Recently, we spoke about good study habits, and we touched
on the idea of study groups. Like most study tactics, the productivity of group
studying depends on the individual student’s learning style and study preferences.
Before deciding which method is right for you, it’s important to consider all
of your options and assess their respective strengths and weaknesses. While
some research on the potential benefits of group study does exist, the results
cannot be applied universally. Instead, we will look at the pros and cons of
each method, so that you can make an informed decision.
Before we dive into the pros and cons of study groups, let’s
start by talking about some of the benefits and drawbacks of self-studying.
One of the most obvious benefits of studying by yourself is
the lack of distractions. Fewer people around means fewer things to take your
attention away from the material at hand. Not only does this allow you to make
sure that you’re concentrating on the material, but it also gives you the
freedom to spend as much time as you need on each topic at your own pace. This
is a major benefit for two reasons: less time has to be spent on sections with
which you’re already comfortable and you can devote more time to areas where
you need extra review.
Self-study also allows you to customize the learning
techniques you use as well. Efficient studying requires brutal honesty and
awareness about what works for you and what does not. Whether you remember
things better by writing them down a bunch of times, repeating them out loud,
or drawing flow charts and graphic organizers, you don’t have to worry about
keeping up with the group or annoying anybody else because you want a few extra
minutes to solidify your understanding if you are studying by yourself.
Another advantage of being on your own is being able to
study anywhere, anytime. Not having to coordinate schedules with a group gives
you the flexibility to fit study time in whenever it works for you. This way,
you can break your studying up into smaller chunks throughout the day if you
want to or set your studying sessions at the times you have the most energy or
feel the most productive.
All of that being said, studying alone does have some
notable disadvantages when compared to studying in a group. Everyone makes
mistakes or gets stuck occasionally. Without a group to catch mistakes and help
clarify difficult points, it is possible to come away from studying without
fully understanding all of the material, no matter how hard you worked. It can
also be difficult for some students to stay motivated and stick to a schedule without
being accountable to a group.
These disadvantages lead us to the first benefit of studying
in a group. As you may have guessed, being part of a group makes it easier to
ensure studying actually happens at the scheduled times by creating a feeling
of shared responsibility. Additionally, there is a clear advantage when it
comes to tackling tricky material as part of a group. Everyone has different
strengths and weaknesses and being part of a group allows each member to help others
with areas where they may have a better understanding. Not only does this help
the person struggling, but it also provides an opportunity for the rest of the
group to “teach” the material, which many studies have proven to be a great way
to retain information. Similarly, when everyone discusses the ideas together,
mistakes and misunderstandings in the material are much less likely to happen
because of the added accountability.
Another potential benefit of communal studying is the moral
support that comes from being part of a team. Preparing for a big exam can be
stressful, especially if there is a lot of material to cover in a short amount
of time. Knowing that you’re not alone and having other people who you can depend
on makes all the difference sometimes.
Of course, just as the disadvantages of studying alone and
the benefits of cooperative studying overlap, every advantage of going solo can
be seen as a potential issue with group study. Not every potential problem
becomes an actual problem. For example, the more motivated group members are,
the less likely the group is to be sidetracked by talking about unrelated
At the end of the day, there is no definitive answer on
whether it’s better to study alone or as part of a group. Not only does
everyone have their own style and strengths, not every scenario calls for the
same study tactics. Often, the key to being adequately prepared for an exam lies
in finding the correct mixture of both group and solo studying. Whether that
means reviewing by yourself after a group meeting or preparing alone and then
discussing more challenging areas with your group, the most important thing is
to find ways to get the most out of your study time, ensuring that you feel
prepared for whatever tests you have coming up.
To learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of
group studying, check out these pages: