Make a virtual study group

For most of the time study is somewhat of a solo journey. Try something different and mix it up by forming a study group.

If you can't meet up (due to lockdown), you can use a video conferencing app, and meet virtually. Follow these tips to quickly get started and get the most out of learning with your school mates.

Group studying has many benefits. It can push you to think more creatively and explore perspectives and solutions you wouldn't have otherwise. But it also has the potential to be a little distracting.

Here's some advice so you can keep on track and get the most out of your time whether you meeting in person or virtually online:

Tip # 1 Keep it small

If you have a dozen people, you have a party (leave that till after the last exam). For now, think 3, 4 or 5 people. An even number means you can pair off if needed.

A small number means you can take turns and run the group, building up your confidence through collaboration and leading. These are also useful skills for when you’ve left school too.

Ensure that the people in your study group are going to be supportive of the intention of the group and ones that you work well with.

Tip # 2 Make a plan

Don’t just rock up (or Zoom in) and then sort it out when you get together, make an agenda!

For example, before you meet up, each study group member submits one or 2 goals they’d like to meet by the end of the session. If the goals range across many subjects you can decide to hold them over for the next study session. Try focussing on one of two subjects only per session.

For each subject pull out old exam papers. Pick a section (that supports current syllabus) and everyone does it under timed conditions, say a 20-25 minute chunk.

Mark each other’s work using the associated Marking Guidelines (or go through the answers together).

Past HSC Exam Papers and marking guidelines

Break the session into, say, 4 x 25 minute sections with a 5 or 10 minute break in between. Take a “brain breaks” to help you have sustained attention and concentration when you restart.

Vary the type of break depending on what the group needs, e.g., food break, brain activity break, down time, having a chat, etc.

Send the agenda out with a timetable before you get together in person or online, so you can get the ball rolling quicker.

Tip # 3 Care to share

One great way to learn something is to teach it to someone else, or together you fill in the gaps. Play to your strengths. If you are winning in a subject or module then take the lead. If your mate is strong in another subject then learn from them.

Trade knowledge. Also, telling others about what you understand improves your own recall, and you’ll be more confident explaining it to your key audience: the exam marker.

Take turns to lead a topic for discussion that you care to share. If online, you could share your screen. The leader can help keep the topic going, avoid distractions and push for an outcome, such as meeting one of the study goals.If online, you could share your screen.

Keep some simple rules like leave your ego at the door, everyone is valued and then are no dumb questions.

Tip #4 Avoid distraction

Phones off. No really. Off. Change locations or whose house you meet at to avoid familiar distractions. If online, find a place where you won't be distracted.

At the end of the study session take a moment to share with your group something you have learned.

Tip # 5 Make notes and share resources

Put your subject notes and information in a shared online folder, like Google Drive. Ask questions, give examples, or provide sample answers in dot points. Whichever way you use it, keep it active.

Avoid just reading over your notes. Make new notes to reinforce what you have learned. Find that favourite black pen and build up your handwriting muscle memory. The exams are written and you’ll want to get into that writing flow.

Have an agenda

Freestyling is great on the dancefloor, but not so much during a one-hour study session. Since your time is limited, it's important to have a plan or structure. Here are some ideas for setting a study agenda:

  • Get your mates to submit 1-2 goals or questions they want addressed before you get together or at the start of the session. whether it's in person or virtual
  • Have everyone do the same practice paper under exam conditions and go through the answers together.
  • Limit your discussions to one subject to manage the short time you have. It's better to have quality discussions than to jump from subject to subject.
  • Identify the person that's going to lead each topic for discussion, and come with questions for them. Take turns being the lead.

Everyone attending the group should know what's happening ahead of time so they can bring the right materials and bring their A-game.

Don't waste time

Make sure you start on time, and don't spent too much time recapping things that you all already know. At the end of the study session, go around the group and say one lesson you've learnt, even if it's a new way to studying. If you can't think of anything, you might not have found much value and it's time to reflect on why.

Change locations regularly

Group study gives you the opportunity to switch up your study conditions, whether you're hosting guests, going to your mate's house or studying at the library. This removes familiar distractions. After all, you won't be sitting the HSC at home, so why not change things up?


A popular free video conferencing app is Zoom.

It's free to use for 40 minutes (for 3 or more people). When you reach time you can take a break and then start a new call.

Meet up virtually!

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