Exam revision: Using the SQ3R approach

Exam revision: Using the SQ3R approach

Alex MacCreadie

When you’re revising for exams, you might read over the information and feel like you know it. But don’t confuse recognition with memory recall. Your brain has an amazing visual recognition system that will notice when it sees something familiar. This is not the same as being able to recall or remember something without these visual cues. In an exam, you need to be able to recall the information without your notes as visual cues. 

Want to get your study going? Here are two ways you can start to work out how much you actually remember:

  1. Complete old exam questions without your notes. Notice which sections you feel confident about and which sections you find harder.
  2. Look at the key topics you are studying. Try teaching or explaining the concept to someone else without using your notes. You will spot gaps in your knowledge when the other person is confused or ask questions.

When you’ve done one of these, make a list of the things you didn’t remember or got confused about. You can use your notes or LearnWell resource to help you fill in the gaps in your knowledge.  Once you’ve made a list of the topics you need to focus on, try using the SQ3R method to revise.

SQ3R revision method

S = SCAN Scan the information on this topic to get the main ideas. Look for:

  • Titles and Headings – these indicate the main topics and concepts being developed.
  • Pictures, questions, bold or italicised print – these emphasise important information
  • First and last sentences in paragraphs – these often contain the main points about a topic.

Q = QUESTION Think about the topic and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What do I already know about it?
  • What do I want to know about it?
  • What do I expect to learn about it?
  • What must I remember about it?

R = READ Search for the answers to your questions. Summarise the information in your LearnWell resource and list key points. 

R = RECITE Reciting the information out aloud helps to put the information into your long-term memory. Try saying the information out aloud, in your own words or explain it to someone else.

R = REVIEW Take a break. Go and do something else for half an hour then come back and look at your questions. Can you answer them? If you get stuck, use your notes to help you. Try again tomorrow and see if you remember more.

Sound good? Give it a go now and see if it works for you!

Back to blog