Studying in a group has many advantages. Engaging in thoughtful discussions with your classmates can help enhance your understanding of course material and introduce you to new study methods that suit your learning style. Meeting regularly with your group can also reduce procrastination as you prepare for important exams and assignments.
Whether you’re looking to get ahead in your schoolwork or you just want to get to know your classmates better, follow these tips for starting a successful and productive study group.
1. Decide who is in the group
Studying with your friends might seem like the easiest option, but it’s not always the most productive. Be sure that your group members are interested in getting work done and are able to focus in a group setting. You don’t want to end up using your valuable study time just to socialize. Additionally, don’t be afraid to invite classmates who you might not be as friendly or acquainted with yet. As long as all group members share a common goal, your group will have a positive and productive atmosphere.
Typically, successful study groups have between three to five members. This amount of group members allows for collaboration, while also keeping the group manageable. A group of six members or more can easily get off-topic, which will lead to unproductive study sessions. It will also be more difficult to find a common time for all members to meet if your group is too large.
2. Take initiative
When you form a study group, you’ll likely be seen as the “leader” and people will expect you to keep everyone in the loop. Creating a Facebook group or a group text message will make it easy for you to send updates to the group and also allow members to communicate with each other outside of regular meetings.
You will also need to decide when and how often your group will meet. Specific dates and times can be adjusted to fit everyone’s schedules, but it helps to keep your meeting time consistent. Additionally, you should plan for each meeting to last about an hour. An hour is ideal because spending less time will likely make the meeting feel rushed, and it might be hard for group members to carve out more than an hour of their schedules to meet.
3. Pick a good study space
Your meeting place should have limited distractions and enough space to accommodate all of your group members comfortably. Consider common areas on campus or the school library. Many college libraries have dedicated study rooms that provide a quiet, collaborative environment for students who prefer working with others. It’s best if you can reserve a specific meeting room each week, since that will save time and possible confusion between group members.
If your study group is meeting virtually, find the right platform where all group members can easily connect with each other to collaborate and learn from one another. It's beneficial to be able to share your computer screen with the group so that everyone can visually follow along. This can also help avoid any confusion and keep everyone on task. A few great tools that we recommend to connect your group virtually are:
4. Set ground rules
In addition to keeping everyone on the same page, agreeing on some ground rules will promote productivity. Whether it’s about phone usage during sessions or what to do if a group member is unresponsive, it’s important to set expectations with your peers. One way to approach this conversation is to ask each member to share one thing that is important to them in a group work situation. This makes each group member feel heard and ensures that you will have a team environment that works well for everyone.
5. Create a plan
To keep each session running smoothly, you’ll want to plan out what each session is going to cover beforehand. You’ll most likely be discussing what you learned last in class, but this isn’t always the case depending on how often you meet or if there’s a big exam coming up. Decide on your agenda beforehand so that members have enough time to prepare questions or review the material. This also ensures that you’re not using your session time to decide on what to study.
Bonus Tip: Reach out to your professor for insight on course material your study group should focus on, as well as any additional direction on your proposed agenda.
Taking the initiative to form a study group might seem daunting at first, but the benefits it provides make it worth it in the end.