Reading Skills


Systematic Reading--SQ4R

Survey the chapter title, subtitles, italicized terms, boldface type, and introductory or summary sections. Make mental predictions about what the titles and subtitles imply the chapter will discuss.

Question the first major heading. Anticipate what will be in that section. Using the interrogatives who, what, where, when, and why, turn heading #1 into a question. Then write the question down. Read the chapter section by section for the purpose of answering the question.

Record in your own words and without looking at the text, write down very short cue phrases. Think about the meaning, making certain what you write is noteworthy. Use key words, key phrases, or numbering systems as part of your answer.

Cover your answer and recite it from memory.

Repeat steps 2, 3, 4, and 5 for each section in the entire chapter.

Review, or in other words recite all answers from memory. If you can't recite all of the answers from memory, keep studying until you can. Then go to question number two.


Benefits: Eliminates the time consuming process of rereading or "looking over" the material endlessly without ever really testing the memory. This involves active reading which sharpens comprehension.

The Cornell System


  • Underline from each section of the text several key words or phrases.
  • Summarize the concepts represented by the key words and list them in the book margins or at the bottom of the page. (If the students are using borrowed or library books, then the key words must be written on note cards keyed to the appropriate page numbers). Avoid listing anything that might be an answer to a question.
  • Recite the ideas associated with the key words, especially those you weren't able to recall.


To illustrate Cornell Suppose a student is reading a textbook on psychology in which he finds a section on the famous psychologist Erik Erikson. Erikson is remembered in his field for his theoretical model of the eight stages of psychosocial development, which most people must pass through as they move from infancy to late adulthood. Erikson represents each stage by two conflicting terms such as in stage one,"Basic Trust vs. Mistrust," or in stage eight, "Ego Integrity vs. Despair."



  • The student may choose to underline the names and characteristics of the eight stages.
  • The student would then list in the margin or on a note-card the words,"Erikson's 8 stages?"
  • Upon reviewing, the student should cover the printed text, and using the phrase,"Erikson's 8 stages," recite all he/she can recall about the eight stages with their important characteristics and age ranges. If he/she can recall only five of the eight stages, he/she knows exactly which ones he/she needs to review and also which ones he/she does not need to review again.



The Parcer System Of Textbook Study

Many college students read and reread text materials in a haphazard, unorganized manner and never quite grasp what the teacher or author intends. This information is intended to show you a method by which you may be able to study more effectively. By answering the questions following each passage correctly, you should get an idea of the correlation between organization and the development of memory and study skills.

These are a few simple steps that might help you study such textbook material.

Preview the chapter by reading the title, section headings, summaries, and looking at charts, maps, and graphs. Return to the beginning of the chapter and read section by section, following an ask-read-check sequence. Ask a question from each section heading that you anticipate will be answered in that section using who, what, where, when, why, and how.

Read the section to answer the question(s), but be alert to any unanticipated information as well.

Check your understanding of each section by:

  • Reciting to yourself answers to the questions you asked.

  • Making mental notes of additional information not anticipated by your pre-formulated questions.

  • Jotting down key words or brief phrases that will later cue your memory to the important elements of the section.

  • Relating the section to previous and future sections and to the larger picture gained in the preview.

  • Gauge the size of each section you handle by the degree of difficulty of the material, the detail you are expected (or want) to retain from your reading, and the time you can afford to invest. At times you might deal with a full chapter as one unit; at other times you might move through the chapter a paragraph at a time.

Evaluate your understanding by looking at your notes and reciting to yourself everything you can remember about the chapter. If you did not jot down notes, after completing the chapter, evaluate your understanding by reciting to yourself everything you can remember about the chapter and writing briefly what is important for future review.

Relate what you have read to what you have learned elsewhere: other readings, class lectures, personal observations, etc.



PARCER is easy to describe, but more difficult to apply. However, application, not description, is the significant part. You will need to apply PARCER to at least five chapters of text before the system feels comfortable to you. With each trial, evaluate yourself on the following points:


  • Am I able to read and study more efficiently than last time?
  • Do I check my understanding of each section without looking at the book?
  • Are my check notes long enough to help me but short enough to conserve time and energy?
  • When I evaluate my understanding of the chapter, do the check notes cue sufficient detail for my needs?
  • Have I related the textbook material to the lecture, to labs, and to what I already know?