1. Call it a study party.
Not a study group or anything like that. Set up the expectation that it’s going to be a good time. In my experience, study parties really are fun. In the spirit of the “party” aspect, I always ask people to bring a food or snack or drink to share. We take a snack break midway through or after we’re all too mentally exhausted to go on and eat snacks and talk. It’s a good break and makes it more social and enjoyable.
2. How to organize what you study: I have two main ways we normally go about it
– Chronological order! Start from the first section/chapter/topic of your subject and move on til you’ve covered the last one. Pros: You cover all the material in a way that builds on itself. This is especially helpful for math. It also ensures you know everything because you cover everything (ideally). I find that this method works well for chapter tests. Cons: It takes a long time. If you start like this every time you study the subject, you become really good at the early stuff and not so good at the most recent topics. I found this to be especially true when studying for AP tests.
– Trouble spots! Start the group by having everyone write a list of the topics that confuse them. When we study math, I look through my old assignments to find practice problems I put a star next to (I mark the hardest problems with stars). Pros: ideally everyone feels more confident on the areas that they were unsure of. This is a good method when time is a factor. Cons: There will be sections you didn’t study but should have or times you have to backtrack to old sections anyway in order to understand the topic.
3. Teach sections you understand!
This is absolutely the best part for me. Explaining a topic to someone else increases your understanding of the topic and helps them at the same time! When you teach, in order to help others understand, you may make connections you hadn’t thought of before. When we go over material chronologically, we split it into sections and assign each person a section to teach. I find it’s beneficial to hear material explained and be able to ask questions, as well as to teach it yourself.
4. Take notes!
This is especially important for material that’s confusing to you. It will help you retain everything you go over at the study party. And, when studying or reviewing alone later, it’s important to have notes that you can refer back to.
5. Have a surface to write on/present with!
This is more of a recommendation than a requirement, but because I’m a visual learner it’s hugely helpful. Whiteboards are my favorite; you can do practice problems so that everyone can see and without a lot of erasing. Whiteboards were a life saver for us during physics. However, you can do this with a window, mirror, or paper on a clipboard. Personally, I’ve taken over our family’s dining room for study purposes; there’s a whiteboard on the wall (cleverly hidden under a tapestry when not in use) and a big glass table. During study parties, the whiteboard is used for section presentations and important notes. We all write on my glass table when we do practice problems, although some people still prefer paper (to save as notes, to see better, to have more room).
6. If you have a big group, split up!
For AP study parties right before the tests, I usually have a larger group and a much larger amount of material to cover. What we usually do is split into groups based on topics. If you need help with Cellular Respiration, go with Joe. Photosynthesis? Go with Fred to the living room. Reconvene at break and (if you can) at the end for maximum togetherness and a good overall review.
7. Use demonstrations, props, mnemonics, stories, etc!
Be creative! Make connections! When studying for physics, my friends and I used a slinky to simulate standing waves and went outside and made ripples in the pool to better understand those topics. Figure out ways that help you visualize and memorize important things. With all your minds working together, you’re sure to come up with some stellar ideas.
8. Let it be an open invite!
I invite my close friends or my good classmate pals to my study parties, but there have been multiple occasions in which someone heard about the study party and asked if they could come. I’m very glad I said yes because those people were perhaps the most motivated of the group. The courage it takes to ask to be included and seek out learning opportunities is a good indication of work ethic and a desire to learn and do well.
9. Enjoy it!
I can be a little bit of a control freak occasionally but study parties would be super lame if I spent the whole time trying to control everyone else. It’s okay to relax and enjoy the company of the people you’re with. I can honestly say that some of my fondest school memories are the times we’ve all gotten together to study.