Group study has long been a favourite method of exam prep for students. There’s something comforting about getting together with your peers in a library room or fast food joint to really hit the books and get some work done – which may or may not descend into just chatting while watching cat videos.
However, Covid-19 has affected group study possibilities. Currently, there are restrictions for meetings of more than five people and some restaurants and institutions have put their own measures into place. These include time limits, seating plans and other social distancing measures.
Like any study method, group studying has its good points and bad points, so we examine when and how to use it and some pitfalls you can avoid.
Pro #1: Increases Retention
Studies have shown that explaining and teaching others is a good way to absorb the material yourself. During a group study, you may find that helping your friends is beneficial to you as well. The material will leave a deeper impression on you because you have to explain it.
Also, when you become the teacher, as you get to examine your subject of study deeply and spot areas you aren’t quite sure about. These can become good points to research and review later.
Con #1: Not Productive
However, it’s possible that you will end up everybody’s tutor and hence have no time for your own learning. For example, if you understand a concept well but nobody else does, you may end up spending your whole session explaining it to your friends.
Combat this by “passing the teaching buck” – advise friends to teach others and share knowledge. By creating a collaborative atmosphere, everyone will be more encouraged to spread out and learn from each other. This, in turn, gives you time to focus on yourself.
Pro #2: Added Motivation
Procrastination is our greatest enemy, isn’t it? How many times has your study hour been spent browsing your phone or watching Youtube on loop?
When studying in a group, your peers will act as your motivators, ensuring you keep your distractions down to a minimum. The general “mood” of learning and introspection during a group study will influence you, and you’ll find yourself sitting down and opening the textbook to actually take some notes.
Con #2: Tendency to Go Off-Topic
That said, procrastination strikes even in groups! All it takes is one funny video for everyone to be talking about class gossip, and from there to the latest handphone models, and from there…
In this case, you run the risk of wasting not just your study time, but your friends’ study time as well. Some people deliberately invite friends that don’t share their interests to study with them, so that these people will keep everyone focused.
Pro #3: Access to Resources
When you organise a group study session, everyone will bring their notes and resources. Thus, these become platforms of information exchange, where you can clear up your doubts and come up with new ideas. You can also get pointers on exam topics, recommendations for reference books, and other intellectual goodies.
Con #3: Pressurising
Sometimes, seeing your study mates whiz through the materials with highlighters and scribbles can have a demoralising effect. When everyone seems to be doing well, it can be tempting to just give up and turn to your phone or online games for comfort.
Try to get engaged with your study group to get yourself back in the groove. Ask questions about the material, and you and your friends can reap the benefits of teaching and being taught. Or take the opportunity to pick up some tips and points to focus on for personal review.
In conclusion, group study has its pros and cons. When contemplating feasibility, consider the people with whom you are studying, the complexity of the subject, and the amount of time left before the deadline. Always remember that whatever works for someone else may not necessarily work for you, and only you can assess the extent of productivity in a group study session.
With all that said, choose your study method wisely, and all the best in your learning!
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