Study Central: Study Groups Done Right

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By Melissa Schmitz ‘16, OPINION EDITOR

Study groups. They’re either the most successful or the least successful study method you have at your disposal. Everyone “knows” what a study group entails, but what makes a particularly successful study group?

First off, you need to have a reasonably sized group. Three people is ideal because you have just enough people to keep each other on track. If two people start a side-tracked conversation together then you have another person to bring the group back into focus. In a group of two you wouldn’t have that moderator and in a group of more than three you might have multiple side conversations and no available moderators. Whatever number you choose, it’s best to keep it around five people maximum.

Secondly you have to choose your group members wisely. Resist the temptation to study with someone just because he/she is your friend. Sometimes really good friends make really bad study partners because you distract each other too easily. Also, consider this. You will be doing some work before and during these study group meetings, so make sure these are people you can trust. How would you feel if you spent 4 hours on several sections of book notes only to have some random person [who is a friend of a friend of that one person in your study group you don’t know that well] be sent the material for nothing? Granted, doing the work to take the notes and participate in the study group is going to be more valuble than just being handed notes anyway, but still. It’s not a good feeling and it’s frankly just not fair. So be careful and try not to let it happen.

Always come in with a plan, and be sure to construct this plan earlier than twenty minutes after the meeting begins. This could mean anything from the specific chapters you want to go over, the type of review you plan to do, to the people who will be attending and what everyone’s “job” for the meeting will be. Yes, that’s right, everyone should be doing something before and during the meeting if you want the meeting to be structured and successful rather than a disorganized, hot mess.

I have my own study group for one of my classes this semester already and it’s been fairly successful so far. What are we doing exactly? Well, to give you some ideas, we started by splitting up each of the chapters into which sections each person would cover for notes. Everyone’s notes are uploaded into Google Drive so we all have access to the material. All of us read the rest of the sections in the given chapters too, but we each focus on our assigned sections to share with the rest of the study group come meeting time. This way we all get the benefit of taking notes without all of us laboring to individually get notes done for each and every page of the book. All of us have other demanding classes we have work for, so why not study smarter instead of harder? That’s the point of having the study group in the first place.

During the meetings we then go on to essentially lecture our section material to the rest of the group. This allows the person who is presenting to practice the material and also opens up room for discussion. This usually leads to people asking questions and us going deeper into the material, which is always good. We may even plan other things to do such as quiz each other on certain material, especially that of the memorization type, or go through practice questions together on the whiteboards in the library.

As long as you structure and organize your study group to a reasonable extent, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. The sky’s the limit and almost anything goes. If you’re serious, maybe try to set a few ground rules such as not giving away study materials made within the group without permission. But other than that, try to have fun with it! Just not too much fun [see above].

Happy studying!