A key to earning good grades in any class is studying. Before you plop down your textbooks and pull out your notebook, however, ask yourself: "Do I want to study solo, or do I want to study with others?"

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There are benefits to studying independently and with friends, but deciding the best one for you depends on your preferences and what you want to get out of your studies. Which one should you choose?

Explore the pros and cons of self study vs. group study to decide which will enhance your study session.

Consider what you're studying

Think about what you're studying. Some subjects might be better learned through collaboration, while others may be better studied independently.

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Subjects that you understand well or are based on personal experiences and interpretations can be studied alone. For example, English language arts can often be studied solo since it's based on concentrated reading and writing down your thoughts.

Topics that are challenging for you or require feedback are better suited for collaboration. Performing arts, for example, involves an audience, so having someone to study with would be more beneficial.

With a subject in mind, determine your purpose in studying.

Consider what you want out of your study session

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It is important to know what you want out of your study session because it gives you a purpose.

Having a goal of what you should be able to know and do after studying will help you decide the strategies and steps to reach it. Based on those steps, decide whether studying alone or with others will best support you.

Flaticon Icon Ask yourself: "Do I...":

  • want to learn about a complex topic?

  • want to review something for a test?

  • need clarification?

  • need to practice solving problems?

  • need to practice rehearsing for a speech or presentation?

Your needs will help you choose the study method. As you explore self study vs. group study, see which format will help you accomplish your goals.

Option #1: Studying independently

Studying solo is a great option if you prefer independence and want to go at your own pace.

This study method requires self-discipline and holds you accountable for your own learning. It's ideal if you get distracted by others easily or prefer to study in an environment specific to your needs and preferences.

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If your goal for studying is to review and clarify a topic, especially one that you feel confident in, studying alone might be for you. You can focus on one specific thing and control how you study so that it benefits you.

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Advantages of studying solo:

  • You won't be distracted by others.

  • You can go at your own pace.

  • You can choose the study environment and schedule.

  • You can focus on the topics you struggle with.

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Disadvantages of studying solo:

  • You may miss out on resources and support offered by a group.

  • You may procrastinate and not have the motivation to study if alone.

  • You won't have others around to keep you accountable.

  • You won't have anyone to reference or ask for help during the study session.

Option #2: Studying with others

Studying in a group might be ideal if you learn best with others or need support while studying.

This study method encourages collaboration and active listening so that everyone benefits. You can ask questions or receive tutoring, and you can do the same for others.

A group of Saved By the Bell students studying together.

If your study purpose is to learn about a complex topic or practice rehearsing for a presentation, having others support you is beneficial. Collaboration helps you gain insight and new perspectives from others.

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Advantages of studying with others:

  • You can be more motivated to study.

  • You can share notes and resources.

  • You can teach and help others (which reinforces what you know).

  • You can ask questions, work through problems, and receive feedback on your performance.

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Disadvantages of studying with others:

  • Your group might become talkative and go off-track.

  • Not everyone may be available to meet at a specific date, time, or place.

  • Everyone is at a different pace or level of learning.

  • Your study session might need to be rescheduled or canceled if people can't make it.


Sofia is studying for her French exam. She isn't confident in her French, especially in grammar. She plans to join a study group after school. What's the best thing for her to do in the group study session to improve her confidence for the test?

Mix up your study methods!

Do not limit yourself to one study method. Depending on the schedules and needs of yourself and others, you can alternate between solo and group study so that you get the best of both experiences.

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Many students combine these study methods, especially during exam season. For example, you might want to focus on self-study to start so you know what topics you struggle with.

As exams get closer, you can host a group study session to review complex topics or ask questions from your solo studies. These dynamics will enhance your studies by experiencing the benefits of both study methods.

Take Action

There are advantages and disadvantages to self study vs. group study, so try both formats to see which one you prefer.

Keep yourself open by alternating formats. Join a study group if you usually study alone; you can teach others what you know, which reinforces your knowledge.

If you usually study with others, don't be afraid to study solo to focus on your needs and make studying more convenient for you. No matter how you choose to study, you'll gain confidence and come out a little wiser.

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To decide which study format is most effective:


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