Student Resources: Reading

Read to Remember

Many college students have difficulty with reading and recall because they are storing information in short term memory rather than long term memory.  You can master college level reading by applyingmemory techniques such as those listed in this website.   The three steps of the SQ4R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review and Reflect) method of reading is designed to store information in long term memory so that  you can actually remember what you have read and be successful on tests.    Try these steps:


Step One: Survey and Question
This first step and is designed to help you improve reading speed and comprehension.   Quickly skim or survey the chapter turning the subtitles into questions.  This should take about five minutes or less.  This first step is valuable as a warm-up and helps you ease into studying.  It also helps to create advance organizers which serve as landmarks to aid in memory.  The questions you ask help to improve your comprehension and concentration.  The questioning part is crucial to making reading an active process that keeps you awake and alert. 

Step Two: Read and Recite
Read a college textbook a section at a time.  Generally texts have a bold subheading followed by explanatory text.  Turn the subheading into a question in your mind and read to find the answer.  The key to understanding is the topic sentence or main idea. Highlight or underline the main idea if it is important. When you have finished the section, look at the subheading again and see if you can recite or re-say the main point.    This process is important to store information in your long term memory.

Step Three: Review and Reflect
This quick step is very valuable in storing information in long term memory.  Immediately after you have finished the chapter, do a quick review of what you have learned. Again this should take 5 minutes or less.   Look at the subheadings and see if you can recall the main points.  Re-read the important points you have highlighted.   Reflect on how you can use this information or how it relates to information you already know.  While reflecting on the information, think critically about what you have learned. Reflection is the creative and rewarding part of learning.   Here are some key questions:

  • What is important? What is the significance?

  • How can I use this information? What does it mean to me?

  • What do I think about the information? 

More Useful Ideas

1.  If you do not understand what you have read, make sure you understand the word definitions.  Look up words that are unfamiliar to you and learn the meanings.  You will see these words again on the examinations for the class.

2.  As a beginning college student, you may need to re-read if you do not get the main point the first time.   Your speed and comprehension will improve with practice.

3.  Do not be afraid to mark and highlight your book.  Marking and highlighting save your time and improve memory by making review easier. 

4.  If you do not understand the concepts, talk with your instructor during office hours. 

5.  Make sure you have the prerequisites for the course. Consult the college catalog or the Counseling Office if you need assistance.

6.  Read or at least skim your material before class.  You will understand the lecture much better.  

7.  Do a quick review of your material periodically during the semester and you will be well-prepared and relaxed for the final exams.

8.  If you have applied these techniques and still have a great deal of difficulty with reading, consider taking a college reading course.  A college reading course can be one of your best investments for college success. 

9.  Sometimes students have difficulties with reading or memory because of a learning disability.  A person with a learning disability is of average or better intelligence who has a problem with learning.  Some very brilliant people in history such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison have had learning disabilities.  Each college has a Learning Disabilities Specialist who is trained to administer assessments to identify and assist with learning disabilities. 

10.  Match your reading strategy to your learning style.  For example, auditory learners may want to read their books aloud.  If you are an active learner, you may want to stand up and move around when you read.  If you are an introvert, you may enjoy a quiet place with few distractions for learning.  If you are an extrovert, try a study group.