How To Study Skills

How to study skills are an imperative. Which is to say, how to study skills are critical for success in life. I don’t just mean in school or academia. If there is knowledge or information that is important for you to master, you need to have the skills with which to master it.

This originally appeared on my site, Earthtiger Networking -no longer a site, by the way- , on September 3, 2015, under the title of ‘How to Study.’ I thought it appropriate for the Good To Know Stuff category. It comes a little later in the year than before, but still in time to help. As I have researched it, and since it is an issue that I feel strongly about, I have decided that this is an article that will be updated yearly.

How To Study Skills, A Method Called SQR3

The buses are rolling again. Fall is around the corner and parents are relishing the once again quiet of an empty house.

Kids look forward to going back to school with varying levels of anxiety and anticipation. A big part of their anxiety is rooted in their lack of true study skills.

This post is about fixing that problem.

Steps To Successful Studying

Effective study skills are obtainable by exercising a disciplined approach. That discipline is not hard to master.

Now, whether we are addressing College Study Skills or the study skills high school students need, student study skills are the same. The study skills teenagers use and those used by college students are the same…or should be, if the various institutions are doing their jobs.

There is a five step study method that has been taught by teachers who want their kids to succeed. Its acronym is very easy to remember and helps one recall each stage. SQR3 is the acronym.

SQR3 steps are:

  1. Survey
  2. Question
  3. Read
  4. Recite
  5. Review

There is also a variation on a theme with this called SQ4R where the fourth ‘R’ refers to either ‘relate’ or ‘reflect.’

Relating the information you are studying to yourself, your life or any number of facets in your life that are meaningful to you can only increase your mastery of the information at hand. It can also give you motivation to connect the material to you in ways that will give you the ability to keep it with you for the rest of your life. Bridges that connect what you are studying to your living have lots of benefits, good grades being only one.

Feel free to incorporate as many R’s as you would like. Again, the process can only deepen the connection between you and your study materials.

Using Survey To Get Started

The definition of the word ‘survey’ is to look carefully and thoroughly at someone or something, especially so as to appraise them. In our case that something is the material that you are trying to master.

I think it helpful to list a few synonyms. Making the decision to ‘survey’ a thing is not a daily routine for most. Survey is generally thought of as a ‘poll.’ As in, “We are taking a ‘survey’ or we are taking a ‘poll.’

Here are those I think will help you survey your study materials efficiently.

    • contemplate
    • scrutinize
    • inspect
    • scan
    • look over
    • consider

Basically, to survey the material you should just flip the pages, scanning to learn about how the material is organized.

Does it have comment boxes surrounded by borders?

Does it have boxes marked “Important Tip” or something similar?

Lots of times there will be boxes in the margins entitled things like “Did you know?” or “Something to think about.” Anytime you see this, you know the author thinks this is particularly relevant to the subject. You are also likely to see this information on the test, so, you are forewarned.


Ask yourself:

      • What is this material about?
      • Why is this important to me? (Aside from passing a test.)

What does it seem to be saying is important? What is it that the author is trying to teach me? Make a few notes about things that seem to stand out.


Read the material. Do I mean just speed read while your favorite show is taking half your attention? While I suppose it would be better than nothing I doubt it will maximize your comprehension.

When I say read, I mean:

      1. Immerse yourself in it.
      2. If there are audiovisual resources or other resources listed on line, make sure to watch or read them all.
      3. Read at a comfortable pace, moving back and forth in the material, looking for connections amongst the various points made.
      4. Take your time, moving slowly enough to absorb the material, fast enough to keep yourself from getting bored.


Recite means to read the material out loud. Recite it to the world through the main window. Recite it to your dog. I am sure he will love the attention. Recite it while sitting …everywhere you sit.

Why? You know, I do not have an authoritative explanation, but I do have some thoughts on the matter.

Reading only involves he sense of sight and to a much lesser degree, touch.


      • Involves the sense of sight as does reading.
      • It also involves the sense of sound.
      • If you pace when you recite you are tying all kinds of sensory input to the material.

To sum it up:

  1. Your eyes see it when you read.
  2. When you read it out loud the knowledge is passing from your brain to your vocal cords.
  3. The sound of your voice makes your ears hear it, again directing the knowledge to your brain through a second channel.
  4. If you pace as you recite you are tying the knowledge to even more sensory input.


Now that you have completed this process, review what it is you now know. How much do you think you have learned? This process can be repeated until you are satisfied with your retention.

Closing Comments

Folks tend to learn best when their studying is disciplined and regular. A fixed study time is helpful because setting one teaches the brain to quickly drop into a learning mode at the appointed time.

Also, they tend to retain smaller chunks of knowledge at a time so pick a time period somewhere between 15 minutes and an hour.

As long as it presents no health problems for you, eating just a little bit of sweet, like a teaspoon of honey, before each study period can enhance retention and comprehension. Why? Most likely it is because the brain is 90% fat by weight and uses exclusively glucose as an energy source.

While it is not part of the SQR3 method per se, I have found it helpful to take intense notes during class and apply the SQR3 method to my notes as well. Using highlighters, clips and post it notes can also further enhance retention by providing more things to which information can be attached.

I really hope this helps. It is applicable to any and every thing which one wants to master, whether we are talking about 6th grade civics class or PDFs on how to master SEO or how to work from home.

Best Regards,

Tim Singleton

You can find various types of study skills worksheets out there. Cornell Notes, note taking system, is one such answer. I personally like its clean lines. (Something else you might want to check out.)

It is a note taking system that has shown to give good results. If you’re going to study, you need good notes to study with, too. Here is what it looks like inside:Tim Singleton

Again, Best Regards.  -Tim

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