5 Myths About Study Groups that Kill Your Exam Grade

And what to do instead to review for your exam like a boss.

In our last post, Lacy remembered her first semester of engineering school and her brilliant discovery of study groups…. Brilliant until she saw the study group myths in action.

We already talked about how study groups short-circuit your problem-solving abilities. But that’s not all!

If you’re getting all rowdy just hearing a slight against your precious study group, think about these common myths and decide if it’s a trade off you’re ready to make.

Study groups: a big ol’ distraction party.

The Top 5 Myths About Study Groups

1Myth: Study groups keep you on task.

Reality: Study groups take time. They can be a huge distraction and interrupt your personal thought flow.

2Myth: Study groups will help you prepare for an exam.

Reality: Exams aren’t a group effort and studying for one shouldn’t be either. You need to be both confident and capable at solving problems on your own to ace your next exam, and you just can’t do that with all of your bros around when you’re studying. Plus you should be rehearsing for your exam–not studying.

3Myth: Study groups help you understand new or difficult concepts.

Reality: In any group, there will always be someone who is the fastest or best at solving each type of problem. But instead of merely explaining these concepts, the students often serve as the crutch for everyone else in the group and undermine the moments of struggle that are necessary to truly understand.

Ask questions of your friends, then try solving them on your own. Just because they make sense, doesn’t mean you can apply them.

4Myth: Study groups are worth the time.

Reality: The ROI (return on investment) of a study group is low. That is, there is a large time investment put in for what is learned. Compare this with learning to study alone and you’re wasting your time, especially as you progress through engineering school. While it initially feels like you are learning topics at a good clip, the reality is that you’re propping up your work with other students’ understanding or techniques—not necessarily your own understanding.

5Myth: Study groups will help your grades.

Reality: When you add up the other four myths, you might get okay grades–not great ones–unless you’re the person who shows up to explain everything to everyone else for every single subject.

Ask yourself if studying in a group truly aligns with your goals. Is your priority to truly understand the material? To learn how to solve problems efficiently? To earn the best grades possible? To become a solid engineer? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then extricate yourself immediately!

Engineers often work as a team, but rarely hold hands to solve each problem.

You can’t just tap your work colleague on the shoulder every time you pause at your work and expect them to drop what they’re doing to help you through. Initially you could, but not if you want to be taken as a competent, critical element to your team or as a professional.

What to do instead: A group Q+A session.

(We know, this sounds like a question of semantics. But wait for it!) The difference between a study group and a group Q+A session is the intention, expectations, and time commitment.

A Q+A session involves meeting other students with problems you have already tried to solve a gazillion times and are really, truly stuck at—not coming to work together. Everyone comes with their 1 or 2 questions to seek a solution and explanation—kind of like friend office hours. It’s brilliant because you get your engineering problems solved and you can cement your knowledge by answering other students’ questions. Ideally, this process should take less than an hour or two because everyone comes prepared.

Learning how to learn on your own is one of the greatest life skills you can learn.

And university is an amazing opportunity to learn it!

How do you feel about study groups? Love them? Hate them? Didn’t know they existed? Tell us about it!

You got this!

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