Being part of a study group is a lot like casual dating. Sometimes, you meet someone and you hit it off instantly. You talk for hours and at the end, you get their number and genuinely hope to meet again. Other times, it’s a bust – something about the person makes you realize there is no “click” and by the time you go on your merry way, several valuable hours have been lost.
Most of my friends have never been in a study group. In accordance with the infamous U of T student experience, concerns about other students “taking my ideas” or “not doing enough work” deter many students from benefiting from being part of a study group. In doing so, they miss out on the experience, advice, knowledge and support of their fellow U of T students.
Perhaps you are interested in testing out the study group waters…so where to begin?
Choosing a Partner
1. Start early: Would you choose a date an hour before the prom? Probably not! In the same way, choosing a study partner doesn’t mean you wait till the day before the exam to find a study buddy. Instead, start thinking about who could be a potential partner while the classes are still on and you have a chance to interact with your classmates of study bachelor/ettes.
2. Select Strategically: They say opposites attract…but in my opinion, they never last. Choose a study partner who has a similar study style to yours. You want someone who is on an equal level – who has done the same amount of work as you, who studies in a similar fashion (e.g. question and answer method, discussing themes, memorizing out loud, etc) and who is willing to put in as much work as you.
3. Friend or Foe: Dating a best friend can turn out amazing, or ruin a beautiful friendship. Studying with friends can raise a similar issue. If it works, it really works out well – there are no formalities and you can simply jump into studying. If it doesn’t work, however, then hours disappear as you talk about the amazing women’s championship hockey game that was on last night rather than getting the work done.
The Study Date
4. Know Your Stance: The worst part of dating is when you finally decide you like someone and then you realize they are only interested in casual dating while you are looking for something long-term. When you go on a study date, you should know exactly what you want out of it. Whether you want to clarify concepts, test your knowledge through question-and-answer sessions or trade notes with someone, there should be no confusion. Decide in advance what the purpose of the study group is, in order to keep focused.
5. Come prepared: Sitting through a silent meal on a first date is unpleasant and awkward. Come to any date, including one just for studying, prepared with what you are going to talk about. A study date should be more meticulously planned – make sure you have studied in advance and that each member of the group comes with assigned work completed it. Study groups are rarely effective if the work hasn’t been do in advance, so make sure each member of the group knows in advance what is required.
Other Important Tips
6. Be selective: Study groups aren’t for every course. They are most effective for courses in which the questions have been given to you in advance (for example, students are given ten questions to prepare answers to, seven of which will be on the exam). Putting heads together for such an exam works best when the work is already narrowed for you and the pre-provided questions make it easier to know what to study.
7. The location: Where you meet is important. Choosing a professional, study group atmosphere in a library helps students focus more than an open-concept meeting space in a busy area on campus. Gerstein, Robarts, the Academic Success Centre and several other locations on campus will provide students with study group space.
Most importantly, remember that being part of a study group means sharing ideas. The fact is, if every member puts in the work, you can learn something from more minds than just one. Once in a while, you get a “dud” where someone is just “leeching” off your work or isn’t prepared. Like in the dating scene, simply shake it off and move on.
There are always other study buddy fish in the sea.