PQ4R Method: Preview & Question Steps

Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

The PQ4R method is a proven strategy for learning new information. In this lesson, you will find out what PQ4R stands for and discuss the first two steps of this learning method.

The PQ4R Method

Have you ever failed a test? Perhaps you didn't study at all. Maybe you waited until the last minute to try to cram in all of the information. Then again, you could have spent time preparing for the exam and still ended up performing poorly. In this case, there is a good chance the problem may have been you did not know how to study.

This is where the PQ4R method comes in. This study method is based on the work Francis P. Robinson, an educational psychologist. Robinson believed that students needed to take a more active approach to learning. Experience has proven his idea to be true. Using the PQ4R method can improve your understanding of the material and help you remember it better.

The acronym PQ4R stands for preview, question, read, reflect, recite, and review. Each of these are steps you should go through when attempting to learn new material. As we continue this lesson, we will focus on the first two stages: preview and question. These two stages take place before you attempt to learn material for the first time.

The six stages of the PQ4R method
PQ4R method


When you want to try a new recipe, do you simply choose a random recipe from a cookbook? It is more likely you skim over the recipes to see which ones look appetizing. This way you know what you will be cooking for dinner. It is important to take a similar approach to reading new information. You will understand it better if you know what you are getting into.

When you preview the information before you start reading, you are preparing yourself with a general idea of what the subject matter will be. Previewing is all about introducing the topic. You can preview by skimming through the pages, examining headings and vocabulary words, or reading focus questions. This provides an outline of main ideas for your brain to look for as you begin to read.

A teacher may also use the PQ4R method during classroom instruction. The steps are the same and the teacher would first preview the overall concept that is coming up in class. For example, imagine a teacher is introducing a unit learning about Africa. The teacher may begin by first showing a map of the continent, talking about where it is located, and listing upcoming topics that will be covered in more detail.


Let's think back to our example of trying out a new recipe again for a moment. You have previewed the recipes and chosen one that looks delicious. The next thing you need to do is ask yourself if you have the necessary ingredients. You do this so you can include any items you need on your grocery list. When you are preparing to read new information, you should also ask yourself questions before you begin. This will help you form a mental list of what you want to gain from the new information.

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