• Kat Crossley

Geeks United: Tips for a Successful Study Group


We all know study groups can produce great results. Working in a group can reduce your workload, provide different perspectives on a given topic and help you stay motivated. But if you’re in the wrong study group the only thing you’ll learn is that the more people you have around, the easier procrastination becomes.

With the possibility of exams starting to look a little more real, here’s how to get the most out of your study buddies...

1. Pick your team

Like George Clooney in Oceans Eleven, you need assemble a crack team. But who should you pick? You want people who are capable, reliable, will work well with others and who have a good grasp of the subject area.

The people you invite could be your friends, but you should not ask people to join your study group simply because you’re pals. The friend who is a total riot on Saturday nights may not be the best person to study contracts with. If you know what you want your study group to achieve, choosing group members will be much easier.

The number of members is also an important factor in study groups. The smaller the group, the easier it will be to manage. Three and six members seems to be about the ideal size.

2. Pick a location

Pick a study spot that is easy for everyone in your group to get to and that is free from distractions. That way all study group members will (hopefully) arrive on time and the atmosphere will encourage everyone to stay on task. If you’re struggling to find a central location, organise to have a study group at uni right after a class. The uni library probably has group work rooms you can use, although you may need to book ahead.

3. Name the date and time

Short, regular study sessions are more effective than aiming to review an entire semester of work in a day. Short study sessions are generally more focused and productive. Personal experience has taught me that study group boot camp will fizzle out by lunchtime and become a movie marathon.

If you are going to have a study group binge, write an agenda at the start of the meeting. An agenda will help you to stay on task, especially if you factor in regular breaks. Even a 5-10 minute break can be all you need to feel refreshed. If you don’t take time out you’ll find it hard to concentrate and stay motivated.

4. Set goals

Before your group gets started you need to decide what you want to achieve or focus on. A study group is rarely the ideal place to learn everything from scratch and groups often fall behind when members fail to adequately prepare before meetings.

Groups are typically a forum for discussing your thoughts and questions about certain topics and comparing approaches to answering sample questions. Alternatively, you could use a study group to compile exam notes. Everyone in the group is allocated one or two topics to prepare notes on and shares these with other group members.

Whatever task your group is aiming to complete, it is important to agree how you will achieve it and in what timeframe. That is why having an agenda is crucial to study group success.

5. Administration

Ensure that study group members exchange contact details. Then if anyone has a question between study sessions they can get it answered quickly. You could use email or even create a Facebook group to share notes and prepare an agenda ahead of meetings.

It is also important to keep track of who was assigned to each task and make sure that every person knows what work they are responsible for.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: This story was first published on Survive Law on 31 May 2010.

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