PQRST Script

PQRST is a study reading strategy that helps you tackle textbook material in a strategic, efficient way in order to optimize your learning. By following a series of steps, PQRST, you will familiarize yourself with the major topics and organization of a chapter, ask probing questions to identify key information, read with greater understanding, and develop a clear set of quality notes for use during your review time. Watch the following demonstration of the PQRST strategy as it is applied to Chapter 11 of the text, Contemporary Canadian Business Law (Willes, 1994).



Step 1: Preview

My assignment is to read Chapter 11 in my Contemporary Canadian Business Law text before my next class, so I begin with step 1, a chapter preview.

  • First, I read the title, “Failure to Create an Enforceable Contract,” and ask myself, “What do I know about this topic?” I know that a contract is an agreement between 2 or more parties. Based on the title, I assume that I will learn about issues that make contracts invalid or unenforceable.
  • Next, I look for chapter objectives or a chapter outline. In this text, a chapter outline is used. This outline indicates that there are 4 major sections in my assigned chapter:
    • Mistake
    • Misrepresentation
    • Undue Influence
    • Duress
    I note that some of these sections also have subsections. I decide I will probably find the outline helpful later on, but since the terminology is fairly new to me and I am feeling a little uneasy at this point, I decide to move on to the introduction to get more background.
  • The introduction tells me this chapter deals with situations where problems might develop with a contract, just as I had predicted from the title, and that there are usually 4 general situations that might make an agreement unenforceable. I predict that these 4 situations are the same as the 4 sections of the chapter outline I just reviewed.
  • Next, I read the headings and subheadings. I realize the headings match the chapter outline but would make more sense to me in a chapter map since I am a visual learner. I create a mind map using color to separate the major topics and subtopics in the chapter. Now I see what I can learn by scanning the major topics and any corresponding subtopics. For example, I notice that there are 3 types of Mistake: Mistake of Law, Mistake of Fact, and Unilateral and Mutual Mistake, and 3 types of Misrepresentation: Innocent Misrepresentation, Fraudulent Misrepresentation, and Misrepresentation by Non-Disclosure. By reading just these few headings, I have learned a bit more about the topic. After spending a few more minutes on the map, I begin to get a sense of what I will be learning about as I read.
  • I quickly glance through the chapter for other helpful clues. I find many bolded words in the chapter but, unfortunately, I discover no pictures or charts that might help me out.
  • And finally, I read the short summary and scan the discussion questions, noting topics that received emphasis there. Reading the summary gives me even more information about the major topics of the chapter so that I can understand more when I read the material more thoroughly. I also notice that there are some mini-case problems, judicial decisions, and case problems that might be valuable to me later on as I learn more about this concept.

Step 1: Preview

Previewing a chapter gives you a sense of organization and content.

  • Read the title: “What do I know about this topic?”
  • Review chapter objectives or outline.
  • Skim introductory material.
  • Read headings and subheadings.
  • Consider creating a chapter map.
  • Scan for pictures and bolded words.
  • Read summary and scan other review information.

Now that I have a sense of the chapter’s contents, I am ready to move on to Step 2: Question.



Step 2: Question

In Step 2: Question, I go to the heading of the section I am ready to read. In this case, the heading is “Mistake.” I think of some questions I have about the heading. For example, I might ask, “What is a Mistake in contract law?” or “What are different types of Mistakes?” or “What is an example of a Mistake?” These questions will focus me as I read this section, so I am more likely to find the key information. I record my questions in the margin of the text as a reminder for myself.

Step 2: Question

Creating questions based on headings gives you focus for the reading stage.

  • Read the section heading.
  • Predict one or more questions.
  • Record questions in the text margin.

Now I can proceed to Step 3: Read.



Step 3: Read

In Step 3: Read, I finally get to start reading some of the chapter. However, I need to avoid the temptation to read and read and read. My current goal is to find the key information in the section entitled, “Mistake,” so I am only going to read this section for now. This section is relatively short, so I will not need to break it into smaller chunks.

As I read, I recall my questions: “What is a Mistake in contract law?”, “What are different types of Mistakes?”, and “What is an example of a Mistake?” I make note of sections in the text that answer these questions, and I recognize that not all my questions have been answered yet. I also check if any other important information has been introduced. In this case, most of my questions were on track with the content of the section. If not, I would generate some new questions and identify those areas where this content is discussed.

Step 3: Read

During reading, sections of text are read to identify key information.

  • Keep questions from Step 2 in mind.
  • Read only material under the section heading.
  • If section is long or material is difficult, break it into smaller chunks.
  • Look for information that answers your questions.
  • Check for other important information.
  • Add questions if needed.



Step 4: Summarize

Now that I have read and identified the key points in the section, I can summarize and record the information in my notes. I start by highlighting the important information in the paragraphs and then write a few key words in the margin. Then, I record these ideas in my notes using my own words as much as possible. I decide that the Cornell note taking method would work well since I can record my questions in the left margin and the answers to my questions in the right margin.

