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Step 1 Strategies for Studying with a Partner

Medical students explain their process for choosing a partner and making the most of their collaborative study sessions.

Choose the right person

When choosing a study partner, make sure the two of you plan to make similar commitments for boards preparation. Cram Fighter coach Joe Zell says, “if you’re willing to do twenty hours a week, every week, then find somebody else who is in the same boat.”

In addition, look for someone who has study preferences that align well with your own. “What made my partner a good choice was that they liked to review and test themselves on the material in the same way I did,” says Caroline, a student at St. George’s University. “Both of us preferred to study together or with one other person, instead of in a large group. Additionally, my study partner liked to take on more of a teaching role with most of the material, and I liked to listen, so that made us a good fit because we both complemented each other.”

You may even find a partner with similar career goals. Hazel Asumu, a student at the University of Florida, tells us, “My partner and I also had similar goals. We were both trying to get into a competitive specialty, Rad/Onc.”

Decide how often to meet

Meet at a frequency that does not overwhelm either you or your partner. Your meetings should be frequent enough to provide support and keep each other accountable. “Studying with a partner is great, but if you meet too often, it can slow you down,” says Hazel. “My partner and I decided to meet 3 times a week.”

Joe Zell You and your study partner can keep yourselves committed to studying simply by agreeing to show up for a set number of hours.

Joe Zell, Cram Fighter coach

Agree on how you will structure (or not structure) your meetings

You might choose to prepare for each session by studying on your own, and then working together to check each other’s understanding of the material. Caroline says, “after studying on our own, my partner and I would discuss a lecture, and then quiz each other on it, which I found very helpful to solidify the information.” Alternatively, you might choose to view your sessions as time for independent work. Working alongside someone on the same material adds a degree of accountability to your study time that you might not achieve on your own. “Consider how toddlers engage in ‘mirror playing,’” says Joe. “They play in the same room, but don’t play with each other. You and your study partner can keep yourselves committed to studying simply by agreeing to show up for a set number of hours.” With this strategy, your study partner serves as someone to keep you accountable and on track.

Lastly, if you work better alone, you may need to rely more heavily on a study plan solution that can keep you accountable. Pavan, a student at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harlem, NY, says “I didn’t have a study partner, but Cram Fighter filled that role for me. Whereas a partner would quiz me, Cram Fighter told me what I had to quiz myself on.”

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