How to Get the Most out of GMAT Study Groups – Part 1:

by on May 17th, 2017

mba_studentRecently, one of my fellow instructors, Jamie Nelson, got a great question from one of her students: What should I do to get the most out of my time with my study group? In the process of answering her student, Jamie checked with me to see whether we had anything on our blog that contained more formal recommendations or resources. We didn’t at the time, but now we do! Read on.

I’m already really busy. Is a study group worth the effort?

I really think so, yes. (And I’m saying this as an introvert who generally prefers to study home alone.) I also polled my fellow teachers and it turns out we all agree: If at all possible, get a study group going!

There are two primary benefits you can gain by studying regularly with at least one other person.

  1. You’ll keep yourself motivated. It’s harder to procrastinate when you know you need to be ready to meet with the group by a certain day.
  2. You will learn more than you can on your own. Other members of the group will be better at something than you are and can teach you. In addition, you will sometimes teach something to others—and teaching helps you to understand a concept much better than just learning it in the first place.

How do I set up the group?

If friends of yours are also studying for the GMAT, then that part is relatively easy—though, ideally, you want at least one person in the group who is stronger at Quant and one who is stronger at Verbal. So if you and your friend are both Verbal whizzes, expand your search to find someone who is better at Quant.

If you are taking a class, go out on a limb and announce to the class that you want to set up a study group and ask who is interested. If you want to maintain a level of control over the group, then decide certain details in advance. “I’m looking for people who can meet on Saturdays from 1p to 3p at XYZ library (or on Google hangouts).”

I do think it’s a good idea to have 3 or more people in the group, if possible. Circumstances change—your study buddy could get sick or decide to postpone her studies for some reason. People go on vacation for a week. Ideally, the group is large enough that it can weather the temporary or permanent absence of 1 or 2 people.

What do we actually do when we get together? (Reason #1)

All right, now we’re getting to the real heart of the matter! Let’s start with the first reason that study groups are so beneficial: You’re going to keep each other honest.


Set up a schedule with one or two steady appointments every week. (If your schedule needs to change from week to week, then at any given time, the schedule should be set at least one month out.) For instance, you might meet Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. (Or you might just meet once a week.)

You’re allowed to miss a study session—for good reason. You have a deadline at work… you’re sick… you have a prior commitment to a family member or other important person in your life. When you absolutely do have to miss, you will give your group as early notice as possible.

Here are some reasons you’re not allowed to miss the study session: I had a really long / hard week. I didn’t get my homework done. I’d rather (have brunch with a friend / stay home and binge watch my favorite show / clean my bathroom). Your team members are counting on you. Go.


Next, you’re going to plan out your own private studies from now until that next meeting. Set certain goals. (“I’m going to do the Exponents and Roots chapters of my strategy guide. Then I’m going to do and review Official Guide (OG) problems in those areas. And I’m going to do the Comparisons chapter in Sentence Correction and also do OG problems to test myself there.”)

Now, tell your group what your goals are.

Why did I center that text? To catch your attention. (Did it work? :) ) This is a really important step, one that I learned from my fellow instructor Noah Teitelbaum. If you make an advance commitment to your group, you are much more likely to stay motivated and do your work.

One more note: You all have to check in to make sure you’re actually sticking with your commitments—that’s where accountability comes in. When you start your study session, go around the group. Everyone reports what they did and whether they fulfilled their commitment. If you didn’t get to it all, then be prepared to make another commitment: When will you get to this stuff in the coming week?

Noah has also shared with me a website / app called StickK, a free resource that allows you to set commitments and share them with your selected group. Consider using this together to keep track of your commitments.

What about Reason #2 (learning from each other)?

This is exactly what we’re going to discuss in the second part of this post. Go start finding people who you think would make good study buddies and send them this first part. When you’re ready, dive into part 2 to learn how to learn from each other.

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