There seems to be a few trains of thought on the issue of study partners or study groups. The majority of people feel that they are musts and it’s non negotiable. The remaining minority aren’t sure or prefer to work alone.
- You get independent appraisal of your cases. This is the single most important reason I would recommend a study group. On your own, you cannot be completely unbiased since you know what you meant when you wrote something. Although you may know what you meant, that’s not what may come across on your simulation. By working with a group you will get feedback about what you actually wrote in your simulation from someone that doesn’t know what you meant to say. This is very valuable feedback.
- You are accountable to somebody else. It’s easier to say ‘screw it, I’m not doing this today’ to yourself but harder when there is another person counting on you.
- You have someone there who is going through the same thing, this can help you stay on track, not get discouraged and maintain perspective.
- You have someone available to discuss tricky topics or get a different perspective on an issue.
Cons of a study group
- Your study group or partner may not be the right fit. I’ve seen it happen where a group is dysfunctional and it detracts from performance. This is more of a reason to choose wisely rather than not have a study group/partner at all.
- When skill levels are different it can be discouraging for the person at the lower skill level and it can hinder further improvement for the superior writer. Again, this is more of a reason to choose wisely rather than go at it alone.
- Study partners/groups may become too much of a social gathering and waste your time.
- You could end up with a study partner which is too emotional or stressed out and it could unnecessarily stress you out. I’ve heard of study groups which ended in tears many days for both parties, not even joking.
This is another debateable issue. Most people I talk to believe that the smaller the group the better, with the ideal being just one study partner. When I took the Densmore prep course they discouraged anything above three. I personally worked very well in a group of four where everyone would swap partners each simulation. I got three different perspectives from a variety of skill and progress levels. Everyone was decent at following the schedule, and if someone wanted a day off, you still had two other study partners left to discuss with. This might not work for everyone but I was good friends with my study buddies and we worked well as a group.
That said, there are of course pros and cons of smaller and larger groups so you will have to decide what is best for you. The possibility of problems tends to rise with larger groups, especially if they are dominated by any particular person. Please share in the comments: What are your experiences like working in study groups?
Personally, I managed to do all three during my study time in August. I started off with one study buddy that worked well for SOA, had a transition period where I studied alone and then I worked in a group of four. I’m one of those types that learns better alone but I am still strongly recommending some form of study group, even if it’s just part time. Remember, if you choose to have a study group, it is only one part of a balanced study approach where you still need to put in the hard word writing and debriefing simulations. There is no avoiding that, no matter how good your study group is.