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A generalized model of a passively repetitively Q-switched three-level laser is presented. The method for evaluation of the small-signal gain coefficient and the dissipative losses of a three-level laser is shown. To demonstrate the use of this optimization procedure, it was applied to a microchip laser generating 1.5- mum radiation. The model may be expanded for a four-level laser by replacing the calculation of the small-signal gain coefficient.