There is no doubting the fact that studying in a group has benefits. However, working with other students might not always be the best study method. Studying with others, especially close friends, can sometimes be distracting rather than helpful.
Studying with others can also be inefficient. If certain members of the group are less grounded in the class material than others, some group members may have to backtrack. For the members who are ahead, covering certain topics or ideas for less prepared students can be frustrating.
So, should you join a study group? It depends. Here are four questions that can help you decide:
1. Do the group’s study goals match my own?
First, consider your goals and the goals of the group. For example, does the group meet regularly to discuss class material, or does it meet only before exams? How often do you hope to review?
Ask the members of your potential study group about what their sessions entail and what their goals are. If their answers do not align with your own, you may be better off studying alone.
2. Can the group remain focussed?
Being distracted while studying is not only detrimental to your understanding of class content, it is also a poor use of your time. Consider both the size and the composition of your study group.
The most effective study groups typically consist of three to five members – a larger group can make it difficult to stay on task. Study group that’s comprised of close friends can work, but only if their members avoid spending too much time socialising. If you are likely to distract, or become distracted by members of your study group, consider reviewing alone or with different students.
3. Can I commit to meeting with my study group regularly?
Joining a study group is like joining a team. Your group members rely on you to attend each meeting and to contribute to the group’s collective knowledge. If you are too busy to commit to a study group’s meeting schedule, studying independently may allow you more flexibility.
4. Am I prepared to contribute to my study group’s discussion?
As mentioned above, a study group relies on each of its members to regularly attend review sessions. However, they also require group members to adequately prepare for study sessions so that all students can contribute to the group’s discussions.
If you are not prepared to discuss class materials, joining a group may be counterproductive. You will be less likely to make meaningful contributions to the group’s discussion, and your group members’ conversations may confuse you. If you are behind in a subject, catch up in your understanding of class material before you join a study group.