.

6. Academic Earth

Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

7. edX

Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics from universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley, meaning a high-quality, free online education is entirely possible here.

8. Alison

Unlike the previous sites on this list, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

It’s a great option if users need a professional certificate for their learning, as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

9. iTunesU Free Courses

A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.


Desktop users can access iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including by genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos and paid content.

iTunesU does include courses on a variety of topics, but it does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

10. Stanford Online

Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session-based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

Stanford Online is a great site for high-quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school. If you’re looking for free courses, make sure to mark the “free” option on the left-hand side.

11. Open Yale Courses

Open Yale Courses echoes Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses but learn better by watching than by reading.

12. UC Berkeley Class Central

Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but it includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts, and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

13. MIT OpenCourseWare

Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, and it includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list. However, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics, but for the topics that are covered, impressive, in-depth material is available.

15. Codecademy

Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.


The courses at Codecademy are well-written and easy to follow, and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, and it organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

16. Code

Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high-quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

In addition to kid-friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics, and Javascript.

Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

17. University of Oxford Podcasts

The University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. This is another great site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

18. BBC Podcasts

For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

19. TED-Ed

Another great destination for more general learning and free online education is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all-encompassing, motivational web series comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, but it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.


20. LessonPaths

LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high-quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

21. Memrise

Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

22. National Geographic Kids

The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid-friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keep kids interested on this site.

National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

23. Fun Brain

Fun Brain is another great option for kids looking for free online education, as it focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game-based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and it is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

The Bottom Line

With so many amazing free online education resources, everyone has the ability to boost their skills and knowledge. Whether you’re interested in picking up some interesting trivia for your next party, improve your resume with some coding or business skills, or become a more well-rounded person, these resources are perfect for you.

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