What is a Mistake in contract law?
  • Legal definition: a circumstance where parties to a contract have entered an agreement that doesn’t reflect the parties’ actual intentions.
    • occurs if parties have a false idea about an important element or didn’t agree about a key term of the contract.
Example of a Mistake?
  • Ex., if seller offers to sell car to buyer at a certain price but then recognizes the car was underpriced after the sale was complete, the court would not nullify the agreement based on mistake.
    • Seller cannot prove to the court a state of mind when offer was made.
    • Exception: if conditions are clearly out of line, the court may rule in favour of seller unless there was negligence on seller’s part.

As I record these notes, I think about how this concept relates to what I already know. I try to think of my own example of a Mistake in a contract. If I can’t think of one, I may leave a spot in my notes where I can record an example later on when I think of one.

I am now finished with this section of the chapter, and I can go on to the next section, “Mistake of Law,” and repeat the Question-Read-Summarize process (Steps 2-4). I continue to repeat this process until my study time is over or I have completed the sections I wanted to read during this session. If I am unable to complete the entire reading assignment, I can pick up where I left off during my next study session. If my reading is complete, I can prepare for my review sessions.

Step 4: Summarize

Summarizing ensures you record important information in note form.

  • Underline important information and write key words in margin.
  • Record ideas using Cornell notes. Record questions on left and answers on right.
  • Identify how concepts relate to what you already know.
  • Add examples and detail.

Go to the next heading and repeat the Question-Read-Summarize process (Steps 2-4) until your reading is done.

Now get ready to review.



Step 5: Test

In the days after I finish reading the chapter, I need to actively review the information and start to learn it well. Since I used the Cornell note taking method while I was reading, I decide to quiz myself by covering the right side of my note page and asking myself the questions on the left. If possible, I recite my response aloud or write the answer on a scrap of paper. Then I check my answer against my notes. If I recall the answer correctly, I give myself a checkmark (✓); if incorrect, I give myself an X (✘).

What is a Mistake in contract law?
  • Legal definition: a circumstance where parties to a contract have entered an agreement that doesn’t reflect the parties’ actual intentions. ✓
    • occurs if parties have a false idea about an important element or didn’t agree about a key term of the contract. ✘
Example of a Mistake?
  • Ex., if seller offers to sell car to buyer at a certain price but then recognizes the car was underpriced after the sale was complete, the court would not nullify the agreement based on mistake. ✘
    • Seller cannot prove to the court a state of mind when offer was made. ✘
    • Exception: if conditions are clearly out of line, the court may rule in favour of seller unless there was negligence on seller’s part. ✘

I work through the remainder of my notes in the same way. I repeat this process over several study sessions since I know I won’t have mastered the material after looking at it only once or twice! After a number of review periods, I am able to clearly see which areas I know and where I still need work.

What is a Mistake in contract law?
  • Legal definition: a circumstance where parties to a contract have entered an agreement that doesn’t reflect the parties’ actual intentions. ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓
    • occurs if parties have a false idea about an important element or didn’t agree about a key term of the contract. ✘ ✘ ✓ ✓
Example of a Mistake?
  • Ex., if seller offers to sell car to buyer at a certain price but then recognizes the car was underpriced after the sale was complete, the court would not nullify the agreement based on mistake. ✘ ✓ ✓ ✓
    • Seller cannot prove to the court a state of mind when offer was made. ✘ ✓ ✓ ✓
    • Exception: if conditions are clearly out of line, the court may rule in favour of seller unless there was negligence on seller’s part. ✘ ✘ ✓ ✓

For variety in my study periods, I might also use my chapter map to test my recall of ideas. I might focus on one major topic and try to recall the sub-points and details related to that topic. Alternatively, I might put a section of the map, such as “Misrepresentation,” onto another page and expand the details there. I might also create vocabulary cards for specific terminology that I need to know. I can easily carry a bundle of cards with me and review when I have a few spare minutes.

Sample vocab card:

MISTAKE

(in contract law)

Front of card

Definition: a circumstance where parties to a contract have entered an agreement that doesn’t reflect the parties’ actual intentions.

  • Ex., if seller offers to sell car to buyer at a certain price but then recognizes the car was underpriced after the sale was complete, the court would not nullify the agreement based on mistake.

Back of card

These different review methods will help me to thoroughly understand and learn my course material. Regular review will also help me monitor my learning, helping me identify what I know well and what still needs work.

Step 5: Test

After reading is complete, actively review for the test.

  • Use a variety of strategies:
    • quiz yourself using your questions
    • review the chapter map
    • expand the map
    • create vocabulary cards
    • recall the information in writing or out loud
  • Monitor your learning.
    • What do you know well?
    • What still needs review?


PQRST is an effective method for dealing with text material. It helps you identify the main topics and structure of a chapter. The questions keeps you focused, so you can find the key points as you read. It ensures that you have a strong set of notes to help you learn the concepts. And, it encourages active and regular review of the material. Give PQRST a try – you’ll be amazed by the difference it makes in your studies!

PQRST is an effective method for dealing with text materials. It helps you:

  • identify chapter topics and structure.
  • create strong, guiding questions.
  • stay focused on finding the key points.
  • develop a strong set of notes.
  • review actively and regularly.


APA Citation for resource:
Willes, J. A. (1994). Contemporary Canadian business law: Principles and cases (4th ed.). Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.