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2023-2024 Student Guide: Reading


In college, you will be required not only to read large amounts of information, but also to understand, explain, remember, and apply what you read. Unless otherwise indicated, the readings you have for your classes are mandatory, and your teachers will expect that you complete the readings that are required for a given day before class starts. Material from your required readings can appear on tests and exams even if your teacher didn’t go over those topics in detail in class, so it is important to take your reading seriously.

How to become an active reader

In order to get the most out of your readings, consider using the following SQ3R five-step reading system. SQ3R is an acronym that stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review:

  • S - Survey: Leaf through the assigned section. As an initial overview, skim over any headings and sub-headings and read the summary and the concluding paragraphs.
  • Q - Question: In order to help you focus your attention, turn headings and subheadings into questions by placing who, what, where, when and how before them. This will arouse your curiosity and therefore increase your motivation to complete the reading. 
  • R - Read: Read to answer the questions you constructed in the preceding stage. 
  • R - Recite: Look away from the page and recite what you have just read in your own words. If you do not succeed at this, return to the text and re-read the section. Try reciting again. 
  • R - Review: Go back to the beginning and review the contents of the section. Think about the questions you have just asked and answered.

To maximize comprehension and retention, use the SQ3R five-step system in coordination with other reading techniques such as jotting down questions in the margins and highlighting the main points.

Always have a pencil in hand when reading to underline important names, dates and definitions, make notes in your margins, jot down your own ideas and questions, and create symbols for eventual reviewing. Circle words you don't know, look them up, and write the definition in the margin.

Remember that you do not need to complete long readings in one stretch. Break up your reading into blocks of time followed by short breaks so that you are able to maintain your concentration and your momentum. 

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