Active reading: SQ3R system and preread-read-analyze cycle.

We teach our students to preread, read and reread without stating where we learnt it ourselves. To fix this injustice I introduce so called SQ3R system that is commonly used in US schools.

  1. Survey. We also call this prereading. Usually we skim or scan the content before we read it to prepare our mind for new information. This is thoroughly covered in our course materials.
  2. Question. Before reading the text we can ask ourselves why we are trying to read it “what is in it for me”. Clear motivation improves reading process. Getting to the content from different perspectives improves our benefit. Typically we merge this step with prereading. Scanning-questioning-skimming is a good way to filter out what articles we want to read and how much effort to allocate for each.
  3. Read. Clear your mind and just read the content. When reading, you maximize the benefit of previous SQ steps, do not reread and dwell in irrelevant details. Anna strongly suggests to learn prioritize text AFTER graduating 1000wpm 85% comprehension, or you risk get stuck in speed vs comprehension tradeoff…
  4. Recall. We add details to the markers AFTER reading each paragraph. This is our way to insure we recall the paragraph. During training we first make sure to read-recall several times until we get 100% retention, only after several weeks we trust the brain to recall automatically.
  5. Review. Analyze the content from multiple perspectives. See what you learned and try to connect it to previous knowledge. Personally probably I spend more time on this step than all previous steps taken together. If you do not review the article properly, it is hard to understand it and occasionally you will need to revisit it over and over.

Be active BEFORE and AFTER you read. Ask questions, build strategies, look for support of your insights, synthesize new ideas, try to implement new techniques… However when you read, try to clear you mind and focus purely on the text. Anna always says “do not read and analyze at the same time, your working memory is not built for it”. Our preread-read-analyze process was built as simplification and clarification of SQ3R process.
Scan/skim when prereading, read with open (and prepared!) mind, visualize/analyze after reading. We structure reading process in a form that optimizes brain processing abilities. Trying to mix steps may overload your brain (working memory/visual cortex etc) and reduce both speed and comprehension.

SQ3R is a great alternative to our preread-read-analyze process, addressing the same needs in scientifically sound and widely acceptable format. One way to ensure you will retain material is addressing the material from many angles. By using structured reading process we ensure that we address the material from many angles without unnecessary repetitions and without loosing precious time.

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13 Replies to “Active reading: SQ3R system and preread-read-analyze cycle.”

    1. These steps can be applied at different granularity. With novels, we typically try to preread the whole book, and then treat each chapter as a standalone article.

  1. Hi!

    I´m a little confused about when to create markers. Do I create initial markers when reading, step 3, and after reading the entire text and when at step 4, go back and read again adding details to the markers?

    “4. Recall. We add details to the markers AFTER reading each paragraph.” – as you described in the article. Does this mean go back to text from the top and work my way down adding more details to the markers I created in step 3?

    Thanks 🙂

    1. There are variations.
      The official version: when you preread you notice things.
      After prereading before reading you have a split second to organize these things as markers.
      When reading you fill in these markers with details.
      After reading you take a split second to finalize linking of the markers.
      Then continue to the next section.

  2. Hello Lev,
    I hope you are well!
    Similar to the previous question:
    We need to create markers while skimming/scanning//prereading, but those markers will most probably be very broad, right?
    Only after reading, we go back to those markers, to add more details, improve them or change them completely?
    Maybe I’m trying to skim too fast and can’t get enough details to create efficicent markers.

    1. You need to stop fro split second between prereading and reading: possibly, you do not give your brain time to create the initial markers.

  3. Hi!
    I’m still rather unsure about how pre-reading works. How often are u supposed to reflect on the things that u preread? Do u look over what you read every page,chapter, or do u even begin to thoroughly read only after concluding the whole text?

    1. Since prereading should be extremely fast (~1 min per book, ~5 sec per article/chapter), the pondering pause should be of a similar length and you can do this every time.
      Some people have different styles, and this is also OK.

  4. Hi!
    I have a question regarding the reading process.
    This is how I understood it please correct me if I am wrong.

    1. Pre-read : 5 sec / create few visual markers
    2. Question : Think of why I need to read this material
    3. Read : read a paragraph but do not analyze
    (meaning don’t create visual markers(?) while I’m reading?)
    4. Recall : add details to the markers created during Pre-read AFTER finish reading a paragraph
    5. Review : Link this visual markers

    * Extra Question : is using memory palace something that would slow down the reading speed? Should this take place after reading a whole chapter or so to boost speed?

    Thank you! 😀

    1. Your steps are OK. There can be some other variations, but your understanding is equally good.
      A memory palace can be fast with some practice. Specifically for speedreading, do not use cluttered rooms.
      Personally, I often use the visual representation of the text itself as a sort of memory palace. This way I remember not only what I read, but where I read it.
      I might write about it soon.

  5. Hi! I have a question regarding the reading process, specifically linking.

    So, after I create all the markers, am I linking them as in like Mindmapping or slideshow?

    If I have to you mind mapping, do I first create big visual marker and compress it down(zoom out) to fit into the mindmap?

    If I have to use slideshow type, then am I linking the order of those images?

    Btw, I have taken the Udemy course.

    Thank you!

    1. There are several effective tactics. Basically, you can make each of them work for you. Finding the best method for your personality and the material you learn is an art, and currently, the only product we offer to help is 1:1 with Anna.

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