How to Form, Organize & Run a Great Study Group

Like it or loathe it, studying is a fact of student life, whether you’re in high school or university. In fact, it’s essential to success in education, so the sooner you make it into a habit, the more rewarding your educational journey will be.

When most people picture studying, the image that comes to the mind’s eye is of a person sitting alone at a desk, striving to focus and absorb as much information as possible. However, more and more students are finding that there is an alternative means of learning the necessary information, especially when taking on the most challenging topics: the study group.

What is a study group, you ask? Good question. It can be defined as a group of students with the likeminded goals of understanding challenging course material and getting good grades that meets on a regular basis to study together.

Why a Study Group?

Study groups provide members with a number of practical benefits:

  • A support system: Studying alone can be lonely and stressful. A study group offers a regular opportunity for camaraderie, motivation and support as you work on course material. If you miss class for any reason or need additional insights into the subject matter, you have built-in set of peers who can assist you. Asking questions of fellow students is often less intimidating than approaching your teacher or professor.
  • Shared talents: Students have diverse interests, talents and strengths. Bringing a diverse group of students together allows each of you to draw on others’ expertise and skills. Together, you can offer each other insight the individual might not have otherwise.
  • Sharing strategies: When you work with other students, you can learn from them about other ways to study and develop your own best practices.
  • Better coverage: Working as a group, you and your fellow students should be able to plough through more material than you would working alone. You can divide and conquer by dividing up the topics for study and each reporting back to the group.
  • Better discipline: Participating in a study group that meets regularly will force you to keep on top of the subject matter, rather than cramming for an exam at the last minute.
  • Having fun: Studying alone for hours becomes monotonous after a while. Group sessions are livelier and make the learning experience more fulfilling.

Creating a Study Group:

Here are some handy pointers when creating a study group:

  • Size matters: Study groups generally do best with four to six members, allowing everyone an opportunity to contribute.
  • Common goals: Be sure that your members are committed to attending and to doing the required preparation.
  • Frequency: Plan to meet at least once a week for no more than two to three hours. Longer sessions will result in inattentiveness and too much socializing, while shorter sessions will be rushed and won’t allow for the full range of topics to be covered.
  • Meeting space: Choose a spot where you can work undisturbed, ensuring no distractions. Most university libraries have group study spaces, and public libraries often have one or two rooms available. Try to meet in the same place at the same time each week so everyone in the group can build it into their schedules.

Running a Study Group:

students group study
To ensure that your study group is productive and effective, consider these guidelines:

  • Topics: Establish clear goals and objectives for each of your study sessions so that the time is used productively and members can prepare adequately.
  • Leadership: Designate one person — in rotation, perhaps – to lead the session and keep everyone on track.
  • Structure: Decide together how you’ll structure each of your study sessions. For example, you might spend the first part of the session reviewing the key concepts introduced in class during the previous week, followed by work on problems or questions. Finish by summarizing the work you’ve done during the session and identifying tasks that should be completed before you meet again. Tailor the structure of the session to the needs of your particular group.
  • Preparation: Members must do the necessary reading and tasks specifically assigned to them in order for everyone to get the maximum benefit from participating.
  • Opportunity: Ensure that each group member has a chance to actively participate in each study session. By teaching a concept to one of your peers, you’ll benefit by learning it and retaining it better yourself.

Study groups aren’t for everyone, although they provide a chance for some practice at working in groups, which will become important in the workplace. There’s also another incentive to join: research shows that students who participate in study groups do better in the course than those who don’t.