Michael is a Long Island native and graduate of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. He holds a B.A. in Sports Journalism with a minor in English Literature. His goal is to become a well-respected sportswriter.
So the big exam in one of your core classes is a week away and you have no clue how you’re going to manage a grade that’s going to keep the GPA you’ve worked so hard to build right where you’d like it for the remainder of the semester.
Cramming won’t be enough to get the job done this time around. ‘There’s just too much material!’ you cry to yourself. And even if you somehow pulled off that miracle, you’re aware it’s only going to hurt you in the long run, as cramming usually results in nothing more than short-term recollection, as opposed to true, long-term understanding of the material.
And as much as you study the proper way – with relentless focus and hours of good, old fashioned work ethic – you have a very bad feeling that still won’t cut it in the end.
But before you think all hope is lost and are prepared to tell your parents you’d like to switch majors ASAP, there is another road you can take.
Organize a study group.
Sure, nothing about the idea of being in a study group sounds particularly cool or sexy. In fact, the reason I never even considered joining or creating one my first few years of college was mostly based on my prideful, misguided notion that study groups were for people who either weren’t smart enough to learn the material on their own or were simply looking for yet another excuse to do nothing but socialize.
However, during my junior year at IUPUI when I literally left myself with no choice but to accept an invitation to one of these intellectual gatherings, I ultimately found myself extremely thankful that I did.
Quickly approaching that following week almost halfway through February was the first exam of the semester in my 300 level History of Sports Media class, and it was worth a healthy 30% of my grade. I always took the best notes I possibly could, but I never purchased any of the three texts we used because my previous experiences in sports journalism classes led me to believe buying, or even renting, any of the books was downright pointless.
But when the professor went through everything that would be covered on the exam, I realized most of the information was in the textbooks. Only making matters worse, 70% of the grade would be based off essay questions and I dreaded having to read/print hundreds of pages of text online.
Lucky me, about five days before The Big Day a buddy of mine suggested that the two of us, as well as another classmate, get together a couple of times and bounce the material off of each other. Contrary to everything I once convinced myself about study groups, I really had no choice.
I still didn’t feel too confident going into the first session. Although this was going to be better than nothing, this friend of mine is the definition of a chatterbox. And if you think I’m exaggerating, he wants to have his own sports talk radio show someday.
That being said, how was this going to be successful? Throw a bunch of sports buffs together and they’re bound to talk about, wait for it…sports! Of course, that did happen, but the key to maneuvering past conversations that have nothing to do with studying is to only allow them to go on for a maximum of 10 minutes. As silly as it sounds, the moment something off-topic comes up, check the time and keep an eye on it. Once you’ve reached 10 minutes, simply suggest that you all get back to work. No one’s going to get mad at you, as you’re all there in order to accomplish an important goal and you want to keep your eyes on the prize before you decide to stop studying altogether.
I quickly realized that there was something about learning information interactively that made it much easier than trying to do it on your own. It wasn’t just about explaining things to one another that weren’t completely clear. It was also based off the ability to establish an educational rhythm as a group that continues to flow even better over time and make it feel less like work.
After one more session a day before the moment of truth, I felt as confident as I ever had walking into an exam. For the first time in all my years of schooling, I felt no nerves whatsoever. When the teacher placed the test in front of me, I blazed through the multiple choice in a heartbeat. I knew those answers like I knew my name and birthday.
Then came the essay questions. When I read each one of them, something absolutely mind-boggling occurred to me. Instead of painfully worrying if I would have enough material to write about on each essay, I found myself worrying that I had too much information that I wanted to expound on and that I would run out of time.
So I chose to write until the pain in my hand became unbearable. My study buddies and I were the last ones to finish. The other students probably thought we were idiots, but I had never felt so positive exiting an exam.
When the next class rolled around five days later, the teacher walked up to me as soon as I sat down. Was I exuding false confidence the entire time?
“You got the highest grade in the class,” he whispered. “Good job.”
As he walked away I had to cover my mouth in order to keep my classmates from seeing me smile like I had just won the lottery. A 97! I had earned a 97 and I never even got the books – something I really do not advise, by the way.
The other two-thirds of my study group? Well, they didn’t do too shabby either. They only got the next two highest grades in the class.
From that moment on, I joined/created study groups for almost every exam in nearly all of my classes until I graduated. Each time I knew the results were better than what I could have anticipated from studying on my own. And it also helped me make some new friends along the way, which was just icing on the cake.
Because it’s a learning process, there are a few things you’ll regret doing during your college years, but I guarantee being in study groups won’t be one of them.