Effective Study Groups
Participating in a study group may help you understand and better retain course material. The most effective study groups also serve as a source of comfort, camaraderie, and motivation to excel. However, study groups are not effective for everyone, and you should not feel that you need to take part in a study group to succeed in law school. If you do choose to create or to join a study group, below are some tips to help ensure the time you spend together is effective.
- Size matters. We encourage you to keep study groups anywhere between two and six individuals. An effective study group is one where each member feels encouraged and has the opportunity to contribute. The larger the study group, the more likely that there will be side discussions that will be difficult for others to hear, off-topic or social conversations, or extraneous members not contributing to the collective efforts of the group. Students who take part in a smaller study group, in which each member is expected to contribute, will be better motivated to stay on top of course materials.
- Meet regularly for focused conversations. Study groups are also most effective when they meet regularly with a focused topic to cover in each session. This will help ensure that the time spent together will lead to a better understanding a particular concept rather than just a cursory review of the materials covered that week. You may want to take the additional step of agreeing on a set agenda, whereby the group agrees to review and share understanding of the specific concept for one third of the session, spends the second third of the time together applying their understanding by completing a practice exam question or hypothetical (which can be located or created by one of the members on a rotating basis), and spending the last third discussing the problem and providing comments to each others’ responses. Before concluding the study session, you can set a time for the next session, and agree upon the topic to be covered and any questions to prepare for review beforehand.
- Stay positive. Remember to stay positive and motivated throughout the session. Be careful not to dominate the conversation so that everyone benefits from the time together.
- Continue to do all of the work. While it may be tempting to “split up the work” with your study group members, we strongly discourage this path. A study group should be viewed as an opportunity to reinforce concepts you have first spent the time to learn on your own. It is important that you still do all of the readings and prepare your own outlines, as it is the process of doing the work yourself that will not only deepen your understanding of the material, but will also give you the confidence to perform well on your own. After all, you will be on your own during the actual exam!
The Academic Support Program is happy to meet with you or your entire study group to provide further guidance on how to make the most effective use of your time together.