Study Groups in Medical School: Help or Hindrance?

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Medical school is competitive, sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s every man or woman for him/herself once PGY-1 begins.  Consider forming or joining a study group with a few trusted classmates to make the monotony of studying anatomy, physiology, and infectious diseases a little more engaging.  Here are a few pros and cons to consider when thinking about participating in medical school study groups.  Learn more, and then decide for yourself whether this method of learning is right for you:

Pros In Favor of Study Groups:

-There is an adage that two minds are better than one.  When it comes to the sharing and learning of knowledge, a study group can yield multiple methods for learning and memorization that you may not have already considered. Your study group partners will have tricks and techniques that they can teach you, and you’ll be able to share your wisdom with them.  Everyone knows how to use flashcards to memorize, but mnemonics are also effective in helping you retain large amounts of information.  By participating in a study group, you’ll have access to the brain-smarts of multiple classmates, and their insights can help you improve your own study skills.

A Gap Medics student shadowing dentists at Hang Dong Hospital in Chiang Mai, Thailand-As part of a study group, you’ll learn how to get along with other personality types you may not have come into contact with before.  Medical school is a microcosm of the real world, and in your study group, you’ll encounter diverse people with one common goal – to become doctors.  Take the study group opportunity to refine your people skills, to work on your negotiation tactics, and to learn how to bite your tongue should you feel tempted to insult a study group member.  You might not feel comfortable, but in your study group, you’ll also learn a lot about psychology and group dynamics that will serve you well in your future medical profession.

Cons Against Study Groups:

-Get a handful of people together, and the likelihood of a study group becoming a social group increases.  Your study group might start out with the best intentions of learning and reviewing your course material, but the slightest distraction (Did you see the last episode of Walking Dead? When is the government going to deport Justin Beiber?) can lead to a serious, irreversible tangent from your group’s goals. If you are a person who is easily distracted, or you find yourself associated with group that can’t help injecting a healthy dose of pop culture discussion into your anatomy and physiology review, then participating in a study group may work against your medical school achievement.

-Someone’s got to take control of directing the group, if only to set the schedule/location and outline topics to be covered. If your group has no leader, chaos may ensue.  Without a plan of study, your study group can wander way off course, and your sessions will ultimately be unproductive.  If an aggressive classmate self-appoints as the study group leader, you may find yourself living under an intolerable regime, at which point you’ll have to decide whether to bow out and go it alone. While leadership is an important skill to develop throughout the course of medical school, your study group is not necessarily the place for that.

These simple pros and cons are but a few factors to consider as you decide whether a medical study group is for you.  Many have succeeded independently, and many have the support of their groups to thank for their success.  Your personal preference alone will decide which is right for you. — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.

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