As stated on this blog, study groups can be an effective way to learn – especially early on in the semester. However, the closer you get to finals, the less effective and useful it might be depending on how you approach it. There is no formulaic method to how you should interact with your study group, but below are some things my peers and I experienced my 1L year during finals that you should definitely not do:
I. Take Time to Catch Up With Each Other
- Your study group is likely a set of people you generally like/tolerate from class, which is great but make sure you are not taking this time to catch up on each other’s weekends or ask how their job search is going. Time with your study group should be purely spent studying and anything else really isn’t worth your time. To combat this, my close friends and I would grab coffee about thirty minutes before our planned study session so we could share stories from our weekends. Consequently, we could be very focused when it came time to buckle down and review material.
II. Let One Person Contribute
- The benefit of studying in a group is being able to see how each person interprets a topic. By only having one person contribute to the conversation, you lose that benefit of seeing all the angles. Further, if only one person is chiming in while everyone else sits and listens, that person will likely realize that their time is better spent studying on their own. To prevent this, my group and I will go around the room and let each person ‘lead’ a discussion on a topic and then after, everyone else will chime in with anything the leader didn’t mention.
III. Have a Study Group of More than Three/Four
- In order to minimize your time and maximize your learning experience, it’s important to keep your group small. This, at the very least, will help the study session move along more efficiently. I was once in a study group of eight people and while everyone came prepared and knowledgeable, everyone also had different questions and different answers that made what could have been a one-hour session – four long and unnecessary hours.
IV. Create a Group Outline
- Letting someone outline a section of a class for you, is the equivalent of using an outline that is not yours. Not only are you not gaining the benefit of outlining on your own, but you are also trusting someone else ,who could make a mistake or understand a topic differently than you, with how you’ll understand the material. One exception to working together is on practice tests. If you want to all fill out different parts of your professor’s old exams before you meet to go over them during your study session this could be beneficial for all of you – especially for open universe exams.
V. Meet Late At Night
- Everyone works better at different times of the day, but statistically, learning or reviewing material at night is not the best time. Especially if you are meeting with your study group right before finals, make your meetings in the morning or the early afternoon in order to really amplify your learning capabilities. However, if late at night is the only time that works best for your group’s schedule, try creating your having your study group focus solely on questions you’re unclear of rather than focusing on more.
VI. Meet Only the Night Before an Exam
- Like most things in life, you will get as much out of your study group as you put into it. If you are meeting only the night before an exam, chances are this will be as beneficial as not meeting at all. As you have hopefully learned by this point, any deep studying you attempt to do the night before a law school exam is usually a waste of your energy. Meeting with a study group instead is not any different. I’ve found meeting with my study group about three days before a final exam leaves enough time for me to resolve any major issues I might discover going over outlines. Further, I highly recommend you need to leave enough time between meeting with your study group and taking an exam to study by yourself.
While things happen, and maybe what worked for you one semester may not work the next, remember, if something isn’t working for you, it is your responsibility to change it. Your exams are not taken in your study group and if you find you will be more productive on your own, it is your responsibility to say so – your group will likely respect you for it and if not – oh well. 🙂
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