The SQ4R Study Method: Review

The "SQ4R" study method is an evidence-based strategy to maximize the gains you get from studying. The name is an abbreviation, with each letter describing one step of the process. (And yes, SQ4R is an upgrade to SQ3R.) This is the sixth of a series of posts (collect 'em all!) that describe all six steps. So far, you've surveyed a chapter in your textbook, asked yourself some questions, done some reading, recited what you've read, and related it to other things you know. This installment: R (the fourth).

The fourth R is for "review." This does not mean that you frantically try to cram all of your notes into your short-term memory 10 minutes before an exam. This is called "cramming," and it's a poor learning strategy--it may even reduce your retention.

A proper review is done well in advance of an exam. For example, you can go over the questions I pose in lectures, as part of the objectives for every topic. You can answer practice questions that are commonly provided by publishers on a textbook's companion website. Or you can go back and think about the questions you asked yourself before you read the chapter. Can you answer these questions? Or (even better) how well can you answer these questions?

After assessing your learning, you should have a pretty good idea of the things you understand well, and, er...everything else. After identifying the material that's giving you problems, you can do the actual review. This may involve going back and re-reading certain parts of a chapter, or asking your instructor (or the teaching assistant) for further help. By the way, there's nothing wrong with asking for help. Think of it this way: Would you rather struggle with something you don't understand and get a below-average mark? Or would you rather summon up your courage and talk to the instructor, allowing him or her to help you understand something better, and get an above-average mark? Hmm?

(Inside secret: Instructors love it when they can help a student learn something better--whether it's in class, or one-on-one, it doesn't matter. It makes us think we're doing a good job, and not just wearing out our shoes walking to and from class every day. We are resources for you to exploit! Wait, that didn't come out right...)

Why aren't you studying? reviewing?


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