Catching up with friends to study is always a fun idea because you get the best of both worlds; fun and productivity! However, it can be hard to tell what method of studying — group or individual study — is actually better for you, especially in terms of memory retention.
Today we’ll break down the pros and cons of studying individually and in groups.
Let’s find out what kind of studying is actually the most effective!
What do you get out of individual study?
The Pros of Studying on Your Own
#1: You get to set the pace
The great thing about studying on your own is that you get to work at a speed that suits you. If you’re still trying to understand how to apply a certain formula in maths, you probably want to take it slow and make sure that you understand it.
However, if you are trying to strengthen a skill, it would be better to work at a fast pace and push yourself under timed conditions.
#2: Can be more focussed
There’s no doubt that when you are in the mood to study alone at your desk, your brain just switches into focus mode and being alone allows you to get work done! This is especially effective if you have really strong and established study habits in place that you know work for you.
The Cons of Studying By Yourself
#1: Can easily be distracted
On the flip side, if you are still trying to find out what study methods and habits are effective for you personally, individual study can lead to distraction. With your phone an arm’s length away, the fridge practically calling your name, and the playlist that just makes you want to jam out, distractions can be hard to ignore.
This is especially difficult when studying individually and there is no one to hold you accountable!
#2: False perception of study
What this means is that when studying alone, you might feel like you are doing a lot of work by reading all your notes; but are you actually retaining the information? When studying individually, it can be difficult to get a sense of what you are actually achieving.
With no one to bounce ideas off and expand your understanding, you may not reach your full potential of memory retention.
#3: Study by yourself can be boring
More often than not, studying can feel like a chore, and when you have to do it alone, it gets pretty boring! This makes it hard to find motivation to actually do the work, let alone sit still for an hour and be proactive with your study.
On this note, let’s consider studying in groups!
Can group study be more beneficial?
The Pros of Studying in a Group
#1: More enjoyable!
The complete opposite of the previous point; studying with friends is definitely a lot more fun than studying alone. You get to vent frustrations over a tricky concept but also help build each other up and tackle these obstacles!
#2: You can ask your friends for help
This is a great pro, especially if you feel like you could be falling behind in some areas of a subject, or that your friends may be on a more advanced level. It means that they get to revise skills and content by explaining it to you, and you get to hear an alternate explanation!
#3: Memory retention benefits
Now we mentioned individual study not being the strongest mode of memory retention, and that’s because group study is!
Repetition and explaining ideas or teaching them to others is a great way of helping you retain information. Alongside memory retention, you are also solidifying your understanding of the content.
#4: Instant feedback
Of course, seeking feedback from your teachers is vital, but often it can be hard to get feedback, or it comes after an assignment is due. A great supplement to teacher feedback is peer feedback, which is instant!
When discussing ideas in a study group you can see whether or not this information is making sense to them, which is a reflection on your clarity in communicating the ideas across.
The Cons of Group Study
#1: Friends can be distracting
As great as studying can be when with friends, when one or two group members hit that point of fatigue and loss of focus, their distracted energy can easily impact the whole group. This is why you might often start off really productive in a study group for the first hour or so, but then find yourself having random conversations and falling off track afterwards.
#2: Incorrect pace
With the benefit of setting your own pace when studying individually, if your friends are at a more advanced level it may be hard to keep up with them, and so you don’t have time to absorb the content and properly understand it.
#3: Individual study may be more valuable for you
Contrastingly, you may be more advanced than your friends, and so you feel held back when studying in a group as you are revising content that you are already familiar with. In this instance you are able to help your friends which is great, but then you find that you don’t benefit as much from group sessions.
So what will it be — individual or group study?
As you might have guessed, there is a role and place for both kinds of study. However, individual study should take up the bulk of your dedicated study time, and group sessions help support this.
A general guideline is an 80 to 20 ratio of individual to group study, respectively.
Don’t doubt the power of studying in groups, but don’t replace individual study entirely! Work for a balance!
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Nandini Dhir is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Marketing) and a Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Media and Communications), as a Dalyell Scholar, at Sydney University. She enjoys covering local issues in her area and writing about current events in the media. Nandini has had one of her pieces published in an article with the Sydney Morning Herald. In her free time, Nandini loves doing calligraphy, ballet, and sewing, or is otherwise found coddling her cats.