This post is part of a series focusing on Time Management for Teens, Students, and High Schoolers. Get the complete online course here or order the book here!

Study Groups in High School: Do They Really Help?

In this post we’ll cover study groups in high school. Do they HELP or do they HURT?

Let’s have an honest discussion about how helpful they really are in terms of saving you time and getting you better grades in school.

When I say “study group” I mean any group of two or more students who have arranged to meet – on their own – for the purpose of studying or working on a specific class that they all share.

It could be two friends working on separate art-class projects in the same garage. Or, it could be a self-arranged group of 15 top students who routinely meet to study for AP chemistry on Friday nights.

Similar principles, potential benefits, and risks will generally apply to all group-study dynamics. And, it’s important to make use of study groups in high school with open eyes and personal reflection.

Before Joining Any Study Group In High School…

When it comes to effective group study, make sure you follow the key time management rule, “know yourself.” Be very aware of your personality and study style.

Getting into a good study group can actually be much trickier than it seems. The same type of study group is NOT right for all students.

So always remember one of the most important rules of time management - KNOW yourself.

Do you do better working on your own? With one or two friends? In a small group? In a big group?

Can you organize and lead a study group? Or will you depend on your classmates to do that?

You also have to know your friends and classmates. Because it’s not about who you like the best, it’s about who adds the most to the study group.

Not All Subjects Are Created Equal

Not all subjects are created equal when it comes to study groups.

The best classes for study groups are the type where reviewing notes together can help the group identify key points. These points can come from the teacher, the readings, and class themes.

In more science- or math-based courses, try writing practice problems for each other to complete. If you really want to learn a subject, it’s helpful to create problems yourself – like a teacher would.

(This is something I know personally, because I’ve been a pro SAT and ACT prep tutor for so long.)

Flashcards Work Very Well In Study Groups

Flashcards also work well in small groups.

Hardworking friends can help keep each other company while you make flashcards. You can even study flashcards together.

Working with a friend can add a strong emotional connection to your studies. This will help your remember flashcards more easily… but only if you both actually STUDY HARD.

It won’t just work because you’re sitting in the same room laughing at a story about your school day. You have to actually work hard and study.

Study groups can also work well for freeform, creative projects that aren’t even for high school. For example, making art, music or movies with your friends - or even starting a business together.

Study Groups Are Less Good For Memorization

Some of the WORST classes and topics for study groups are ones that involve intensive memorization - that’s something you just need to do on your own.

This also goes for performance art like memorizing music or lines for a high school play… Not so good for working in a group.

On the other hand, smart drama students could organize mock rehearsals together. You could work as a team to get comfortable with each other’s lines before a performance!

Study Groups Are Not Good For Independent Schoolwork

Another time that group work is not a great idea is for independent work on major school projects.

Anything where INDEPENDENT work is expected doesn’t work so well in a group.

You don’t want to influence each other’s independent schoolwork too much. That could seem like plagiarism, or bending the rules of the assignment.

However, it can be nice to work in the same room on projects. It creates a “productive feeling!” But, I do recommend that you bring a pair of headphones to create some private space for yourself.

The BEST students never try to make study groups into more than they are. A study group can’t solve your homework problems or get good grades for you.

What Is The Best Type Of Study Group In High School?

What’s the best-case scenario for a good study group?

If everyone participates and contributes, you get what Napoleon Hill called the “Mastermind Effect.” As a group, you all multiply each other’s thoughts.

You know that feeling where you’re having a really intense conversation with your best friend about something you both care deeply about? How you can almost start reading their mind, and finishing each other’s thoughts?

That’s the idea behind the Mastermind Effect. But, it requires passionfocus, and intelligence from ALL its participants or it will just fizzle out.

The Mastermind Effect is EXTREMELY powerful. But, it’s also a rare in high school study groups, because not all students are so committed to their grades and classes.

If you want to know more about the Mastermind Principle, go read the book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.

I used one of his quotes in an early post. He’s one of the best researchers of how to be more productive.

Study Groups Are Just The Sum Of The Students

A helpful study group comes from the students who participate in it.

If everyone in the study group is operating on a high level in the class, including yourself… then the study group will be successful. It will create top students!

