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Study groups are a topic I find rather interesting. It’s a topic that I’ve covered a few times but I think it’s worth explaining a little differently. This question was a great opportunity.

I absolutely love study groups. I’ve read some articles on your old blog about how you shouldn’t really use study groups. I know you don’t directly say it but your “tips” make creating a “good” study group almost impossible. That makes me think you’d not support any study group in reality. What do you have against study groups? I’ve always found them to be a good way to get motivated to study.
-Alex

I won’t argue that I’m not a big fan of study groups. My tips for creating a good study group are rather strict. (You can find a few similar ones here.) They’re strict because creating a good study group is unbelievably difficult. It’s hard to find a group of people that are appropriately related in skill level so that they all get an equal benefit from the group. Usually it ends up with one or two students benefiting from the study group while the rest of them are just spending their time less efficiently than they could have if they just studied alone.

The most powerful ways of learning can be utilized in a study group but most of the time, the least powerful ways are the strategies being utilized. A person that leads a study group (and works more like a teacher) benefits immensely from a study group. A person that is behind the rest of the students in a study group may benefit. The average student listening and participating only a small fraction of the time is not benefiting much from the group. They’re virtually a tool to help the other high participation students benefit. There is no way to balance this out well.

You may benefit immensely from a study group if you find yourself in one of the high participation positions but you must understand that everyone is not benefiting in the same way. I don’t recommend this because most people in a study group end up on the losing end of that study group.

The thing I have against study groups is that they’re inefficient compared to a shorter, silent, and single-person session. A groups time will always be split between a number of different students. An individual’s time can always be dedicated to that individual’s learning needs when they’re alone.

Sure, I wouldn’t stop a person from going into a study group if studying wasn’t their top priority. Study groups can be good for making like-minded friends, growing friendships, and having fun. (I’d argue there are better ways but that’s just my opinion.)

Study groups are mostly just a distraction when it comes to trying to learn something. The more time you spend using inefficient ways to learn something, the more you think you’re learning something, and the less you actually are learning something.

So, consider a study group but make sure you have the right set of goals in mind beforehand. (And if you’re going to try to study in a study group, try to take up a teacher-style role. That’s generally the most certain way to benefit immensely.)

Smart Student Secrets is where you can discover the most advanced strategies for studying today. It’s loaded with tips for improving the way you study (and decreasing the time you need to do it.) It’s the home of the 15 Minute Study Strategy. Be sure to follow and check out the archives to learn more. If you’re looking to learn it even faster then check out the ebooks in the sidebar.

Q/A – What Do You Have Against Study Groups?

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9 thoughts on “Q/A – What Do You Have Against Study Groups?

  • January 25, 2016 at 8:19 am
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    To be honest , I think to study in a group of similar people wouldn’t help us to concentrate in our studies at all , it will rather stray us away from our main purpose of studying and lead us to do something else .

    Reply
  • January 25, 2016 at 8:19 am
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    To be honest , I think to study in a group of similar people wouldn’t help us to concentrate in our studies at all , it will rather stray us away from our main purpose of studying and lead us to do something else

    Reply
  • January 22, 2016 at 7:08 pm
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    My terrible experiences with study groups and group projects made me never want to be involved in a “group” anything ever again. I don’t know..maybe its just the fact that it is not an equally rewarding experience for all. It’s like one or two people are teaching and explaining concepts to the other people in the group. So really the members who are teaching and explaining or doing all the work, what is in it for them? They really should be called tutors and paid for their services. I mean, in cases like these, it is unfortunate that everyone may not pull their own weight as a team

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  • December 27, 2015 at 6:20 am
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    I tried study groups in my local area, but I just found for me they didn’t help, I’m much better working alone, stuck in a silent room and left to study. I suppose we all have our own ways of studying and finding what is right for us. Study groups could be brilliant for one person and not so great for another.

    Reply
  • December 27, 2015 at 6:14 am
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    I currently study with the open university and found a local study group in my area, but as you pointed out earlier in this post, we were all at different skill levels, and I think it’s easy to put yourself down if you compare yourself against other members of the study group. I found that whilst my skill level wasn’t the lowest of the group, it didn’t seem to help my own studies and found that I’m quite good at studying alone, and asking for help where I need it. Study groups can be great things for some and barriers for others.

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  • December 22, 2015 at 3:07 pm
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    I agree that it can be extremely difficult to find a study group that will end up benefiting every person in it. Most of the time I try to make a study group, it ends up consisting mostly of my friends. Friends never work well in study groups because it is extremely easy to get distracted. I find that using other people’s study techniques is really hard and it is more beneficial for me to just work on my own.

    Reply
  • December 20, 2015 at 3:01 pm
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    I could never find a right study group. Either people knew everything and I couldn’t follow at all, and I was the most skilled one and had to teach other people, and it didn’t help me because I got more and more confused with every question. Studying with friends is even harder, because it’s so easy to get distracted.

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    • December 24, 2015 at 9:53 am
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      It’s pretty difficult to find a good study group, but having a good one is beyond beneficial. If you already know everything, then teaching others is a great way to test your knowledge. On the other hand, having other students teach you content may not be the most clear, but it will probably be more fun than listening to your teachers! Of course, the important thing to remember is to actually study instead of messing around with friends, and for that you’ll probably require a definite leader of the study group.

      Reply

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