5 ways to make studying in a group work for you

Pearson Languages
A overhead shot of a group of people working at a desk with papers and notebooks

There are many benefits to studying in a group, ranging from reducing procrastination and boosting your confidence to gaining new perspectives and learning faster. Many English language learners enjoy working in a group, and many English language teachers recommend it. Here’s how to make studying in a group work for you or your students…

1. Create an effective group

Even though you love spending time with your friends, don’t base study partners on friendship. Instead, look for people who stay alert in class, take notes, ask questions, and respond to the teacher’s questions – and don’t make the group too big. An ideal size for a study group is three or four students.

It’s a great idea to try to meet on the same day and time each week because treating the study session as you would a class helps you to keep to a schedule and ensure that everyone attends.

Finally, hold study group sessions in a place free of distractions with room to spread out the materials. This will help to ensure that you don’t end up talking about the latest movies or songs instead of studying the future tense!

2. Decide on the topics and set goals

Before your study group, think about the topics you’d like to discuss – then agree on one. This will help you concentrate on that topic without straying away. Once you’ve decided on your subject, also consider what you want to achieve at each session – but don’t take on too much material for one session.

For example, if you’re using a novel written in English to learn more about the language, just think about one aspect of it, such as a couple of the characters, rather than trying to discuss the entire book.

3. Prepare effectively

Before attending your study group, prepare by reading more about or researching the topic you’re all going to discuss.

Also, make a list of anything you aren’t sure you understand so that you can discuss it with your fellow learners. There are sure to be different things you all need explaining in more detail, so you can help each other to understand. Which leads us on to…

4. Learn from each other by communicating well

Communicate openly – it doesn’t matter if one of you doesn’t understand something or needs more explanation. And don’t be shy about asking for your peers’ feedback: “Am I talking too much?” or “Did I present your point of view correctly?”. It is often said that it is best to teach other material you understand, and learn from others who understand the material better than you do.

If your study session reveals points of disagreement or confusion that you cannot resolve as a group, make a note of it and ask your teacher.

5. Make it enjoyable

Last on the list, but very important: try to make studying enjoyable in whatever way you can by keeping it interesting. Pick novels about subjects you all really enjoy reading about. Go to see an English-speaking movie together and discuss it at your study group. Or try a quiz together (online or in person) to see how you've picked the subject matter up. 

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