We’ve all been there. You plan a group study session with your friends, and three hours later…you have done nothing. Well, except for exchanging some good gossip and googling pictures of cats, maybe.
Group study sessions can be awesome study tools, but they can easily become just another hang-out with your friends. And though hanging out with friends is always a fun way to spend time, it’s not always ideal the day before a big test!
Surprisingly, having a fun, yet productive group study session is possible…Try following some of these tips the next time you study in a group. It might save you some stress.
1) Limit the size
Although it might be tempting to invite all your friends to a study session, these are usually more effective when you limit the size. Huge study groups will move a lot slower and be a lot less effective. For a maximally effective session, try capping your group at five or six people.
It’s a lot harder to be productive when you have no plans as to where your study session is going. Before you start, establish what you want to cover and approximately how long you want the session to take. If you set a time limit, it’ll force you to stay on track and not get distracted! Having a rough agenda is also useful.
You should also make sure to meet at a good location—one without too many distractions! Some people work better in quiet locations, while others prefer some background noise. Decide amongst your group where to study! Cafés, classrooms, and libraries are all great choices.
3) Establish rules
This may sound a bit unappealing, but it can really make your group session a lot more productive. You can forbid all phones during the session, for example. Or you can ban Internet for a couple hours. It may seem a little overbearing, but if everyone is willing to do it, it’ll make the session a lot more serious and a lot more productive. It’s a lot harder to ask a friend a question if he or she is playing 2048!
4) Invite people wisely
Though it’s always fun to study with close friends, keep in mind that you don’t have to limit your session to just your friend group. Best friends don’t always make the best study buddies. Perhaps consider inviting people who know the material well—even if they aren’t close friends! You’ll not only learn a lot more, but you can form some strong friendships! After all, there’s nothing more unifying than the universal terror of desperate high school students.
5) Group activities
There are lots of cool study strategies that you can only practice with other people. Study sessions are the perfect time to try these out! A few examples of activities you can try include…
Test each other on your knowledge! You can hold verbal trivia, or you can make fake mini-tests for one another. Have each member of your study group write down a question on a piece of paper and pass each paper around until everyone has answered each one. When you’re done, compare your answers!
b) Teach each other
Communicating information orally is amazing for information retention. Teaching other people how to do a problem is mutually beneficial: the person being taught learns something new, and the teacher is forced to explain and understand the material he or she is teaching. Each member of your study group can be in charge of teaching a certain topic that they understand well, for example. It’s surprisingly fun and very effective.
c) Rotate notes
Everyone takes notes differently, and many times, someone else will catch something in the teacher’s lecture that you didn’t! A great way to review the material while possibly learning something new is to exchange notes with other members of your group. Review them together, and look for material that you haven’t recorded in your own.
d) Fill in the blanks
This is probably the most obvious thing to do in a study group: answer each other’s questions! Everyone should make a list of topics that they don’t understand, so that together you can discuss and explain all the ideas that need explaining. Write down all your questions, and make sure you pass them by your study buddies!
e) Brainstorm study strategies!
Four or five heads are most certainly better than one! Try brainstorming mnemonics or songs or other tricks to help you remember key topics. It’ll be a lot easier making memory tricks when you have several other people brainstorming along with you! You can create different types of tricks depending on the kinds of learners that compose your group. If you have a lot of kinesthetic learners, for example, you might consider making a song or dance that’ll help them on test day!
6) Create a routine
If you find that study sessions are really effective for you and your friends, try establishing a routine. If your study sessions are scheduled periodically—and aren’t just random events—they’ll be a lot more serious and productive. Not to mention, they’ll improve over time as everyone becomes more used to each other and more familiar with what study tactics are most useful for the group.
– Try not to make your study session too long! After 4 hours, your brains will start to scream for mercy, and conflicts might arise. If you really have so much to study, break your session into multiple smaller chunks—one per day after school, for example.
– Communicate! Studying with other people can become frustrating, but if you communicate clearly, things will be a lot smoother. Talk with your peers, ask questions, and discuss! That’s what study sessions are all about.
– Food. Have some water and some snacks out, but try not to overindulge. Otherwise, your study session will turn into an impromptu banquet! It’s best not to eat your meals in the middle of your study group, as they will easily shatter your group’s focus.
– Stay focused. As mentioned before, setting rules and time limits are great for keeping the group focused. Making timetables and establishing priority topics are also ideal for keeping everyone on track. If people begin to veer off track, gently steer them back in the right direction!
– Stay positive! Stressing out for a big test can become even more stressful in a group if not handled correctly. Try to keep a positive environment in your group and avoid conflicts and arguments. The last thing you need before test day is a sore throat and a broken friendship.
Best of luck hosting your study sessions. These can be so much fun and so very productive. Don’t miss out!
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About Maddi Lee
Maddi is currently a high school junior in southern California. She is an avid freelance writer and has been featured in multiple literary publications and anthologies. When she isn't writing, she loves traveling, doodling, and most of all, sleeping. Through her own experience and passion, she hopes to help guide fellow students through the roller coaster that is SAT and college admissions...that is, as long as she survives the journey herself!
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