Scholarly Advice for Academic Mastery
A collection of insights and advice from some of the most successful university, graduate, and professional students and scholars.
Topic: Study Groups
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Getting together with a group of like-minded students from your class can
also be a good study tool. The key is in making sure the group is indeed
"like-minded", that you all have the same goals and preferred methods of
study. If the professor has provided a study review or a list of terms, each
member of the group can take on part of the list, and then share their notes
with the rest of the group. Each person in the group in effect becomes an
"expert" on the part of the list they worked on, and is available to answer
questions other members of the group may have.
Lauren Joanne Torlone
Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, International Affairs
Find your ideal study environment. Some people find it best to study in the library, some like to study under a tree. It is always good to focus and study alone, but do not neglect your classmates. Sometimes subject will become clearer to you if you explain them to other people. Furthermore, difficult classes like Organic Chemistry or Biology are often easier if you can work through problems with a friend, after all there wouldn't be Watson with out Crick (and Rosalind Franklin).
Michael Emil Wagner
Study groups can be a great asset in preparing for exams, but one should also be aware of the pitfalls of such meetings. Too often, a study group starts out with a hand-picked selection of the top students, but it can soon devolve with the addition of "stragglers," or students at the lower end of the grade list who cannot contribute to the group. Rather, these students often require some remedial teaching, and the whole study session is transformed into a tutoring session. There is nothing wrong with the unselfishness and charity of bringing a fellow student up to speed in a class, but be aware of the cost in time and effort at the expense of the entire study group. The unexpected addition of "stragglers" is how a study group session can be extended from a couple hours to an entire day, without accomplishing all the study goals. With these sessions, consider hosting it at someone's house or at a location where walk-ins won't be likely. The real goal of forming a great study group is finding that balance between individuals' contributions to the group's collective knowledge and the bogging-down of progress with too many members.
Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
University of West Florida
Be honest with yourself about your study habits. It's entirely possible to convince yourself that "you study best with music on," or "you can only get work done when you're in your room," or "if you don't have friends around, you can't focus," but in the end, it is highly unlikely that those things are true. It may be relaxing to read with music on, but it isn't likely to be "more efficient." It may be comfortable to work in your room, surrounded by familiar scenery, but it probably isn't "more effective," and so on. Not only does research show that academic reading and writing is best done in a quiet, well-lit area, but most of us will admit, in the end, that these "alternative" study strategies are really about meeting other, non-academic needs. It's important to relax, to be comfortable, and to be social in college (in fact, these may be equal objectives to academic success in some regards), but it pays psychologically to be honest about which needs you're actually meeting with your study strategies. That way, when you are facing a serious academic challenge, you'll be ready to prepare in a serious and effective way.
PhD, Government (Political Theory)
Study groups can be positive and negative. Sometimes groups play more than they work. However, try and find a group that can stay somewhat on task because you will learn more from studying with others. A variety of people bring a variety of ways to remember important facts or formulas. If you are a freshman it is also a way to meet new people who may have common interests. Also don't forget to look over the notes by yourself as well. You should dedicate a little bit of time to studying solo.
Katherine Lea Anne Watson
Master of Arts in Choral Conducting
Study groups are NOT for everyone. - It may seem beneficial to study with others to gain perspective or to ease the "pain" of studying. Many people get too distracted by the presence of others and studying quickly goes down the drain. If you have a relatively short attention span, group studying might not be for you. This does not apply to everyone. Many people do quite well in group sessions and thrive on the personal interaction.
Master of Animal Science
Texas Tech University
When I study I go into a silent room and study by myself. Some people can study in a group of people but I find it easier to be alone and be in the quiet. When it comes time for testing I take the most important parts of the lecture and make flash cards. Listening to the professors inflection can tell you what is important and what isn't, I listen closely to everything my professor says. Making flash cards and then going over them at least 10 times is the trick for me, after the tenth time it is time to test myself. I have my partner take the cards and quiz me over the information, once I've done that I feel I'm ready for the test. However, an hour before a test I go over my flash cards one more time just to be sure.
University of Arkansas
One popular method of exam preparation is meeting in study groups.
You have to be careful with study groups. They can be a lot of fun, but
they're not always productive. Sometimes you get a lot done and you learn
things that you never would have gotten alone. The danger is if you rely on
the study group. You don't want to decide, "I don't need to study now,
because I'm meeting with friends later." If everyone in the group shows up
completely unprepared, the studying will be disorganized and useless and
you'll likely miss a lot of material. It can be extremely time-consuming, as
it's easy to get distracted and discuss other things. And then you go into
the test thinking, "I studied for five hours," when you really didn't do
A better approach is to study the material first and know where you're weak. Then you can go into the study group as a secondary measure, a review, and be able to ask questions. Study groups are much more productive if someone's organized the material, and that person might as well be you. If you're the one that makes sure everything's covered, you're only going to understand it better. I'm not saying you shouldn't trust your friends to ensure that everyone's ready for the test. But trust yourself first.
Scott E. Olmsted
Working together with fellow students is a valuable study skill that not all college students may choose to take advantage of. When a difficult assignment was given, I found it extremely helpful to work together with a partner or small group of other students. If the instructor permits it, I would recommend students, especially college freshmen, to work with one or more other students on as many assignments and projects as possibly. Having just finished my freshman year at Cornell University, I can say that not only was my grade better for the projects in which I worked with other student(s), but I found that I learned so much more from working with others because, at many colleges and universities across America, the student body consists of diverse people from all corners of the country and perhaps even from all over the world. As I have learned, these different students have different study techniques and bring various skills to the table which makes learning and completing projects and assignments much easier, more enjoyable, and beneficial to all who take part. Think of working with others not as cheating or finding an easy way to get work done, but as a worthwhile opportunity to share your thoughts and ideas with others, listen to what they have to say, and collectively choose the best way to express the ideas of the group as a whole. If all group members equally contribute, the assignment or project will likely be completed in an efficient, timely manner with all involved students learning new material, new study habits, and often making new friends.
