Solo vs. Group Study: The Pros And Cons To Both Study Techniques


Throughout all the years of being a student, one of the age-old questions is: Is it better to study alone or in a group? Most people decide what study techniques are most effective for them through trial and error while others stick with one study method without much modification. 

However, when an extremely important test comes along, like the bar exam, our nerves and anxiety can make us question how we've chosen to study in the past. It’s almost like studying becomes a foreign concept to us.

There isn’t much scientific proof that indicates whether studying alone is better than studying in a group or vice versa. Rather, it really depends on the type of environment you best excel in. Both study techniques have their advantages and disadvantages, so consider these factors when deciding how you are going to approach preparing for the bar exam.

Flying Solo

The bar exam will require significant time studying digging through material and practice questions on your own. Some people prefer to study alone because they concentrate better without any distractions. Those who like to get lost in a book—even a bar review book—and go over material in a quiet setting will favor preparing for the bar exam this way. Plus, if you’re easily distracted, or someone who tends to distract others, you’re better off being productive on your own than spinning your wheels in a group session. When there’s no one around to divert your attention, you’re left with the opportunity to get through each section faster, and have full control over what you study and for how long. When you’re in a group, you may end up spending a lot of time on material you’re already comfortable with and not spend as much time as you would like on other subjects.

Additionally, if you tend to absorb more information by writing it down repeatedly, reading directly from your notes, or utilizing any other study habits that don’t require other people to be present, studying alone would probably work best for you.

However, when you study by yourself, you run the risk of getting frustrated when you don’t completely understand a certain legal concept, court case, or procedure. Sometimes no matter how many times you review a certain topic, you still cannot grasp the concept or are unable to apply it to other subjects successfully. For instance, you cannot simply know what Miranda vs. Arizona was about. You need to understand how its outcome impacts one’s Fifth Amendment right to counsel. When preparing for the bar exam, you must practice connecting different topics together. It’s not just about being able to recite information, but knowing its significance and applying the law to the facts you’ve been given. If you’re able to make those connections by yourself, time studying on your own may be the only thing you need.

Everyone gather round

Though studying alone is an essential part of preparing for the bar exam, there are other study techniques to consider, specifically studying in groups. Studying with other people is kind of like being in class because you are able to hear what your peers have to say. When you’re in a group, you have the ability to bounce ideas off of one another, which is a great way to go over particularly complicated topics. Whenever you learn something, you’re going to interpret it a certain way. Your perception of a situation could be completely different than someone else’s and being able to discuss those analyses with one another can help give you a better understanding of that topic.

Being in a group allows you to test yourself by teaching others. As mentioned before, sometimes when you’re studying with other people, you go over subjects you’re already comfortable with. Take that opportunity to present your knowledge. When you can successfully explain a particular topic to another person, you know you have fully grasped that information yourself. Plus, studying in a group can help calm your nerves. When you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of material covered on the exam, it helps to talk to other people and see that you’re not the only one fighting to stay on top of everything.

One of the downsides to studying in a group is that you may start with the intention of reviewing class material, but end up talking about what you did over the weekend or what your plans are after the study session is over. When there are more people around, there are more distractions. Though studying in a group can prove to be more productive than studying alone, depending on your preferable study habits, the chances of being distracted are greater when there are a lot of people in one group.    

Finding a balance

For some people, studying alone may be all they need. For those people struggling to see the big picture, however, we recommend finding a balance between the two. If you find that studying certain material for the bar exam is easier alone, go over that particular information by yourself. Then try getting together with a couple of friends, perhaps for an hour before class once or twice a week, to discuss other material that is more challenging to grasp on your own. The key is getting the most out of every study session you have—not matter what study techniques you use. You never want to feel like you wasted your time studying, whether you were alone or with other people.

About the author

Pieper Bar Review

For over forty years, Pieper Bar Review has taught students the legal concepts and skills necessary for success on the bar exam, and reinforced students’ knowledge through thought provoking examples and bar exam questions. The proof that the Pieper teaching method works is found in the success of our former students – now present-day attorneys. Learn more

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