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A Pre-Med’s Secret Weapon

The single biggest tool that leads to academic success is totally free (although it does take work): study groups. Once you get into med school you’ll find yourself in a very collaborative environment. You can’t go it alone in med school, and you shouldn’t try!

This translates to your pre-med work as well. One of the best ways to prep yourself for the life of a pre-med is to get good at setting up and using study groups as a tool as early as you can. That means starting in high school.

A lot of pre-meds often groan and roll their eyes when I start talking about how important study groups are. They rightly think “I’m a great student…” but then incorrectly extend that to “…so I don’t need help from classmates.”

Even students who have previously tried to set up study groups often give up, finding them kind of pointless and ineffective. After all, when teachers put you into groups to do group projects, the hardworking pre-med students often find that they’re the ones that have to do all the work, and slacker classmates are not just unhelpful, but actively detrimental to a good grade.

This is a common misconception. Don’t confuse group projects that are assigned by a teacher or a bad study group experience with what a good study group can actually be. Think about the benefits of a great classroom discussion. You can not only learn from those around you, the discussion can help you formulate your own ideas and make connections in the material you may not have seen before. The same can be said for a good, effective study group.

The key here is to avoid the three most common mistakes:

1. Too Many People

The ideal study group is either three or four people. That way, if someone flakes out, you’ve still got a study buddy there to help you out. Once you get to five or more people, the group invariably breaks down into spending time gossiping about friends or talking about whatever the newest Netflix original series is. More people equals more off-topic time wasted! Stick to three or, at most, four.

2. No Accountability

Next, for a study group to function properly you’ve got to create accountability. Give each other homework assignments! For example, if you have a study group for your AP Chemistry class and are prepping for the AP exam, you might say something like, “Okay it’ll be my job to review titrations and be ready to present that to the group, Rob it’ll be your job to review stoichiometry, and Ameera you’ll review the ideal gas law.” By teaching each other the concepts you reinforce each other’s knowledge and skills and create the accountability needed for a great study group.

3. Sticking With A Group That’s Not Working

Finally, don’t stick with a group if it’s not working. Don’t be afraid to break up with a study buddy! You’re not married to your study group – there’s no reason to stick around if it’s a time-waster. Just explain to the other group members that it’s not as productive as you were hoping and that you’re going to study on your own.

A well-run and hard-working study group is the secret weapon of every successful medical student. The practice of medicine itself is team-based collaborative work, and you can improve your odds of success in med school and as a pre-med by learning to build and run good study groups in high school.

Written by Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step) content experts.
MCAT is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which is not affiliated with Blueprint.