There are two main ways you can study from books, namely the PQRST & SQ3R methods. Both of these methods of studying focus on the key information in books. Its unique approach is that it prioritises information using a method that directly relates to how you will be asked to use that information in   an exam. 


 PQRST stands for: 

  • Preview
  • Question
  • Read
  • Summary
  • Test

P is for Preview 

Look at the topic you need to learn by skimming over the main headings and points. 

Q is for Question 

Formulate questions that could be asked. 

R is for Read 

Re-read all the material, concentrating on the information that best relates to the questions you formulated in the previous step (Q is for Question). 

S for the Summary 

Summarise your topic in your own words. You could use any of the condensing and summarising methods we have already covered. 

T is for Test 

Using the questions you developed earlier answer each one in turn. Ensure you pick a whole range of questions and not just the ones that you find easy to answer!  

 The benefits of PQRST

 The PQRST method ensures: 

  • information is studied in a way that directly relates to questions that may be asked
  • the method can be adapted to any subject
  • allows you to practice how to time your answers
  • you can potentially preempt the questions you will be asked


A second method you can use when studying from books is the SQ3R. This 5 step technique stands for: 

  • Survey
  • Question
  • Read
  • Recall
  • Review

S is for Survey 

Start big and then go small – survey the whole book, then the chapters and finally the paragraphs. Also look at the titles, headings, and subheadings, picture captions, charts, graphs or maps, introductory and concluding paragraphs and any summaries. The aim of this is to get the general ‘gist’ of the material. 

Q is for Question 

By questioning the text you turn it from an passive activity to an active one. Ask yourself: 

  • why are you reading this and what is it’s purpose?
  • what do you already know?
  • what do you want to know?
  • what is new or interesting about this material?
  • does this support / supplement / contradict what I already know?

Try converting the title, headings, and/or subheadings into questions. Examples of questions you could ask include: 

  • What do I already know about this subject?
  • How does this chapter relate to the assignment question?
  • How can I relate what I read to my own experiences?

R is for Read 

After questioning you will be ready for the main activity of reading. This involves careful consideration of what the author is trying to convey and involves being critical as well as active. 

  • firstly skim read concentrating on the main ideas and general text structure
  • secondly read again to make notes on the key points
  • look for answers to the questions you raised in ‘Q is for Questions’
  • make sure you re-read any parts which are not clear

R is for Recall

It doesn’t matter how interesting (or not!) the text is, you must make a concerted effort to recall what you read. Failure to do so will result in information being forgotten. Recalling also provides you with the opportunity to think about and assimilate what you have just read keeping the process active. 

Ask yourself “can I recall all the key facts without re-reading the text”? 

Try and answer questions about what you have read and/or try and summarise what you have read. This summary should be in your own words and you should consider highlighting key words and points. Also consider using a variety of senses in order to recite and recall. Seeing, hearing and saying is known as triple strength learning, whereas quadruple strength consists of; seeing, hearing, saying and writing.

R is for Review 

The final step in the SQ3R method is to review the material that you have recalled in your notes. Ask yourself: 

  • did you understand the main principles of the argument?
  • did you identify all the main points?
  • are there any gaps?

Double check you haven’t missed anything of importance. There is sometimes a temptation to ‘miss  out’ pieces of information and associated questions that cover areas we do not enjoy or we find hard! 

SQ3R plan 

Below is a sample 7 day plan for using the SQ3R method that you might like to use. Remember it can be and indeed should be adapted for your own individual needs.

Day 1

  • read the text
  • formulate potential questions

Day 2

  • review the important points you have highlighted
  • answer the questions you formulated on day 1
  • make cue / flash cards – you could do this for all the questions, or just those you find difficult
  • condense / summarise any other information using one of the methods described in the previous sections

Days three, four and five 

Alternate between your condensing method and notes and test yourself (orally or in writing) on the questions you formulated. Add additional condensed material if required.

Days six & seven 

  • list the topics and subtopics each chapter / ‘chunk’ of information contains
  • create a ‘map’ for each element

You will now have a summary of the whole book/module.