Why you should set up a study group

Why you should set up a study group

Are you part of a study group?

No?

Well, you’re definitely missing a trick!

Forming a study group was one of the BEST decisions I made while studying for my Undergraduate degree. Although it may conjure up visions of dull, bookish students, it doesn't have to be that way.

Your group, your rules!

The study group I set up met every Wednesday at 11am for cappuccino and cake. And a chat about our course.

That’s why today I'm going to be talking about how you can set up a study group of your own and how it will benefit you at University.

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When I was first at Uni - which was way back in 1991 - so probably before any of you were born, I set up a study group with three friends from my course. And it turned out to be one of the most valuable uses of my time, not to mention I made some very good friends.

Our study group fulfilled a number of different purposes:

  1. we supported each other,
  2. kept each other motivated, and
  3. most importantly held each other accountable.

We met at the same time and the same place every week and made it a regular commitment in our diaries. By doing that it enabled us to stay really motivated - in a similar way to if you agree to meet a friend at the gym - you're much likely to go because you don't want to let them down!

It’s the same with a study group. We didn’t want to disappoint each other, which encouraged us to turn up and keep our commitment.

How did we spend our time?

Well, there were several things we did which proved helpful.

Course and subject reading lists

We set targets around what we planned to read and we would come back together the following week and discuss what we’d read and our understanding of the material. If there were any passages that were unclear, we’d explore those together and clarify our understanding. This developed our critical thinking AND built our knowledge. Not only were we completing the recommended reading, we were discussing it together and that really helped.

Essays and assignments

Another way our study group supported our learning was when we wrote our essays and assignments. We discussed which particular essay we were going to choose, if we had different options and brainstormed ideas together. We then held each other accountable on the progress we made.

Although we didn't actually work together on the content of the essay, we tracked our progress. If we agreed we'd have a first draft ready for the following week, we would make sure each other did actually do that!

Once we'd completed a final draft, we would review and proofread each other's essays and give feedback before we submitted them. This proved really helpful. By reviewing each other's work and having our own work reviewed, it enhanced our learning, caught any silly typos and grammar errors and added a lot of value.

Exam revision and practice

The final area where our study group helped was regarding exams.

In the weeks coming up to exams, we would discuss what topics we felt were likely to come up, what we planned to revise and when. We set targets of what we were going to revise by the following week.

After we'd done our revision we tested each other by creating mock exams. This was a really valuable use of time. It certainly helped make revision a lot more bearable and less lonely! We all felt that we were staying on target with our revision and being together in a group helped us to stay motivated. Being part of a study group at exam time gave us support and confidence.

If after hearing about my university study group, you'd like to set up one yourself, here are some tips for you.

Keep the group small

First of all, keep the group small. it's much easier to arrange a weekly meeting with a small group of people. If it gets much beyond three, four or five it becomes harder to schedule the meeting into peoples diaries and also harder to manage the group. It's simply easier if a smaller number of people are involved

Find like minded members

Another factor to bear in mind, is to choose people who have a similar work ethic and attitude to you. You want to find people who are super motivated, straight talking and who will give you feedback when it's necessary. You need people who will call you out if you missed your deadline or if you haven't done what you said you were going to do. The accountability which comes from being in a group is important, so you want the other members of the group to care if you miss your goals!.

create a SAFE environment

It's also important to have friends like you trust because you want to feel safe when you are sharing an early draft, or an outline of your essay, or when you're talking about your revision. Choosing the right people for the group helps create a safe and supportive environment, where people will give you constructive feedback and not be too critical.

There are the three characteristics of a successful study group.

Now, these days there is absolutely NO EXCUSE to not form a study group! The technology which is available today, such as Skype and Zoom, means you can meet virtually even if you can't be together in person. You can also keep in touch via technology over the summer vacation, even if you don't all live local to your university.

You can hold regular meetings via video or if you want to start right now then a quick check-in with friends from your course via messenger may be useful. Staying in touch will help you retain knowledge and understanding so that you go back into the autumn semester strong.

Forming a study group is something I recommend. If you don't have a study group already then find some like-minded friends and begin one. I really do think you find it enormously valuable.

In addition, you can join my Facebook group for students StudyWriteNow. We've got students members from all over the UK, studying a wide range of subjects. Even though it's not like forming a small group with people on your course, you can still ask questions, get moral support and enjoy university life! Being part of a study group was one of the most helpful practices for me when I was at University and I know it will amplify your success too!.