With midterms heading our way, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out the most efficient methods of studying and preparing for those dreaded exams. If you’re debating whether or not to form a study group, here are the pros and cons of both studying in groups and studying alone:
- You can learn by teaching others, which is one of the best ways to retain new information, while simultaneously helping someone else out.
- Your study group can hold you accountable for when you get distracted by Facebook during your study session.
- Study buddies can provide motivation – seeing your peers on top of their assignments and material for the class will make you want to keep up with them.
- You’re forced to start studying well in advance of an exam instead of cramming everything the day before because you have to schedule times to meet as a group.
- When studying with close friends, it’s easy to get distracted or be less productive.
- The pace of the group may be too slow or fast compared to what you’re comfortable with.
- You can be lulled into a false sense of security or become overly anxious about your comprehension of the material if your group has different skill levels in the class.
- Coordinating with everyone else’s schedules and preferences can be frustrating and time-consuming.
How to make it work:
- Limit your study group to just three or four people. Any more than that and it borders on party territory, tanking your productivity level.
- Make sure to meet at least once a week, if not more. Setting a regular schedule instead of a last-minute cram session before an exam ensures everyone is on the same page and actually understands the material together.
- Make a goal for the amount you’d like to cover. Stick to a concrete plan. Let's be real, saying you'll review "all of calculus" in one session is not going to happen.
- Recognize what types of studying will not work. For example, writing a paper with four of your friends around is probably not the most efficient method of getting things done, but group editing and proofreading together can definitely work.
- It can be easier to focus on the task at hand without the distractions of other people.
- You’re not forced to follow anyone else’s pace, and you can spend more or less time on the topics that you need to.
- You don’t have to worry about scheduling study sessions to match other people’s schedules, so you can do what works best for you.
- You may miss out on the unique study tips, tricks, and experience from other students.
- It’s easier to get distracted and take longer “study breaks” when you don’t have other students around you to prevent it.
- When you get stuck, you’re really stuck because you don’t have help or an immediate support system next to you to help you work through the issue.
- The monotony of sitting in a room by yourself can lessen your motivation and make it easier to give up or procrastinate.
How to make it work:
- Make a commitment to not log on to social media or entertainment sites. Without your study group to call you out, it can be so easy to fall into a trap of endless Buzzfeed binging. Websites and apps such as SelfControl are useful tools in cramming situations because they block you from websites of your choosing for a certain time to ensure that you don’t get sidetracked.
- Make use of the 50/10 rule of productivity. This is a simple way to divide your time when studying: 50 minutes of intense productivity followed by 10 minutes of break. Don't cheat by pausing your timer! This method helps to prevent mental fatigue and keeps you on track with your timer holding you accountable for how many times you get distracted within an hour.
- Keep yourself on your toes. Change things up by studying in different places or switching between courses or material. Researchers at the University of South Florida actually suggest that switching up material and external stimuli allows your brain to retain new information more effectively.
It goes without saying that a combination of solo and group study is the best way prepare for exams in the most efficient and successful manner. Make sure to use all of the resources around you. Good luck on your midterms, fellow collegiettes™! You’re going to kill ‘em.