A guide to private study groups

Why a study group?

Joining or starting a private study group provides many benefits for your exam preparation. It  provides you with extra support, networking, encouragement, just to name a few.

  • You can discuss issues in depth and gain a different or deeper understanding of concepts.
  • Contributions from others are highly valuable in giving a different meaning or solution to an issue or problem that you may not have thought about if studying on your own.
  • You become more committed to study because other group members are relying on your participation.
  • Teaching/explaining information and ideas to other members of the group assists in reinforcing your own understanding. Gives you an opportunity to receive constructive feedback from your peers.
  • Interaction with others can make studying more enjoyable.
Getting started
Decisions to be made Recommendations
Where will you meet and how will you access resources? Many groups choose to study at participant’s homes, alternating between the group or choosing one most central location. Other groups choose libraries or gain after-hours access to their practice.
Who will be the group leader? The leader should be willing to:

  • be a point of contact for the group
  • keep the group informed about times and locations of meetings
  • prepare a schedule for the study group (listing topics and facilitators and dates)
How many people will
effectively work in your
study group?
AOGP recommends 4-6 as an ideal group size.
How frequently will
you meet?
Most study groups would elect to meet either
weekly or fortnightly. If you meet less frequently
the momentum for group learning may be
impacted.
How long will the
group meet for?
Usually study groups would meet for 1.5 – 2
hours at a time. If you come prepared and meet
frequently, this amount of time is sufficient.
Will the group rotate
the role of group
facilitator?
This shares the load amongst the group and
allows each participant to benefit from the extra
learning associated with facilitating a topic.
Being effective

In your first meeting:

  • Set objectives: Set out objectives and goals as a group.
  • Ground rules: At the first meeting, it is a good idea for groups to decide what the agreed expectations of group members will be. Some ideas for rules include:
    • group members would rotate the responsibility for facilitating the study group,
    • meetings would start on time,
    • group members would come prepared – eg: if there was required pre-reading or bringing along a case for discussion.
  • Make a plan: To maximise your time spent together it is valuable to identify the areas of need amongst the group and plan these into the schedule to ensure all areas are covered. While planning the areas that you would like covered, think about the format in which to conduct the sessions. Would you prefer to do a different topic at each meeting, focus on scenarios and role-play or just focus on general discussion? The format is entirely up to the group.

For all meetings:

  • Appoint a facilitator: A facilitator ensures the group stays focused, keeps to time and works productively – this is also each member’s responsibility.
  • Be prepared: For the group to run efficiently, be prepared, come with any resources that you may need and have all your preparation work done before you arrive.
  • Be willing to give and receive constructive feedback: Feedback is a critical element of study groups to voice opinions, beliefs and knowledge. Keep feedback constructive and avoid getting personal or going outside of the feedback topic.
  • Make the most of your study group as a support system. Catching up on a more social level outside of study group hours for a coffee or meal after you have completed your exams is a great debriefing process.
Structuring the sessions

Study groups find different formats of learning will work best for them.

Some ideas include:

  • Topic based presentation and discussions
  • Practice example questions (eg. MCQ, EMQ, KFP)
  • Case discussions
  • Pre-reading on a topic and group discussion
  • Role plays (for clinical exams)

Looking for study group partners?

Try our AMC or Fellowship study groups on Facebook.