Group Studying: Pros, Cons, and Tips
20 December, 2020
Some prefer studying alone, whereas others swear by group studying. While proponents of group studying say that it gives them the boost of motivation and energy that they need to keep studying, some people find that group studying is distracting and inefficient. In this article I aim to give you a lowdown of the pros and cons of group studying and some strategies to help maximise your group studying time, so that you can use group studying as a tool to help you ace GAMSAT and/or your university studies (remember, GPA is just as important as GAMSAT in securing an interview offer!).
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- Can increase your motivation to study, particularly if you have to prepare material for the next group study session (e.g. quizzes or lecture notes). Sometimes, just being around other people who are studying can be a good reminder that you should be studying yourself!
- Teaching other people or discussing study topics together can help with learning and retaining information, as you need to learn the content well enough to be able to talk about it.
- Different people learn and understand things in different ways. Your peers might be able to explain things in a way that resonates with you better than your lecturers’ explanations.
- It can be fun and energising to study with others, particularly if you are extroverted.
- Certain study methods can only be used in a group. These include teaching each other (e.g. each person presents a short summary of a topic) and practising practical skills, if your course has a practical component to it.
- It can be very easy to become distracted when studying with other people. Becoming side-tracked and talking about unrelated topics is a common occurrence and is probably one of the biggest detriments to group study.
- There can be some difficulty involved in setting up a time for a group study session, particularly if your group members have different class schedules and are working while studying.
- Aside from the actual time studying in the group, additional time is required for travelling to/from study sessions, doing preparatory work between sessions, and discussing logistics with the group (e.g. when and what to study).
- You may have to deal with group members who don’t pull their weight, leading to increased wasted time and/or some very difficult conversations.
Tips to Maximise the Pros while Minimising the Cons
Perhaps one of the most useful tips for making the most out of group study time is to set an agenda prior to the study session. The agenda doesn’t have to be detailed, but it should at least have enough structure so that you and your classmates are not wasting time trying to figure out what to do. For example, when my friends and I meet up to practice history taking, we have a vague plan to practice two histories each. Another example, perhaps more relevant to many of you reading this blog, was a productive group study session I had before one of my first year undergraduate exams, in which we systematically went through the learning outcomes for the unit and addressed them one by one until we ran out of time.
When you set the agenda, remember that since your group study time will be more limited than individual study time, it may be a good idea to prioritise study methods that are best done as a group. These include quizzing each other (e.g. using Kahoot), teaching each other, and practising skills.
On a similar vein to setting an agenda, it may be useful to figure out if there is any preparatory work that should be done prior to the group study session, and ensure that each group member knows what they are expected to do. If your group likes to quiz each other, for instance, there should be a roster so that each group member knows when it is their time to prepare a quiz for the next session.
If your group is planning to meet regularly, consider having a regular time, e.g. every Wednesday after class. Having a regular time helps with consistency and routine, saves time in having to decide when the next session will be, and will make it easier for your group members to plan other commitments such as work.
Another important consideration is who is in your study group. Your closest friends might not necessarily be the best people to study with. Considerations to keep in mind include how likely your group is to become side-tracked, and whether your group members will reliably do preparatory work in between sessions. You may have to be prepared to have some uncomfortable conversations if a team member is not pulling their weight.
Overall, group studying is a very useful tool that can potentially improve your understanding and retention of the content, but just like any tool, how you use it is an important factor in the type of outcomes that you will get. If you are mindful of the pitfalls of group studying, and take measures to overcome these pitfalls, group studying may just give you that extra boost of motivation and learning that you need to ace your exams.
If you want to learn more about this topic, check out our next article: Life Hacks – Organising a Study Group.