Ryan T. Standifer
I learned that study groups can be very
helpful and fun. Through a study group I learned information and concepts
for tests and class discussions. I also created lifelong friends. Most of my
study groups were from classmates I have known throughout my four years of
I learned that study groups benefited me in many ways. My group would pick me up when I was not motivated. They encourage me when I thought I could not do it. They made it easier for me to speak up in class and become involved in class. I became more committed to study because the group members were depending on me. I learned that my group members would listen to me and discuss information and concepts during the lesson or even, through email, or on the phone. If I did not understand, something then one of my members was more than likely to understand it and explain it to me. I was able to compare class notes with my group. My group also learned by teaching each other we were able to teach ourselves. My group made studying FUN!
Study groups just will not happen on their own. You need to get to know your classmates by taking with them before class, during breaks, and after class. As you are finding your study group make sure you pick classmates who are motivated to well, someone that understands the subject matter, they can tolerate the ideas of others, someone you can work with, someone that will have the time, and someone that wants to be in the group. Your group should be at least 3 – 5 students. If your group is too large then some of the members may avoid responsibility and clicks will form. Decide how often and how long you will meet each week.
Do not meet longer than 60-90 minutes a
week or you will burn out. Decide where to meet, somewhere convenient for
each member. Decide the goals of the group, like comparing notes, discuss
readings, and preparing for exams. Pick a leader for each group day, rotate
Make rules from the beginning. Example of rules can be: each group contributes to discussion, group members will actively listen to each other without interrupting, one group member speaks at a time, group members are on time and prepared to work, group stays on task to its agenda, group members respects each other, Group members feel free to criticize each other but keep their criticisms constructive, Group members feel free to ask questions of each other, and always keep a positive attitude.
Make sure the study group is not a social group. You are getting together to learn and succeed. Try to have one group a week to socialize and have fun. Bring food to group and try to have an icebreaker before group starts. Icebreakers can be telling a joke or something funny that might have happened that day. Do not make your group stressful and do not be too serious.
Brooke Alston Jennings
Master of Science in Social Work
Biology is one of the more intense and time consuming classes. It takes a lot of time and attention in order to understand some of the material. However, I found that study groups can really help. A small study group, however, is key. Preferably, about three to four people makes the perfect study group. If you get more than this, the study session tends to veer off track. My study group consisted of four people. We all made study guides and answered the questions. However, we did not get together to learn the material, we simply got together to review the material. It is best to learn the material on your own, then review it in a study group or go over material that might still be unclear. The first biology exam, however, we did not get together for a study group. We all did alright on the exam, but not as well as we had hoped. For the next exam, we got together for our study group review session. On this exam as well as the following exams, we all did much better and started to make some of the highest grades in the class. This proved to us that our review study group was quite beneficial. I highly recommend study groups to ensure that you understand all of the material.
University of Tennessee
Study groups can be extremely helpful when you are trying to learn and
understand information and concepts. Other ways in which study groups are
Motivation - when your drive is flagging, study group members can get you back into the swing of studying.
Comfort - if you feel shy/intimidated asking questions in class, you can ask them of study group members instead.
Commitment - other group members are depending on your participation and input.
Group Discussion - helps the learning process when members sit down and discuss the information.
Collective Knowledge - other members may better understand some material/concepts better and can explain them to the rest of the study group.
Study Habits - you may learn new and helpful ways to improve your studying from other group members.
Clarification - study group members can compare class notes to ensure that the information obtained during lecture is complete and accurate.
Information Mastery - study group members can "teach" or explain material to each other which will reinforce their own knowledge as well.
Best of all.....it's much more fun and interesting than studying alone!!!
Starting a Group
Get to know your classmates. Select members who will be motivated, knowledgeable, dependable, and tolerant. Aim for a group of no more than 5 people. Figure out how often you will meet and try not to plan for study sessions exceeding 90 minutes. Decide where you will meet. It could be in an empty classroom or a group study room in the library. Figure out the goals of the study group. Sessions could be comparing notes, discussing readings or exam prep. Pick a group leader who will be responsible for keeping the group on track to meeting the selected session goals. The leader can be the same person all the time or the duty could rotate among group members. Create a contact list for all group members and make sure everyone has a copy.
What makes a good study group?
A good study group is one in which all members contribute during the sessions. Everyone should be able to listen quietly without interrupting. There should be collaborative teamwork among group members during the sessions. Group members should always arrive prepared and ON TIME. Group members should be able to stay on task and be respectful. Criticism should be constructive so everyone is comfortable asking for help with difficult information or concepts. A good study group is one where everyone feels comfortable asking questions and there is a "Can Do" attitude. Finally, a good study group will be organized with the next session's goals/tasks.
What can mess up a study group?
Not staying on-task in meeting stated goals of the study session.
Too much socializing and chit chat.
Unprepared group members.
Spending the session time complaining about workloads/teachers/assignments.
Members dominating the study sessions not giving everyone a chance to participate.
Master of Science in Nursing
West Chester University