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Study groups 101

How to put together an A+ group

Starting a study group is kind of like those elementary school science projects you remember: You can learn a lot and it can be fun, but, if you don't mix the right stuff together, it might explode. Use the checklist below to make sure that you get all the right ingredients so that your study group is blue-ribbon worthy.

The Right People

Let's start with the cardinal rule of study groups: don't invite someone to be in your study group just because they're cute. And, like that dreamboat that probably shouldn't get a study group invite, your best friend may be more of a distraction than a valuable addition to the perfect study group.

There are much more important traits than hot-ness and fun-factor when you're considering your study group short-list. Students who offer productive comments in class, who turn in their work on time, and who seem to be around the same level of subject understanding as you tend to make good study group-mates. Those who slack off on assignments or who are less than enthusiastic probably won't make good group members. You may also want to think about the learning styles of your prospective study partners to make sure that your group can learn well with and from each other.

The Right Size

Your study group should be just that – a group, not a party. Most experts agree that an ideal group is 3-6 members and the exact number depends on the kinds of personalities you have. (Five really verbal people will be much easier to derail than two outspoken people and three that prefer to only pipe up when necessary). The right number of people can keep your group on-track and help everyone to learn what they need to during your study sessions.

The Right Expectations

Once you think you have a solid study group in place, get together and talk about your expectations. Decide what your group's goals are: Are you doing all of your homework together, just studying for tests, or chatting and eating pizza weekly (not recommended)? Discuss individual roles that may be useful - such as moderator, organizer, note taker, or leader – and who might want to take on those responsibilities. And make sure that everyone commits to the study group and is held accountable for their responsibilities.

If issues (like lack of attendance or preparation) come up, discuss them privately with the offending group member. Work together to resolve the problem – which at its worst may involve dismissal – so that everyone can get the most from your group study times.

These chats may seem cumbersome, but will save you just as much heartache as not inviting your across-the-classroom crush to join your study group.

The Right Time

Once you're all on the same page with expectations, set a consistent time and location for your group meetings. You may even consider creating simple agendas of what needs to be accomplished during each group meeting to keep you focused.

With all the right stuff and a little bit of dedication, your study group can get the results you want without a big mess.

And while you're thinking about being a gold-star student, check out our time management tips. Happy studying!

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