Getting the most out of a group study session

August 29, 2017

Have you ever attended a group study session, and returned home afterwards thinking, “Eh, I could have made better use of my time…”

We feel you. It can be frustrating, especially when nearing the exam period and time is of the essence. But if organised well, a study group can prove extremely beneficial to all members involved. Much like how a hammock is to a tightrope walker, having people around so that you can turn to them immediately should you require an explanation of some convoluted mechanism is both useful and reassuring. We all know the frustration of puzzling over something alone, wasting precious time in the process.

There are factors that contribute towards a study group’s inefficiency, such as a member’s tendency to initiate conversation, or taking one break too many. How can you avoid these pitfalls and best maximise the value of a study group session then?

Firstly, understand that the biggest benefit of study groups is that it provides an arena for discussion. By discussing information together, students help each other understand difficult concepts and connect relevant ideas.

Often, study groups are instead used as a time to quiz one another. While not entirely redundant, quizzing is not the most effective use of a study group session. Why ask questions with answers that can be easily found within the material? Instead, grasp the opportunity, discuss the most difficult concepts from class, and make full use of those few hours spent with your group mates.

A guide to setting up the most effective study group session

  • Don’t invite too many students; a group of three or five students is ideal. This allows every member adequate time to ask questions and contribute towards the sharing session.
  • Choose people committed to achieving a good grade. The rationale behind this is simple: a less driven person is more likely to provide distraction.
  • Make sure everyone in the group agrees on what topics are going to be discussed, and comes to the session prepared. All members should commit to preparing that material before the meeting, identifying key points and areas of confusion to bring up for discussion.
  • Arrange to meet in a place free of distractions, with adequate room to spread materials out.
  • Set rules and guidelines so that everyone stays focused and on task. For example, what are you going to do about someone who keeps slacking off? Will you allow phones at the table?
  • Plan for breaks. A short 10-minute break halfway through the study session helps to minimise interruptions caused by people getting up to get a drink or to make a trip to the restroom. A short break also will allow members to refresh themselves and ready up for an equally productive second half of the study session.

More tips for the individual

  • Set time aside to do a quick wrap-up at the end of the study session, reviewing what was discussed. This allows the team to clear up any misconceptions, tie up loose ends, and set up common goals for the next study session.
  • A quick wrap-up provides benefits for each member of the study group. It allows each member of the group to identify their strong and weak areas, and decide how to proceed with the rest of the material after the study session.
  • How can you as an individual ensure that you get the most out of the group? Emerge from the group with a list of what you don’t know yet. Upon returning home, you will know what area you need to spend more time reading up on. It is important to identify objectively what you know well and what you are still unsure of so that you can allocate your remaining time wisely.

Follow our tips, and be this guy. Score good grades, and be loved by your classmates. You’re welcome.

Cover photo: Paramountchannel