ISR: Input, Store, Review: An Active Reading Method

(Often referred to as SQ3R: Survey, Question, Read, [W]rite and Review)

Adapted from text by Dr. John Tenny


  1. Pre-Read: Read topic and sub topic headings. Glance at the pictures, charts, diagrams, maps, etc.
  2. Skim: Much like an athlete must warm up muscles before a practice or a game, the mind needs to be warmed up and prepared to receive new information. Read the first sentence of every paragraph along with statements in italics or boldface type. Read the introduction and the summary to get a general sense of the content and organization.
  3. Chunk: Break the chapter down into bite-sized pieces--small sections that will be easy to handle. Read in these small sections, checking for understanding at the end of each.
  4. Question: If your textbook has review questions at the end or if there is a study guide for the course, use these questions as a guide. Write each question out on a separate notebook page. You should take notes while you are reading. Generating answers to questions will help you stay focused and interested in the material. If your book has no review section, turn paragraph headings into questions. For example, change "Basic Principles of Learning," to "What are the Basic Principles of Learning?"


  1. Recite: Read section by section and stop after each. Recite regularly at the end of each section. Close the book and try to remember the main points just read. What can't be recited wasn't stored. Go over again the material that you had difficulty recalling.
  2. Record: Recording actively engages you in the reading process. Active methods result in better reading comprehension. Record your answers on the question sheets you created earlier. Use summary notes, not long notes which regurgitate every word you read. By paraphrasing information, you increase your ability to retain and understand the information.

Some examples of other recording methods you can use in conjunction with your summary notes:

  • Key Words and Margin Notes
    Ask yourself, what's the point? Write main ideas and details only in the margin of the textbook.
  • Use a Concept Map
    A picture or diagram which shows you visually the relationships among ideas.
  • Flash Cards
    Tried and true method from elementary school, but it works just fine in college, too. Use for learning vocabulary and math formulas. Also: Memorization Secondary to Comprehension.


  1. Short Term Review: Check retention by reviewing within 24 hours (preferably within 6-8 hours). First, try to recite the main ideas without looking at notes or flash cards. Then, review your notes and flash cards and quiz yourself-section by section — again.
  2. Regular Review: Schedule weekly and monthly reviews. Reread and relearn information that has not been stored successfully.
  3. Meet Regularly with a Study Group: Group study can be extremely helpful in terms of maintaining motivation to review. Also, you can learn by the example of others. Perhaps others in your group will teach you new ways to study that will benefit you.

Note: More time should be spent on review than on input and store.

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