The PQ4R Method: A Study Technique to Improve Understanding

by Sunelle | Last Updated: 08/07/2023

If you’re looking for a way to improve your reading comprehension and retention, the PQ4R method may be one of the best study methods for you. PQ4R is an acronym that stands for Preview, Question, Read, Reflect, Recite, and Review. In this article, we look at the reasons to use the PQ4R method, its steps, and consider its benefits and challenges with several FAQs.

Why Use the PQ4R Method?

The PQ4R method is useful when you want to improve your learning process for reading and remembering material. The PQ4R method is an acronym that stands for Preview, Question, Read, Reflect, Recite, and Review. Each step of the process helps you engage with the material to retain what you are reading. By using the PQ4R method, you can:

  • Improve your understanding while reading: The PQ4R method is an active approach to engage with the material you are reading to improve your understanding and retention of the material. 
  • Remember important details: The method requires you to ask questions and reflect on what you have read, which helps you better remember the overall concept and major ideas of the material. 
  • Study more efficiently: The PQ4R method helps you study more efficiently by breaking down the reading process into easy steps involving active engagement with the material.
  • Develop critical thinking skills: You have to think critically about what you are reading.

Steps of the PQ4R Method

The PQ4R Method consists of six steps: 


The first step of the PQ4R Method is Preview. During this step, you look through the reading material and read the headings of the chapter and the chapter’s subheadings and sections. This step helps you get an overview of the material and to identify the main ideas and key points.


The second step of the PQ4R Method is Question. During this step, you generate questions based on the material you have previewed. Ask yourself questions such as “What is the main idea of this section?” or “What are the key points I need to remember?” This step helps you engage with the material by focusing on the most important information.


The third step of the PQ4R Method is Read. You read the material carefully and actively during this step. Answer the questions you generated in the previous step to identify the main ideas and key points. Underline or highlight important information and take notes on key concepts and definitions using your preferred note-taking method.

Popular note-taking methods include the boxing method and the sentence method of note-taking.


The fourth step of the PQ4R Method is Reflect, which involves thinking about the material you have read and making connections between the ideas presented. Ask yourself questions such as “How does this information relate to what I already know?” or “What are the implications of this information?” This step helps you to deepen your understanding of the material. It also develops your critical thinking skills.


The fifth step of the PQ4R Method is Recite, which involves reciting the material in your own words. Try to summarise the main ideas and key points of the subject. Explain them to yourself or to someone else. This step reinforces your memory of the material and may develop your communication skills.


The final step of the PQ4R Method is Review. This step requires you to regularly review the material by reviewing your notes and recalling the key points and overall concept. This step helps consolidate your learning and helps you prepare for exams or assessments.

Benefits of the PQ4R Method

The PQ4R learning technique
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The PQ4R Method is a proven strategy for improving reading comprehension and retention. Using this method can help you get the most out of your study time and improve your academic performance. Here are some of the benefits of using the PQ4R Method:

Improved Understanding of the Material

This is one of the learning techniques that help you improve your understanding of your study material. By previewing the material, you get an overview of the content and identify the main points. By asking questions, you engage with the material and deepen your understanding. You reinforce your knowledge and improve your retention by reading, reflecting, and reciting material.

More Active Learning

The PQ4R Method is an active learning strategy that requires engagement with the material. Active learning techniques are more effective than passive learning, where you read or listen to material without actively engaging with it.

Improved Memory

The PQ4R Method focuses on improving your memory. By previewing the material, asking questions, and reflecting on what you have learned, you are more likely to remember the information. By reciting the material, you reinforce your memory and improve your retention.

Improved Test Performance

Using the PQ4R Method can improve your test performance. Since you understand the material better because of the active engagement process, you remember the material better and may perform better on tests and exams. 

Suitable for Different Learning Styles

The PQ4R Method is a flexible learning strategy. It can be adapted to suit different learning styles. Whether you are a visual learner, an auditory learner, or a kinesthetic learner, you can use the PQ4R Method to improve your learning and academic performance.

Challenges with the PQ4R Method

The PQ4R method has some challenges:

The PQ4R Method in Different Learning Contexts

This method is a versatile learning technique for use in various learning contexts. Here are examples of how the PQ4R method can be applied: 

The PQ4R learning method
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Academic Context

The PQ4R method is particularly useful in academic contexts, such as studying for exams or reading academic papers. By previewing, questioning, reading, reflecting, reciting, and reviewing the material, you can improve your understanding of complex concepts and theories. Here are some tips for using the PQ4R method in academic contexts:

Professional Context

The PQ4R method can also be applied in professional contexts, such as training sessions or professional development courses. By using the PQ4R method, you can maximise your learning and apply new knowledge and skills in your work. Here are some tips for using the PQ4R method in professional contexts:

Lifelong Learning Contexts

This method is also useful for lifelong learners who want to expand their knowledge and skills. Whether you are learning a new language, exploring a new hobby, or reading for pleasure, the method can help you maximise your learning and enjoyment. Here are some tips for using this method in lifelong learning contexts:

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are several frequently asked questions, with answers, about the PQ4R method:

The PQ4R method Pin 2

What Is an Example of How to Use the PQ4R Method?

Let’s say you are reading a chapter on the history of the internet. During the Preview step, you look at the headings, subheadings, and illustrations to get an idea of the chapter’s content. In the Question step, you would generate questions such as “What were the key developments in the history of the internet?” and “What were the main challenges faced by early internet pioneers?” During the Read step, you read the chapter actively, highlighting key points and taking notes. In the Reflect step, you would think about the material and its implications. During the Recite step, you summarise the material in your own words. Creating a mind map or outline can be useful for this step. In the Review step, you would go over the material again to reinforce your learning.

What Is the Difference Between the PQ4R Method and The SQ3R Method?

The PQ4R method is an extension of the SQ3R method. The SQ3R method has five steps: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. The PQ4R method has an additional step, namely, Reflect and Preview.