Are you having problems studying a new subject? Are your exams coming up, and you have one particular topic you just can’t master, despite spending hours and hours on it?
Perhaps the problem is not how much you are studying, but HOW you are studying. A lot of people make the mistake of just reading through a subject several times and assuming they understand everything. This usually does not happen.
Instead, try the PQ4R method, invented by E.L Thomas and H.A Robinson in 1972. This pair believed students needed to take a more active approach to learning, and came up with a revolutionary new study method, which is still frequently practiced today.
Say you’re in a bookstore, and you’re looking for a novel. Do you read through every title they have, from A to Z, and then buy the one you liked best? No. Usually, you’d skim quickly through their supply, pick out some interesting choices and then make a final decision.
The same principle applies to studying. At this early first stage, you read through the chapter quickly. Get a rough view of what the it covers, pick out what interests you, and identify parts which are hard to understand. Take note of the chapter headings, as well as the first and last paragraphs of this content, which usually summarize everything concisely.
Now, ask questions about what you have just learnt in the Preview stage. Basic questions are always best: who, what, where, when and how. One effective method is to convert a chapter’s headings and sub-headings into questions.
As an example: say you are studying about methods of employee management.
Questions you might think of: what is the best method of managing? How do we determine which method to use? What happens if the method does not work? Why do we need to manage employees in the first place?
For the next step, read the chapter again, more thoroughly this time, and answer the questions you created earlier. This makes the process of learning more active instead of passive.
When you’ve finished reading, think about the material you have just gone through. How much of it do you understand? Has what you read managed to answer your questions earlier? Has it made you have new questions? If it has, read through the chapter again and tackle these new issues.
If you think you have understood the material, your new task is to recite what you have learnt out loud. You can just do it alone, but an even more effective method is to recite it to another person. Imagine you are a teacher, trying to explain something new to a student.
Once you have done that, you should also write down what you have learn, perhaps in the form of notes or a mind map.
At this final step, read through everything you’ve learnt again, from beginning to end. Also think about how it fits into your learning as a whole: if its one chapter, consider how it links to other chapters, and to the entire subject as a whole.
Ideally, try and review what you have learnt about 24 hours after you have first engaged with it, and then again 72 hours later. The human mind is fallible and will forget things, but repeated reviewing will reinforce your memory. Also try to take as many tests or assessments about the subject as possible.
And there you have it. We hope the PQ4R method will lead you to greater studying success!