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What is the PQ4R method? 

The PQ4R method is a study technique that aims to help students understand the information in a more in-depth manner. PQ4R is an acronym that stands for preview, question, read, reflect, recite and review. 

It’s a 6-step process, but one that is easy to follow. Each step follows a sequential order, and each one is explained below.

Related reading: What is the SQ3R Method and How to Use it Effectively

A step-by-step guide:

1. Preview. Quickly read through a text to get the salient points and to know a general idea. Scan through the material. An excellent way to do this is to focus on the headings and subheadings, as it usually highlights the topic of a paragraph or an entire section. You can also focus on the first and last paragraphs, as they typically contain the main idea. The introduction might include the thesis statement. This step should take just a few minutes.

2. Question. Ask questions about what has been previewed. A good rule of thumb is to start with basic questions: who, what, where, and why. Do not be limited to asking factual questions. Take note of these questions. If it helps, write them down on a sheet of paper. 

3. Read. Go back to the text and read it actively. Focus on the details. Try to find answers to the questions that you asked. This step is crucial as it allows students to process the information that they consume. Instead of passively reading a study material, students take an inquiry-based approach. Students may learn to read actively with a context in mind, not just passively taking in information.  

4. Reflect. Reflect on what you have just read. Try to connect it to previously acquired knowledge—recall previous lessons and topics covered. Are there any inconsistencies in the information that you read? Were your questions answered? Try to apply the ideas that you learned. This process can lead to more questions, but it can enhance the learning process. By reflecting and asking questions, students can improve their critical thinking skills. 

5. Recite. Verbalize what you learned. If you like to study in groups, each member can take turns discussing specific topics in a lesson. Each member will have a chance to speak. They will report on the information from the text, followed by a discussion with the rest of the group. Openly discuss what you thought, try to answer each other’s questions. If you’re alone, you can record yourself talking about the lesson. Practicing this method in a group study setting promotes collaborative learning.

It allows students to practice giving feedback—the person discussing can present an idea that others may not have picked up on, which can lead to further clarifications or even debates. If you’re alone, you can write down what you learned and the questions you may have. Taking notes and making mind maps can help visual learners because they will visualize how each concept is connected.

6. Review. Reviewing reinforces the learning process. In this step, students have to review all the lessons learned from the start of the session. By going through this step, students can gauge whether they were able to master the content.

Something to remember: 

If it helps, take notes as you go through the process. Don’t get too caught up with writing everything word-for-word, and don’t let note-taking distract you from the rest of the learning process. When going through this method, you will not only go through facts but also encounter some higher-order thinking questions that you or one of your peers posed.

Reading is not enough 

Students are so used to glossing through the massive amounts of assigned reading material per subject. Some even settle for summary notes from the internet. This is no surprise because students have to study more than one subject in a semester. However, reading is a passive learning approach—read a text, summarize ideas, move on to the following reading material. The reader takes in the information that is presented in a text and leaves at that. It’s not a bad thing if you’re reading for pleasure, but this strategy is not enough for studying.

Benefits of doing the PQ4R method 

The steps in the PQ4R method are not new to students. When students study, they usually read, discuss in groups, and take notes. As an active approach to learning, the PQ4R strategy puts a system to these study techniques to learn. The steps suggested combine different approaches to learning. This system allows students to make the most out of the learning experience. It is not a complicated process.

This highly cognitive learning style involves activating different parts of the brain. When studying using the PQ4R method, students go through the text a few times and go more in-depth with the material. By repeatedly going through the same material, a student’s memory capacity becomes stronger. Moreover, it supports the development of long-term memory. Thus, using the PQ4R method is beneficial to students because not only does it help with studying, it helps students become better learners.

One of the best things about this method is that it caters to different types of learners. For example, visual learners will learn best through note-taking and creating diagrams, and auditory learners can learn through group discussion or recording their thoughts. Finally, kinesthetic learners can learn through making and presenting their ideas during a group study session. Although there is little to no opportunity for them to move around, being hands-on with the preparation and exchange of ideas can help them learn too.

When to use the PQ4R method

Experts have said that using the PQ4R method can be used to increase reading comprehension and recall information. Because this is a “system,” it might seem like it’s more labor-intensive and time-consuming. However, it’s not that at all. This method takes different learning and study techniques that we all know but puts a system to it to ensure that the learning experience is effective.

The PQ4R method is easy to implement. You’ve probably skimmed through a text, asked questions, read actively, reflected on new information, verbalized concepts, and reviewed everything you learned throughout your years as a student. Going through the process helps make sure that you are making the most out of your study session.

Create study systems

When it comes to learning and studying, it is best to create systems. With these in place, students will have an easier time learning new information and adding to that information moving forward. The lessons taught in schools are not necessarily mutually exclusive—they all form parts of a whole (the “whole” being the curriculum), which is why it is crucial to integrate new information into existing bodies of knowledge that you already know.

The need for an active learning method

The PQ4R method is the template that students can follow to create a study system. It is perfect for different types of learners and can be easily worked into an existing study routine. Study methods such as this have come to exist to address the need for study habits that facilitate learning and not just studying for tests.

Students fall into the habit of reading passively—they read an assigned text, remember enough for a class discussion and then forget about it soon after. Then, when preparing for tests, students find themselves rereading these materials as if it’s the first time they’ve encountered them. Soon enough, they waste countless hours just trying to remember everything they should have already learned instead of focusing on new material. Unfortunately, this is also where students unknowingly waste a lot of time. The PQ4R helps address this problem. 

Final Thoughts 

Reading is a good habit, especially if it’s done regularly. However, if it’s done passively, it won’t help a student learn. However, reading is still an integral part of studying, so it is included in the PQ4R method.

A study technique such as the PQ4R method can help learners become more proficient at learning and studying. Moving forward, students have to be mindful and intentional with the amount of time they devote to learning because they have to accomplish other requirements for classes.

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Patricia Alfonso

Patricia Alfonso is an educator and researcher who earned her master's degree in guidance and counseling from Ateneo de Manila. She specializes in developing school counseling programs for schools.

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