The 5 Steps of the SQ3R Reading Comprehension Method and How it Will Help You Get Promoted


If you have made the big decision to take the firefighter promotional exam, the next big decision is where to begin when it comes to firefighter promotional exam prep. Below is a breakdown of the SQ3R reading comprehension method that may benefit you as you begin your fire promotion exam prep. 

The SQ3R Method

The SQ3R reading comprehension method uses five steps: survey, question, read, recite, and review to help you break down what you are reading and fully comprehend the information. This method of reading is proven to improve reading comprehension and proficiency as well as improve overall retention of information all the while reducing any overwhelming feelings you may normally have as you read. 

Step 1: Survey

The first step to the SQ3R method is survey. This is basically a quick skim of the section of your fire service textbook you are working on learning. Start by reading the title of the book and any introductory information there may be. Then move on and read the heading, look at the bold words, and look at the graphics. You want to try to get the idea of what the section will be about before you start reading. You can do it a chapter at a time or a section at a time, whatever you are most comfortable with. 

Step 2: Question 

Come up with questions before you begin reading. Most books will have their own questions at the beginning and end of the chapter as well. It is important to get your mind thinking about the material as you read. Coming up with questions about the material before jumping into a book is a great way to do that. 

Step 3: Read

Now you read. Don’t just read though, read and answer those questions you made as you go along. Bonus points if you write them down and answer them on paper. Read actively by underlining things that stand out to you and highlighting important sections. Take your time, go as slow as you need to. If you get confused about a topic or section write those questions down so you can come back to them or ask for help later from a study buddy. 

Step 4: Recite 

Now that you have read the section or chapter, it is time to recite. Go back to the questions you wrote down earlier. Ask yourself those questions out loud and recite the answers out loud. Use your own words to put all the information you just read into context. Reciting information is a huge component of transferring the information from your short term memory to your long term memory. So, as silly as you may feel, say the information out loud to help your brain retain it faster. 

Step 5: Review

Now comes the final step, review. Basically just do it all again. You most likely will not be able to answer all of the questions on the first go round, so do it again. The process of reviewing the information helps solidify the information in your long term memory so even if you know all the answers immediately do not skip this step. 

The Takeaway

There are so many ways to read and study, but not every method works for everyone. Actually learning and comprehending the material you are studying will not only help you pass your fire department promotion test, but the benefits will remain throughout your career. Next time you crack open your firefighter promotional exam textbook try the SQ3R method and see how it works for you, you may be surprised by the results when you move on to take your firefighter promotional exam practice tests.