SECRETS OF STUDY: The Benefits of Study Groups

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The Leaving Cert – the tears, the laughter – is opening soon at an exam hall near you. By this stage, you are probably fantasising about creative ways to destroy your textbooks when the whole nightmare… ahem…valuable learning experience finally comes to a close.

But if you are to have a truly happy summer in Majorca/Dunnes/your dad’s overalls shovelling manure, then you will need to make sure that you do reasonably well. You may be surprised to hear that doing a bit of study is one of the primary ways to achieve this. And what better way to revise than with a couple of choice friends?

Sophie’s Choice

The first thing to think about is which friends to invite to join the study group. It is best to choose those who are roughly on the same level or slightly better than yourself academically. This ensures that you won’t have to spend all your time as an unpaid tutor but also that you don’t spend the majority of the two hours scratching your extremities and asking people if they would like some tea. You should keep the group quite small – this ensures that everyone gets a chance to talk and discuss theories/problems.

You should arrange for one person to act as a facilitator, suggesting meeting times and subjects to concentrate on. This role should probably be passed on every couple of weeks, to avoid one person being viewed as the ‘teacher’ or getting an unhealthy grip on power.

A Problem Shared

Once you insulted some of your dearest chums by ignoring their pleas to join the ‘Big Three’, (fuel their envy further by giving your group a nickname, preferably derived from a subject you study), then you can get down to work.

One of the advantages of study groups is that they allow you to share the workload. Assign each person a certain part of a topic to study in depth before the next group meeting. They can then give a presentation on it and answer questions. They should also provide notes for you to photocopy. If everyone in the group does this then you can cover subjects quickly and review the expert notes in your own time.

Another study group activity is to ask each person to come to the table with a possible exam question. You can then compile your own mini-exam – thrash out how each question should be answered and jot down the bones of it. It is also a good idea to have a ‘secretary’ each week – someone who writes down the important points of the session.

Set aside some time each week for question and answers, where group members throw out any questions/confusions they may have about a subject. It could be that someone will know the answer straight off or, failing that, everyone can start to worry that it’s going to come up and ask the teacher about it the next day.

Timing is Everything

Your group should have a definite timetable. For example, you could use the first hour to discuss a common assignment that you all did, what strategies you took and why. The second hour could be taken up with the specific topics that each member researched and finish up with the Q&A session. This way, you will ensure that you don’t lose the plot and start discussing whether Buffy and Spike will get back together (they have to, its inevitable, don’t waste your time).

Phone a Friend

Remember, everyone should have a specialism. Find out what each member of your group has a curious fetish for – academically that is. Get them wax lyrical about it and hopefully the group will gain a whole new perspective on mitochondria/quadratic equations/Noel Browne’s unfeasibly large feet.

Misery loves company.

Don’t go it alone – form a study group. After all, it’s the only way you’ll have a social life between now and the Leaving Cert.

By Aoife Rogers is a national database of universities, colleges, institutes and providers of third level and PLC courses in Ireland. We operate a national search database of courses at certificate, diploma and degree level as well as providing information about career paths and directions.
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