SQ3R Active Reading Strategy

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SQ3R is an acronym for survey, question, read, recite, and review. SQ3R is an effective active reading strategy to better understand written content. It’s also a great way to empower students who struggle concentrating on text. Additionally, students utilizing SQ3R have an easier time recollecting what they’ve read since they review content several times in multiple ways.

Students majoring in the humanities and arts, physical and biological sciences, psychology, and other social sciences can benefit greatly from the SQ3R strategy. However, students studying math typically do not benefit by using this method. Regardless of whether students read scholarly articles and periodicals, textbooks, or published research, SQ3R can be utilized to enhance comprehension. Likewise, the SQ3R strategy is simple to utilize. SQ3R is a great method to use when struggling with memory retention and boredom.


Survey is the first process of the SQ3R method. Surveying is a process where students briefly mentally summarize the main concepts of a reading assignment.

Begin your summary by briefly skimming the text for table of contents, chapter headings, bulleted lists, sub-headings, and other clues providing insight into content. Having a basic idea of what you’ll be reading will make it easier to understand content.

Likewise, having a basic understanding of content will make reading more structured, enable students to see how ideas are interrelated, and help them know what to look for while reading.

Pay close attention to bolded terms, italicized phrases, and topic sentences when assigned readings lack headings. Topic sentences and easily identifiable text usually provide insight into key concepts. Students who attentively look for key concepts typically better comprehend content than students who rely too much on headings.

If you have a hard time remembering key concepts, use a notepad to create an outline of these concepts.

Developing an outline, whether on paper or within your mind, is essential since complex concepts are only retained when linked with supporting concepts. Outlines can be reviewed after you’re done reading.

Focusing on specific sections of a text is another component of surveying. The first thing to do is to re-summarize and analyze text. Identify what you previously understood before reading, and determine whether you possess previous experience with the new concepts you’re learning. After reading the title, anticipate what you’ll be studying. Once this is done, read the initial paragraph of the text. Most opening paragraphs preview the main topics addressed within the text. Thoroughly review the abstract if one is available, and review headings to reiterate main concepts. Next, read the topic sentence in each paragraph and the final summary to completely familiarize yourself with the main topics. Also take time to briefly review charts, photos, and other visual aids.


Questioning is the second phase of SQ3R. During this phase, students anticipate what questions will be answered after reading the text. Developing questions will supplement the outline you’ve developed.

Developing questions will also narrow your focus on the key concepts you’re trying to identify. Reading comprehension is also important since you’ll be actively looking for details within the text, even unanticipated concepts. Anticipated questions can eventually be utilized to prepare for tests and quizzes.

Create questions by rephrasing chapter headings into questions. Answer questions you’ve developed while reading with current knowledge. Write down new questions while summarizing text. Then, compare anticipated questions with those identified while reading.

After organizing main ideas and developing questions, you’ll be sufficiently prepared to read the text.


Now that you’re organized, read the text. While reading, connect supporting ideas with main ones. Identify details that answer anticipated questions and jot down new insights.

Students utilizing the SQ3R strategy should abstain from marking text since it diverts attention away from reading. Instead, write margin notes and number text with the corresponding anticipated question.


Take some time to reflect after reading each chapter. Restate main ideas aloud and write them down in a notebook. Review anticipated questions and re-summarize main ideas without looking at the text. Re-summarizing ideas in this manner will improve short and long-term memory retention. If you neglect to recite what you’ve read, you will more than likely forget what you’ve learned.


Once you’re done with the recitation phase, re-summarize the entire article or chapter to connect supporting ideas with main ones. This is an effective way to assess understanding, organize main concepts, and enhance memory retention.

Review chapter headings, margin and other notes, anticipated questions, and identified answers while reviewing assigned readings. Additionally, review highlighted or stared text. Develop a brief summary of all the main concepts and recite them aloud. Many students benefit by recording summaries to listen to at later dates.

Repeat this process weekly since repetition improves memory retention. Additionally, it reduces stress since you’ll spend less time cramming for tests.