The 101 On Why Study Groups Can Be Good For Your Grades and How To Make Them Effective

Studying for exams can be a real drag. It’s like you’re stuck in this never-ending cycle of reading, note-taking, and trying to cram all that info into your brain. But what if I told you there’s a way to make studying less of a chore and more of, well, a group hang? That’s where hitting the books with a study group comes into play. 

Table Top with opened up laptops and people studying show top down
Image by Marvin Meyer/Unsplash

Personally, I’ve had great experiences with study groups. I learned a lot from discussing my questions with my peers or explaining something to them in turn. It made me more confident, especially in oral exams. And for some reason, I was able to remember the things we discussed in the study group more clearly. Maybe because we often came up with creative examples or metaphors to explain difficult problems. But there are things to look out for, like setting an agenda and preparing what you are going to review. And to find the right people to work with!

But enough of me, there is also heaps of data to support my personal experiences:

Studies About Collaborative Learning

Numerous studies delve into the impact of collaborative learning on academic performance, motivation, and the development of critical skills. Here are a few examples to back up those casual insights with some scholarly evidence:

  • Diverse Perspectives and Enhanced Understanding: A study by McCabe and Lummis (2018) highlights that studying in groups provides higher motivation and improved learning outcomes. Group study practices like discussing practice problems and quizzing each other are linked to better academic performance, although students still show a general preference for studying alone. This suggests the value of group study in offering varied perspectives that can make challenging concepts more understandable (J. McCabe et al.).
  • Increased Motivation and Academic Performance: Cummings and Sheeran (2019) found that peer-assisted study sessions positively impact academic performance, influenced by factors such as academic motivation and personality traits. This supports the notion that the social and collaborative nature of group study can motivate students to achieve higher (D. Cummings et al.).
  • Emotional Support and Stress Reduction: The importance of peer groups as a context for the socialization of adolescents’ motivation, engagement, and achievement in school was emphasized by Allison M. Ryan (2000). This study underscores how peer group interactions can significantly influence students’ academic engagement and motivation, offering crucial emotional support during stressful exam preparations (Allison M. Ryan).
  • Exposure to New Study Techniques and Skill Development: Peer learning in academic settings, such as higher-achieving groups during group research projects, can lead to improved grades and individual learning outcomes. Monson (2017) notes that working within academically diverse groups allows students to benefit from each other’s strengths, thereby enhancing their own learning and performance (Renée A. Monson).

Ok, so it’s all backed up by science, yay! Now how do you make study group effective and what are the potential drawbacks? Let’s dive into the good, the bad, and the gotta-watch-out-fors of studying with your mates.

Three women sitting at a table with laptops and study material, laughing
Image by Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

The Cool Stuff About Group Study

Diverse Perspectives

When you decide to get together with some of your uni colleagues to review your stuff, you will get diverse perspectives, that help you to understand the problems you are discussing.
Picture this – you’re totally lost on a concept, but your mate breaks it down in a way that suddenly makes everything click. That’s the magic of studying with others. Everyone brings something different to the table, making the tough topics easier to tackle.

Motivation Station

Ever notice how working out is easier when you’ve got a gym buddy? Study groups are kind of the same deal. It’s much harder to bail on a study session when you know your friends are counting on you. Plus, seeing everyone else getting their study on can give you that extra push to keep going.

Dive Deep

Debating and discussing topics with your group doesn’t just help you nail your exams; it also sharpens your communication and critical thinking skills. And that’s exactly what university is about. Play the devil’s advocate to really get to the nitty-gritty!

Emotional Lifeline

It’s not just about getting everything right: Studying can be a lonely and stressful road if you just lock yourself into your room for weeks. Being part of a group means you’ve got people who get what you’re going through. It’s a chance to vent, share struggles, and lift each other up when the going gets tough.

Image by Helena Lopes/Unsplash

The Not-So-Great Bits


Of course, when you’re not just studying on your own, there might be more distractions and somehow you end up two hours deep in a conversation about the latest movie! That’s definitely a risk when studying with friends. My tip: Keeping the chit-chat to a minimum is key, or set yourself a time limit for the latest gossip and then get started on the work.

Don’t be polite

Being too friendly or polite might backfire when studying together. Sometimes, everyone wanting to agree can mean you end up glossing over important stuff or not challenging each other enough. It’s cool to disagree! If you end up being wrong – that’s even better, because that’s where the real learning happens!

Chip in 

There’s always that one person who does more taking than giving. Study groups work best when everyone pulls their weight. But don’t underestimate the power of repetition, if you have to explain something to another study peer again and again. They might not get this one topic, but they will hopefully challenge you with their questions and you will end up memorizing the stuff by heart.

However, if someone is just sitting around, distracting and clearly not interested in the material – time to have a word with them and ket them know what you are expecting. Or they won’t be invited next time you meet.

Scheduling Nightmares

Trying to get everyone’s schedules to line up can be a headache. And sometimes, you spend more time planning than actually studying. If you find a jour fixe, a day in the week that works for everyone – stick with it!

The Misinfo Minefield

Without a prof around, wrong info can spread like wildfire in a group. Double-checking facts is super important.

Making It Work

Here’s how you can snag all the benefits of group study without falling into the pitfalls:

  • Set the Vibe: Kick things off with an agenda for the time. you get together, clear goals and some basic ground rules to keep things productive.
  • Choose Your Crew Wisely: Pick study buddies who are as serious about acing these exams as you are.
  • Take Turns Leading: Rotate who keeps the group on track each time you meet. It’s a great way to make sure everyone’s voice is heard.
  • Balance Is Key: Mix in solo study sessions to go over the stuff you’ve covered as a group. It helps cement the knowledge.
  • Fact-Check: Got a question about the material? Make a note to look it up later or ask your prof to make sure you’ve got it right.

Wrapping It Up

Teaming up with friends for study sessions can turn the slog of exam prep into something way more bearable, even fun. You’ll learn more, stress less, and maybe even come out the other side with some new study tricks up your sleeve. Just remember to keep the group focused, balanced, and on track.

And having a few snacks at hand also works wonders 😉

If you want to read more about techniques on how to make the most out of your study time, then check our article on 7 Techniques For Effective And Efficient Study.

Good Luck!

The Switch