BY ALEX HASLAM
Study groups are a well-loved strategy for achieving better grades on difficult exams, but it can be challenging putting one together. A good study group requires the right mix of motivated people with the right balance of skills. With these tips, you’ll be able to collaborate effectively and tackle even the most difficult subject.
Do Study Groups Work?
Every study group will have its own unique dynamic, but the technique of collaborating when studying for exams can be useful, provided students are using best practices in group composition. At the very least, a study group creates an environment of productivity, which can increase your retention and motivate you to study more.
A study group is only as good as its members. The key to building a successful group is to find other students who are as motivated as you are to succeed in the class. These seven tips will help you put together the perfect group before your next big test.
- Find Your Study Buddies
The first step for making an effective study group is to find classmates who are also interested in teaming up. First, find out if there is already an established study group in your class. If there isn’t, you can get the ball rolling by asking the people around you if they’d like to participate. You can also use class communication systems (for example, if you have an online message board), to ask if anyone wants to join. Not everyone in the class needs to be a part of your group; even one or two people can be enough to benefit from.
- Talk to Your Professor
Your instructor is the best place to start when strategizing your study session. They may have invaluable tips for studying and synthesizing the course material. In some cases, your professor may be willing to help compose materials like study guides or practice exams to guide your group.
- Choose Your Location
A productive space is crucial for a well-functioning study group. Libraries, student lounges, and other shared workspaces can help each member of your group channel their most productive attitude. A dorm room or home can work if the space is quiet and free of distractions.
- Choose Group Roles
You and your study partners all have skills and knowledge you can bring to the table. If you’re working on a group project or a big test, assigning group roles can be a great way to split the workload and maximize your efficiency. Some useful roles include a group leader, a scribe, an editor, and a time manager (depending on the task at hand).
- Use Collaborative Study Methods
Depending on the material, it’s often beneficial to study collaboratively. Partner up with your study-mates and practice answering questions, or quiz each other on flash cards. If you’re writing a big final paper, a paired editing workshop can help improve your writing skills. It won’t always be easy to work together, but even if you need to study quietly for a bit, it can be easier if others around you are working quietly as well. Plan out your study methods before the session to help make this process smoother.
- Avoid Conflict
Some disagreements are inevitable in any group, especially if everyone is stressed about a big exam. Try and address any issues directly and openly to make sure everyone in your group feels like their concerns are heard. Compromising can help your group form a stronger bond, which will help you navigate the challenges of your course.
- Reward Yourselves
Staying motivated to meet as a study group can sometimes be difficult, but planning sessions around social events or activities can be a great reward for the group. If your group is made of sports fans, set aside time to study first so you can all reward yourselves by watching the big game right after you finish. Or if your group is more into movies, plan a Star Wars marathon schedule to keep everyone looking forward to the next study session.
Having a productive study space to work in can make all the difference in your final grade, and a successful study group can often carry over after the semester ends. If your classmates are in the same major as you, it’s possible that you’ll have other classes in common in the future. At the very least, you and your new friends will have your best shot at surviving the next big chemistry exam.
Alex Haslam graduated from the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah in 2017. Today she is a freelance writer who focuses on consumer technology, entertainment, and higher education.