If there are weak students in the group, the study group will produce weak results.

And a weak study group will never produce the Mastermind Effect.

The Mastermind Effect Is The Purpose Of A Study Group

The CENTRAL PURPOSE of any study group should be to cause this “Mastermind Effect” to take place.

Otherwise you are guaranteed to be more efficient just STUDYING ON YOUR OWN.

Because without a focused Mastermind Effect, that “study group” is just going to fizzle out into “social hour.”

Never Let A Study Group Become A Social Hour

That’s one of the main reasons study groups in high school can actually HURT you more than help –

It’s because they can serve as COVER for what is really just more social time.

What’s really DANGEROUS is that you’re sitting with your friends there telling each other it’s a “study group.”

So you’ll subconsciously count the time towards “homework time” on your calendar. Because you attended the “study group,” you’ll feel more relaxed and lazy about the upcoming major grade.

In this scenario, it’s easy to see how a so-called “study group” would be a waste of time - at best.

Study Groups Are Vulnerable To Disruptive Students

Study groups are all vulnerable to disruptive members.

The principle that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link definitely applies to study groups in high school.

What’s worse: without a leader, the study group is often aimless or unproductive.

And, the self-appointed “leader” is not always the same as the person who knows the most. The more knowledgable student might be quieter, and get spoken over by louder students.

Study Groups In High School Are Often Based On Social Ties

You might invite your best friend to the study group. But maybe the truth is that they’re not a “grade-A student.”

Meanwhile, the top student in your class might be a little bit obnoxious… so you choose not to ask them to the study group.

In high school a lot of times “study group” is just a cover up for “I’m going to go hang out with my friends.”

Hey - I did it too. But that doesn’t change the fact that these were among my least-productive meetings in high school.

If you’re going to go hang out with friends, GO hang out with friends. Just don’t tell people it’s a “study group.” And especially don’t tell yourself that!

My Experience With Study Groups In High School

Here’s what study groups were like for ME in high school. I was a pretty serious student with good grades, but still just a normal high schooler who also liked to goof around.

If I’m completely honest, most of my study groups in high school were wastes of time. It was just so rare that the whole group was really there to buckle down and study.

There was almost always a disruptive student in the study group… wasting the group’s time and distracting everybody, or slowing everyone else down. Heck, sometimes that was ME!

And, in the classes I LIKED, I was usually in the top 10% of the class. So, not to sound arrogant, but I wouldn’t gain much from study groups. I was already at the top of those classes.

Then on the flip side, in the classes I actually STRUGGLED with in high school - like chemistry or hard math classes – I didn’t have good-enough notes or class participation. So I couldn’t actually gain much from the study group, because I was basically that student you don’t want in the study group!

Now, it could just be me. Maybe I just was bad luck for my study groups. But looking back, I just don’t know if most students are ready for serious study groups in high school!

I certainly wasn’t!

I think that’s part of the reason I lean towards personal time management for your high school studies rather than attempting to do everything by committee.

Study Groups Help You Become A Group Contributor

On the other hand, it IS really important to learn to be an effective contributor to a group. Teamwork is such a big part of life and career.

Maybe it’s just the effort of trying to form a study group in high school that’s the most important lesson.

Does that make any sense?

Maybe sometimes we just need to learn to try to form a good study group in high school…. even though it’s nearly impossible to succeed?

At least this teaches us important lessons about group dynamics and leadership.

Study Groups: Better In College Than In High School?

Luckily, in college the average quality of student increased. So did my work ethic and my interest in my chosen subjects.

That meant that study groups got much better in college.

For example, the chamber music groups that I led were actually a form of study group.

They had the same characteristics: setting goals, organizing classmates, leading practices, aiming towards a great final performance… and then doing it all again!

But, I also found that the majority of my work in college was project-based. Stuff like researching and writing essays, composing music, or practicing piano.

And that type of schoolwork was VERY personal and independent. It couldn’t be shared or divided up with my classmates. So, study groups wouldn’t help me very much.

Study groups in college were good for major tests and finals, especially for identifying what we needed to study.

Attend Teacher-Led Study Groups

If your teacher or professor ever hosts a study group or review session – GO, GO, GO!

