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Q, the reaction quotient, measures the amounts of reactants and products during a reaction at a specific point in time, and can be calculated before the reaction reaches equilibrium. So if the reaction has not reached equilibrium yet, the product/reactant ratio is Q, and is giving information that can be compared to K.
if you calculate q and it equals k then it is at equilibrium. If they don't equal, then it's not and the reaction is still occurring. From there you can compare q and k to determine which way the reaction will proceed to reach equilibrium.
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