How to Run a Successful Study Group

Study groups are a popular way to learn in college. Get-It-Done Guy has a few simple practices to help your study group be much more effective.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #239

Bernice’s boyfriend Melvin is great with abstract concepts. When it comes to math-intensive subjects, understanding the driving forces of political movements, or deriving the underlying mathematics of freakishly cute Hello Kitty, he’s our man.

Find opportunities to tutor others sometimes, and be tutored other times.

Tip #4: Help Each Other

I’m hoping the goal of your study group is to learn. Start each learning module by determining who is likely to “get it” most quickly. Then make them the “go to” person for this module to help the rest of you get up to speed more quickly. You want to find opportunities for each of you to tutor the others sometimes, and be tutored other times.

Tip #5: Have Weekly Experts Prepare in Advance

Be ready for each week’s study session. Know the topics in advance, and identify who you think your expert will be. If no one has a natural affinity for the topic, choose someone at random, or take turns. Have this week’s expert start studying before the group meets, so they can help everyone else by the time you all get together.

Tip #6: Make Everyone a Question Expert

Some problem sets have questions that build on earlier problems. For those, you all need to start working straight through from the beginning. But if you have a problem set where problem 5 doesn’t require you to solve problems 1–4 first, have each person start working on a different problem. Very soon, each problem will have someone in the group that’s done it and can help the others if they get stuck.

Tip #7: Learn For Yourself

Don’t just have each person do one problem and then everyone copies the answer. You won’t learn the material, and you might get expelled for cheating. Do learn the material for yourself, using each other as teachers. When you help someone learn, the very act of explaining something helps you learn it better. Make sure you’ve actually learned and understood the material by the time the group is done for the night.

Tip #8: Take Care of Yourself

Being a college student, you probably think pizza is a vitamin, soda is good for you, and partying until 3 am is a form of aerobic exercise. Not true. You’ll learn better if you eat right and get enough sleep. If you snack as you study, bring healthy snacks. Too many carbs make your blood sugar crash and your waistline expand. Bring protein to even out your blood sugar. At the very least—and I hate myself for saying this—if you’re going to have corn chips, have a Slim Jim too, to keep your blood chemistry stable.

Check out Nutrition Diva’s easy tricks for eating healthy in college, and Get-Fit Guy’s tips on how to lose weight by sleeping more (yes, that’s right).

Tip #9: Have Process Discussions

After a few weeks, schedule a separate study group meeting to review how it’s going. Keep the tone positive; discuss what’s working. Avoid blame and getting personal. Ask “What’s working?” and “How can we do more of that?”

As my mother used to tell me, if it’s fun to do alone, it’s even more fun to do it with a group. I’m sure she was talking about studying. Make sure your group members have compatible goals and strengths. Use everyone’s expertise, but learn for yourself—don’t copy! Eat well and check in to keep things on track.

Want more on how to succeed after college? Check out our brand new book Quick and Dirty Tips for Life After College where I and 11 other experts give you the tools for real world success. It’s just $3.99 – the perfect gift for current college students and recent graduates.

This is Stever Robbins. Email questions to getitdone@quickanddirtytips.com

I help groups become more effective by aligning their roles and responsibilities with the goals of the group. If you want to know more, visit http://www.SteverRobbins.com.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.