Make sure you attend ALL instructor-led review sessions.

The information heavy courses (like foreign languages and hard sciences) are some of the best classes for professor-led reviews. The difficulty of the course material is very tough for beginners.

So the professors of these subjects tend to know MUCH more than the students do.

It’s always smart to attend teacher-led study groups in these subjects.

Make The Teacher Notice You At Group Sessions

You’ll also sometimes be NOTICED by the professor at the study group. That will help with partial credit when they are grading your test or homework.

Be sure the professor or teaching assistant hosting the review session KNOWS you are there. Take a moment to introduce yourself. Ask a smart question to them 1-on-1!

This can actually affect your grade in key moments when the professor gives you a little extra credit for putting forth the time and effort to attend the study session and stand out.

Try it, I promise it will help. It’s pretty much how I got through Organic Chemistry in college.

Student-Led Study Groups Are Useful In College

If the professor won’t be there, it can still be valuable to attend student-organized review sessions in college - as long as you’ve stayed somewhat engaged in class.

Luckily, the AVERAGE level of college-student commitment is much higher than in high school. So, you should find it easier to convince good students to join your college study group.

There’s so much going on in college classes that many times even the best students won’t catch everything.

So, there’s a lot of value to convincing other classmates to work as a team… even if they’re a little stronger or weaker in class than you are.

By comparing notes and identifying the top info together, you can work together to create a study sheet. Then each of you can go study that sheet independently.

You can use the group cheat sheet to make personal flash cards for the words and formulas. Break it down on your OWN as you memorize what the group identified as most important.

But, Other Students Can’t Memorize FOR You

Always be aware that other students can’t MEMORIZE for you.

Just because you’re in the ROOM with someone really smart, doesn’t mean that you’ll just naturally absorb their wisdom by being near them.

You have to STUDY the info like they did. Ultimately it all comes down to you.

Tips To Maximize Study Groups In High School And College

As we wind this discussion down, here are some useful tips.

  • Control the risks and maximize the rewards of your study groups in high school and college.
  • Be the organizer or leader of the study group.
  • Try to know the most about the subject!
  • And, like any study or homework situation, your environment matters. Pick a good, quiet spot with comfortable places to sit and work.
  • PLAN the meeting and decide the group goals ahead of time.
  • Set some guidelines for the group.
  • Don’t tolerate distractions and don’t let disruptive students stay in the group.
  • Don’t let the group become a social hour.
  • “Casually” let the teacher know you’re leading and organizing the group.
  • In fact, ask if the teacher or professor could schedule some time to MEET with the group!

The Best Study Groups Are Small And Highly Focused

The BEST study groups are typically smaller, tightly-knit groups of top students. As a team, they share notes and identify key class information for mutual benefit.

This achieves a “Mastermind Effect” that is smarter as a group than any of the individuals are by themselves.

The WORST study groups are time-wasters dragged down by a lack of organization and leadership.

Or, one or two “weak links” break the chain of the Mastermind.

Review Of Study Groups In High School And College

The most common mistake is having a social hour, but calling it a study group.

Personally, I get mixed results from study groups. Overall they did not work very well in High School, and only got me average results in college- compared to studying hard on my own.

However, as I’ve matured and gotten into my career, I’ve also learned appreciate that many big problems cannot be solved individually.

To TRULY make a dent in the universe these days, you have to know either how to lead a team, or how to be part of one. And better yet, you should learn to do both.

Study groups help us learn to organize and work as a team.

But, there’s no real point to being a member of a BAD study group…

So, if you’re dedicated to the idea of having a study group, I believe achieving the “Mastermind Effect” should be the only goal. Pick carefully who you invite in.

If the teacher or professor ever hosts a study session outside of class, GO TO IT.

Never be afraid to test the waters, be a leader and always strive to maintain the highest standards for your study groups in high school and college.

Tell Me - What’s Your Experience With Study Groups?

Now, leave me a quick note in the comment section below! What has YOUR experience with study groups been like?

Do you think study groups are effective or ineffective, and why?

Take a moment to pause and leave your thoughts before going on to the next article!

Make this year your most productive year ever! Get the complete Time Management for Teens Online Course or order the book on Amazon today.

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