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Conquering The Top 6 Challenges of Study Groups

Yes, it’s that time of year when exams look large, and your teacher may suggest that you and your classmates form study groups to prepare for them. Sounds like a good idea, right? But, more often than not, studying in a group can be a test of its own.

Here are some of common challenges of study groups that you may run into – and ways to solve them so that you can get the most out of learning together and ace those tests!

Challenge 1: Study Time Becomes Hangout Time

To make sure your study group time doesn’t mysteriously transform itself into hangout time full of gossip, giggles, games and goodies, use this simple trick that most adults use at work: Start your study group session with an agenda.

You and your partners should agree on the agenda together. Start with what you want to cover, and from there, ask what else other people want to work on, and make a list. Voila, you just made an agenda!

If you’re already assigned set tasks, decide which ones are most important and the order you want to go over them.

Study group

Study group


Challenge 2: One Person Dominates

What if one of your group members is smart and talented, but just doesn’t know when to stop monopolizing the conversation? You can help your dominant friend work better with the others. More likely than not, everyone in the group will appreciate you for it.

A great strategy to employ is called “step up, step back.” With this, every person in the group gets a chance to “step up” and share their ideas, then “step back” to let others share. Introduce the idea of “step up, step back” to your group early on, so when someone in your group starts to dominate the conversation, all you have to do is give a little reminder/nudge.

Challenge 3: Things get delayed – a lot

To make the most of your time, divide up the tasks so that everyone works on something different. Then come together at points throughout your work to share what you’ve done. This way, you won’t all get stuck working on one issue while ignoring the other important tasks.

If all members must work together on the same topics, build a solid plan together. Similar to an agenda, your plan may go down to the detail of how long each person has for each task.

For both approaches, assign one person as “Time Keeper” who will watch the clock, check in on groups, give time reminders, and keep everyone on track – don’t forget to take turns as time keeper!

Challenge 4: You Feel You’re Lagging Behind

When you see that everyone else understands something that you’re having trouble with, you might feel like backing down. But, that’s the worst thing you could do for yourself and the group.

Believe it or not, people usually like being asked for help. It makes them feel useful. It also shows that you’re honest about what you need.

If you’re not sure where you need help yet, tell your group you’d like to just listen to them brainstorm or discuss for a while. As you listen, you’ll probably think of questions you didn’t know you had before. Use your questions to start friendly conversations and get real work done.

Challenge 5: You Feel You’re Way Ahead

You might think you already know everything about quadratic equations or how to write an awesome thesis statement. But trying to help someone else reach that understanding in a way that makes sense to them is not as easy as you might think.

One of the best ways to learn a topic is by explaining it to others.

By helping others understand what you know, you’ll solidify your own knowledge and also retain that information better and for longer. Added bonus, you’re doing a good deed!

Challenge 6: It’s Hard To Get Everyone Together

Finding a time and place to meet is often the hardest challenge of studying with a group. If this is your group’s problem, online meeting tools like Google Hangouts, Google Docs, and Skype can be lifesavers. (By the way, Meemli is a good place for shared learning too!!)

When we work/study in groups, there are some obvious benefits in learning. But, we also gain a whole set of other skills, like communication and time management. Working in groups effectively takes teamwork and planning. These are critical life skills that you’ll need in college, your future career and just life in general. Chances are you’ll grow and connect in ways that go beyond the books, and you’ll have some fun along the way.

Do you have any tips or advice about study groups that we left out? Tell us about them!


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