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20 February 2014

The 'SQ3R' method of Studying....

When I was growing up, I used to take different approaches to studying.

Initially I did 'Rote Learning'. I will cram everything in my head, prepare one or two days before the exam, vomit everything in the answer sheet and come home and forget it for the rest of my life. I soon found that as I got to higher classes, this approach was not feasible. There was far too many stuff to remember and too little time...

Then I read somewhere that you have to use all your senses while studying. So I used to read (seeing) out loud (hearing) and write down everything I read (tactile, a fancy word for 'touch'). I even smelled the pages (Smell) just in case, if you see what I mean.

I did not eat the books, in case you are wondering.

Over a period of time, this also became ineffective. As the volume of stuff that I had to study grew, I found that writing everything is absolutely impractical. But I continued for want of better options.

In between, I read somewhere that 'Singing' your subject is good for retention. So I started that. It was quite an effort to get some of the stuff into music form. I had a tough time composing music to the tough chemical formulae that came my way. I mean, try singing 'Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs or dioxins) are environmental toxins and known mutagens, teratogens and carcinogens.'
I mean....

Somewhere along the way, I came to know of the SQ3R method, the holy grail approach to study process.

There is no other method that can come close to this method. You can use this to study anything. Even when you are reading a novel, you can use this approach (now that is a 'Novel' idea). The beauty of this method is in its simplicity.

The steps in this approach are:
  • Survey
  • Question
  • Read
  • Recite
  • Review
Step 1: Survey:
Before you jump headlong into reading the book, have a quick survey. Read the table of contents. How has the author structured her ideas? How is she presenting it? Is there an introduction? How do the chapters evolve? Have a clear understanding of the layout of the book before you start reading it.

Step 2: Question:
As you are surveying the outline of the book, write down questions that come to your mind. The trick is to anticipate the questions. For example, as you read the name of a chapter, imagine what it may contain. Write questions based on your assumptions. You might have already read something related. So the natural question is how they (what you already know and what you are about to read) are interrelated. 

Science has again and again shown that what you learn with curiosity tend to stay much more than what you just learn for learning's sake. The purpose of framing questions is to initiate the curiosity native in all of us. 

Step 3: Read
We are not talking here of a casual reading. Be an involved reader. Try to find answers to the questions that you had in Step 2. Take notes. Make cross-references. Link what you read to what you already know (this is learning by application). Most important is to enjoy reading and to enjoy this entire process. Try to identify more questions that you need to find answers to. 

Step 4: Recite
Studies show that anything repeated 10 minutes after you learn stays in long term memory 65% of the time. That is the importance of recitation. Make notes and try to recite the important points that you learned in the chapter. It important to speak out loud. Better still speaking out and at the same time writing it down can do wonders to your retention.

Step 5: Review
There should be three rounds of review at the minimum. One is the end of the day review. At the end of the day, before going to sleep, try to review all that you learned in the day. Try to speak out aloud the key points. In case you miss something, review the notes. Make sure that you do a thorough review of your lessons at the end of the day.

Next is the weekly review. At the end of the week try to review all that you learned in the week. Try to recall it from your memory as much as possible. That way the chances of it staying in your long term memory significantly increase. 

Next level of review is the monthly review. Try to review all that you learned in the last month. 

The purpose of your reviews is to find answers to the questions you had noted down during the 'Question' and 'Read' steps. As you get answers to your questions, your enthusiasm will also skyrocket.

Thats it. The SQ3R approach to studying. 

Note: Please do not forget to review before exam.

Regarding the other points to consider before studying, I couldn't have said it better than Ms.Disha Bathija

What about you? What is the method that you find suitable for you? Which study approach is the best according to you?

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