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SQ4R speed reading tips

The SQ4R Method will help you keep studying organized and efficient. The steps to SQ4R ( Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Record, Review) are explained in the steps below.


Glance over the material to get a feel for what you will be reading.

Survey the entire text

When you first receive the text, spend about 20 minutes skimming the entire textbook to acquire an overall understanding of how the book is organized.

  1. Read at the title page.
  2. Read at the copyright page.
  3. Read at the table of contents.
  4. Read the preface.
  5. Read at the ancillary material (appendix, glossary, bibliography, and index)
  6. Read at any illustrations (including charts, graphs, and tables)

 Survey each chapter

Survey a chapter assignment before you actually read it. Survey should tell the scope of the content, how different topics are organized, and what the author's purpose and point of view are. The chapter survey will also give you sufficient background information for class notes.

  1. Read the chapter title.
  2. Read the chapter objectives.
  3. Read the chapter summary or review.
  4. Read the major headings and subheadings.
  5. Read the visual aids.
  6. Read the italicized and/or underlined words and terms.

 Survey the illustrations

Our society is visually oriented; authors and publishers are well aware that effective use of illustrations in textbooks is more necessary than ever. Illustrations can literally replace hundreds of words and convey a message more dramatically and quickly than a comparable section of text. Formats range from equations, theorems, and formulas to tables and graphic illustrations.


 Ask questions before, during, and after reading the material

As you survey the material, ask the questions about what you will be reading and what you will try to answer. Turn the headings and subheadings into questions. These questions give you a real reason for reading and will help you concentrate on the subject you are reading.

Imagine, as you read the textbook, that the author is speaking directly to you. Question the author statements. Challenge the ideas presented. Textbooks are not the A final word, but are a means of actively involving you, the reader, in the learning process. Do not passively accept the author is presentation of material; look at it critically and read with a questioning and searching attitude. Ask the standard questions: what, why, and how.


Read for the main ideas and organization

Now you should read actively with these certain questions in mind and attempt to answer the questions and organize the material. These answers will be the important facts and details. Read everything in a chapter including any of the visual aids such as picture captions, graphs, charts, etc. Note any words or phrases that are italicized, underlined, or in bold print (there=s a reason this material is highlighted!) The tendency in reading is to keep going, but you should stop at the end of each section to see if you can answer the questions you asked at the start of the section.

Find the main ideas in each chapter or section. Textbook authors write as you have been taught to write: they develop a topic sentence and/or paragraph, substantiate it, and draw conclusions.

Concentrate on what you are reading. Try to feel the rhythm of the author's prose (short, snappy sentences or long, labored explanations) and then "go with the flow." Note particularly the headings and subheadings; they indicate the relative importance of each topic.

Study the illustrations. These serve as "pegs" to help you remember the major points being discussed in the text.


Summarize aloud what you read

Recite the main ideas, in other words, aloud or to yourself, after finishing a page. Check the comprehension and make sure you have the correct information. Do the same for the major points after reading each section or chapter.

By reciting what you've read, you are able to see how much information you absorbed, areas you didn't understand and need to review, and answers to the questions you generated for yourself. If you cannot answer the questions, go back to the material and reread.


Marking the textbook increases understanding of the material for the present and for future reference. The process of selecting and marking requires you to find the main ideas. Later, when you review the text for exam purposes, you will find that the textbook markings and highlights enable you to grasp the essential points without having to read entire paragraphs and chapters again.

Write down the central points for the chapter or section in the notebook. Do each assignment before class. This will prepare you to participate in class discussions which will, in turn, help you remember the material you have read and to put it into perspective.

Underline and make marginal notes

Underlining key words and sentences will make those items stand out in the mind.

Marginal notes give you the opportunity to question a statement or position taken by the author as well as making you select the key words or items you want to remember from the paragraph.

Summaries enable you to write a brief summation of a section in other words.

Develop your own system of reading. Use whatever facilitates your retention of the material and works best for you. You might use the following: a double underline for main ideas and a single underline for supporting points; a bracket to enclose several consecutive lines that are important, rather than underlining all of them; or a box or circle around key terms.

Read before you mark. Read a few paragraphs or sections and then go back over the material and underline those topics and/or words that you feel are important.

Be selective. Underline only those points that are clearly essential. You will then have a visible outline of the major points on a page.

Use other words. Marginal notations and summaries should be in other language so you can readily recall the original material as you review. Using the text in this manner enables you to extract all that the book has to offer you in a learning situation, now and in the future. You will be able to use the texts for review in later softwares in the same field or in an allied field, thus reducing the need to re-read the material. You will reap the most benefit from reviewing the notes in the text, rather than being distracted by notes you may find written by some other person in a used text.

Coordinate class notes and textbook notes

Read the textbook material on time and prior to the corresponding class or lecture if at all possible. You can then follow the instructor's thought more easily, separate important points from lesser details, and have class notes become more meaningful to you.

Develop your own note-taking technique for each class. Many students use only one side of the paper for class notes, leaving a 2- or 3-inch margin on the left side of the page for writing key words and labeling.

Combine the text notes and class notes. Do this by writing class notes on the right hand page of the notebook and transferring text notes to the appropriate left hand facing page. You can then easily review all the information gained from class and text reading.


Review constantly

Reviewing is an essential part of retention. Review the textbook notes shortly after you have written them and continue to review them periodically.

Spend a few minutes going over the earlier notes before beginning a new reading assignment. This will help you keep the overall picture of the author's development in mind and will let you place the new material properly within that arrangement.

Review any and all supplements to the text. These usually contain quizzes and self tests on material in the text which will prepare you better for examinations. Constantly review throughout the software will greatly reduce the time you will need to spend preparing for exams and will make that time less stressful ("cramming") and more relaxing ("reviewing").


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