Three key tips for staying strong in your study group

Go into your study session with a plan to keep it from collapsing into distraction

Keep your study groups small for maximum concentration. Illustration: Alice Zhang/The Peak

By: Michelle Chiang, Peak Associate

Let’s face it: we’ve all barricaded ourselves at home for study-related reasons, only to end up watching Netflix and eating snacks on the couch. “I’ll start after this episode ends,” you tell yourself — only for the next episode to begin automatically. Once you’re 10 minutes in, you might as well finish the rest of the episode, right?

I say this jokingly, but making the decision and finding the motivation to sit down and focus can often be the most difficult part of studying for exams. That initial push can be an obstacle that’s really hard to overcome, and there’s no shame in that. 

That’s part of the reason why I’m a proponent of study groups. There’s something about the pressure of having other people around that keeps people on task. Having a date dedicated to studying can help you get into that more focused mindset. Plus, if students study with other classmates, they might be able to help explain the difficult concepts that they just can’t wrap their heads around. Even if students don’t study with classmates, studying with friends can help give them some much needed moral support while trying to avoid a mental breakdown. 

For those who have encountered bad study groups in the past: you have my utmost sympathy. There are, however, a few key tricks that can help keep any study group on track. 

  1. The environment is the most important variable! Find somewhere quiet and spacious to begin your session — nothing devolves a study group faster than hearing chatter from other people around you. Cafes are a definite no-go, as is the open study area of the W.A.C. Bennett Library. I suggest booking a group study room at the library if students are able to snag one. 
  2. Switching out the studying format every hour is the best tactic against monotony. Test each other with flash cards, then work on possible long answer questions, and then review the lecture slides together. Doing one thing for multiple hours is the quickest way to mentally exhaust your brain and preemptively end a session. 
  3. Take frequent breaks! I suggest one 15 minute break for every hour and a half of studying, but nothing less than that. Also try and plan for at least one long break of around 30–40 minutes during the session. Go out for a walk and grab a cup of coffee to help rejuvenate your bodies. It also helps to designate one person to monitor everyone’s energy level and keep things on track should the topic start to deviate. 

Of course, at a certain point, study groups can get too unwieldy for their own good. Any study group with over six students isn’t a study group anymore — it’s a party. But while study groups always have the potential to devolve into hangout sessions, they ultimately keep students accountable. And honestly? Going through Quizlet cards alone in your room is just too sad for words.