8 Ways to Make the Most of Study Groups


Study groups always sound like a great idea, until you join one. Only half the group is focused, only one person brought their notes, no one has done any prep work and the whole thing ends up being a huge waste of time. 


Study groups can be an effective way to get prepared for an upcoming test. However without focus and guidelines they can also be a huge waste of time. Here are a few tips to help everyone get something from your next study group. 


1. Choose your group wisely


Invite people to your study group who are as serious and dedicated to learning the material as you are. Choose people who generally share something insightful in class or who ask a lot of questions. Those are the people who will take the group seriously and not waste each other’s time. 


You also don’t want to make your group too big, it can be hard to collaborate with more than 3-5 people at a time. Any less than that and it can be harder to stay on track. 


2. Get organized


For each session have a list of topics to be discussed. Write down an agenda and share it with everyone. You may also ask everyone to add items and to put their name next to a topic they understand well and could help others with. This will ensure that everyone is contributing to the group and that everyone is getting something out of the time together. 


You’ll also want to decide how long you will work. One and a half to two hours is about the right amount of time. When you spend much more than that people get easily distracted and you start to get diminishing returns from your study time. 


3. Respect learning differences


Not everyone learns in the same way. Encourage the group to engage with the material through discussion, visuals, and flashcards. Have each group member bring study material in a way that works for them and then share with the rest of the group. 


4. Assign a group leader


Assign a different person for each session to be a group leader. It will be this person’s job to keep the conversation on track, make sure you don’t go over your time and challenge those group members who are not taking things seriously or engaging with the material. 


5. Be prepared


Every member of the group should have already spent some time reviewing the material so that they are able to contribute to the discussion. A group study session is not the time to be reading the textbook for the first time, asking others to copy notes or trying to figure out what the test is going to be about. Each person having done their own preparation will help everyone. 


6. Quiz each other on the material 


Use the information in your textbook or class notes to quiz each other on the material. Have people explain their answers and go beyond quoting the textbook or the notes in their answer. This will help deepen everyone’s understanding of the material and help with any essay questions you may get. 


7. Take notes

During your study session, make sure you are taking notes of the topics you are discussing to review on your own later. If you still have questions the other group members can’t answer, write those down to review later or ask your TA or professor in class. 


8. Reflect on the process. 


Once you have taken the test and gotten your results, check in with everyone to see how they did so you can gauge the effectiveness of the group. See if you can pinpoint the things that went well and the things that need work so that you can do better the next time or replicate what went really well. 


Following these tips for effective study groups will help everyone get the most out of a study session and ensure that you don’t waste each other’s time. 

by CircleIn Team

Published July 27, 2021

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