Study Groups: A Key to Success in College
Study groups are great places to get feedback from other students on study habits and challenge one other to understand, memorize, and retain information.
by Kate Wilson
Study groups are beneficial to students who are looking to retain more information, gather missing notes and have an incentive to study in the first place. Why? Because study groups, if conducted effectively, are great places to get feedback from other students on study habits and challenge one other to understand, memorize, and retain information. Study groups are also a source of solidarity that helps you look forward to studying rather than procrastinate.
The College Board points out that one reason study groups are effective is because you often learn material best by explaining it to someone else. While you should choose fellow study group members who are strong academically, it doesn't hurt to have a couple people in the group who are struggling that you can help. Teaching material from your notes to another person forces you to think critically, which will come in handy during short answer or essay portions of an exam, when you will have to demonstrate to your professor that you understand the material.
If you are studying for a multiple choice exam, study groups are great for gathering together to quiz each other using index cards, class PowerPoint presentations, or any study guides your instructor passed out before the exam. If your instructor's exams are less cut-and-dry, and you're not sure exactly what to study, you can compare your notes with the other members of the study group to make sure you didn't miss anything that your instructor focused on in class. Study groups are particularly useful if you missed a class or two, because you can fill in the gaps with the notes from the rest of the group.
If you are struggling in a class, make sure you choose a study group of people who are doing well in the class. One mistake some students make when forming a study group is gathering other struggling students around them because they feel they have more in common with them. However, this makes for a very weak study group. Look for fellow students who are making top grades in the course, and learn from their effective study habits during group meetings.
Study groups are useful because each member of the group can contribute something to the study process. One member might chime in that he noticed on the last exam that the professor liked to use questions directly from the textbook at the end of each chapter, and thus help the group study more effectively. Another member might come up with a great mnemonic advice, like a clever rhyme or song, for memorizing tricky bits of information.
It's best to keep study groups between four and six people. Any more than that, and you begin losing the ability for everyone to communicate with each other and share ideas effectively. It's also a good idea to choose a central meeting place on the university, such as an empty meeting room or the library on campus. Distraction comes too easily at restaurants and people's dorms or apartments.
Study groups provide an incentive to study because students look forward to the social aspect of getting together with their peers. The groups help create camaraderie by allowing each student to release their stress to a group of people who share it, and then getting down to business to accomplish what each might not have been able to on his or her own. Students can arrange for further incentives to study by agreeing to study for a solid hour, and then plan to all go out to eat together afterwards to reward themselves.
Procrastinating students benefit from study groups because it forces them to commit to a specific time, place and group of people. It's easy to break the promises you make to yourself to study, but you're less likely to disappoint a group of people who are counting on you to be a part of the study group. For this reason, study groups are also a form of accountability. If you don't show up, chances are someone in the study group will call you up and ask what's going on.
Final Thoughts on College Study Groups
Remember that while study groups are helpful, they're only one part of the study process. They will not replace the studying you must also complete on your own if you truly want to have college success.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key academic terms by going to our College Success Glossary.
Kate Willson writes on the topics of best online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email: katewillson2(at)gmail.com.