Study groups are complicated. On the one hand, most people know that they have to help. Any time you get together with other people and discuss school things, it’s got to be good, right?
But on the other hand, most people know that just getting together with other people isn’t a magic wand. Study groups can easily go astray (read more about that here).
Most of the time they start with great intentions. You want to get together and hash out the difficulties of understanding Greek philosophy, or pre-calculus, or chemistry. These are difficult topics. Surely more minds are better than fewer minds.
But then someone brings up the weird thing their cat did last week. And someone is reminded of a cat video on YouTube. And then suddenly you’re YouTubing videos of animals befriending babies. And then you have to go home, because YouTube takes up the entire afternoon.
And you are no closer to being ready for the test than when you began.
But study groups — when done the right way — can be incredibly helpful. They are actually one of the best ways to prepare for a test. Especially for you highly-verbal processors (typically there are more female verbal processors than male, but all dudes also learn verbally), talking out answers you have written down can be extremely helpful.
Here are three keys to having an effective study group.
1) Don’t under-estimate your distract-ability.
Study groups only work when they are focused on studying rather than socializing. That means if you are in a group with your “best-friend-forever-for-life” (or whatever you call each other) you will probably run into the previously mentioned cat-video scenario.
Don’t get caught by cat videos. Build a study group with great students, not necessarily great conversationalists.
2) Get the right sized study group.
The best group sizes tend to be between three and five students. They also include students who have already studied some on their own so that they can help one another and another group.
3) Study groups are about reviewing material, not learning it the first time
If a group is set up to learn the material for the first time, it will derail. It won’t be effective. It takes too much time to learn material for the first time together. You should read on your own, then review with a study group.
But if it’s rightly set up to review material before a final, everyone involved in the group can be sharpened immensely and also can help by this.
Focus on discussing difficult concepts and explaining to one another the hardest topics covered in the study group. This will ensure you can adequately explain the material, a skill every student needs to be able to do before tested on it.
How about you — have you had success with study groups?