Peer pleasure

Partnership: Two heads are better than one, when it comes to preparing for exams. Photo: K. Pichumani   | Photo Credit: K_Pichumani

Your exams are looming in two weeks. You feel queasy just looking at the mountain of books. Try as you might, you are unable to concentrate for more than ten minutes at a stretch. Even though you chide yourself to pay attention, you are simply overwhelmed and are not using your time optimally.

When you reach such a bottleneck, perhaps it is time to shift gears and try something different to enhance your efficiency. You call your friend and the moment she starts describing her frustration with studying, a wave of relief courses through your body. At once, you feel calmer. Together, you decide to tackle the exam beast.

Studying with a peer has many pluses. Typically, the act of studying is a very lonely and isolating experience, so peer study can be a welcome break where you get to spend time with a friend and also prepare for the exam.

The two of you can help each other in myriad ways. In addition to monitoring each other’s attention, you may be able to clarify your doubts as and when you have one.

A peer is also in a good position to test whether you are studying effectively by asking you questions at periodic intervals. When your motivation to plod through a dry or difficult subject starts waning, a peer can perk you up. And, of course, your breaks are a lot more nourishing now that you have a friend to share them with. Further, studying with a peer may quell your anxiety about the forthcoming exam, thereby making you a more receptive learner.

Ideal partnership

In her blog, writer Annie Murphy Paul describes how scientists are trying to harness the so-called “protégé effect,” wherein teaching someone else actually strengthens our own understanding. In one study, researchers at Stanford and Vanderbilt Universities created virtual pupils for student teachers to interact with and thereby fortify their own grasp of the material to be studied. But if you have a friend who is willing to study with you, you don’t need a virtual one.

When you engage in peer study, you have to choose your partner wisely. You do not have to study with your best friend; in fact, a very close friend is more likely to be a distraction as you have far too many things to share and talk about. Instead, when selecting a study partner, pick a friend who studies at a pace that is reasonably similar to yours. If you pick someone who masters content much faster than you, it can be a daunting and discouraging experience. On the other hand, studying with someone who takes a lot longer to grasp concepts may slow you down. An ideal partner is someone who studies at a speed that is comparable to you and you are able to complement gaps in each other’s understanding. And, the best way to find the perfect study partner is to try studying with different friends till you find the one who resonates best with your study habits and style.

Find your rhythm

Of course, you have to figure out a rhythm that works best for the two of you. You don’t have to study every subject or chapter together. Instead, you may decide to rely on each other only for the tedious or difficult ones. Further, you may find that you study best on your own in the mornings, but in the afternoons, you feel drowsy, and a friend can help you stay more alert. If your friend has a similar study pattern, then you are compatible study partners. If not, you may have to find someone else. In addition, you may find that you are able to study some subjects optimally on your own. You may prefer to plod through calculus problem sets with single-minded focus, whereas you would rather decode the subtext of Shakespearean text along with a friend.

Group study

Once in a while, it may be both enriching and fun to create a larger study group of about four to six people. A larger and more diverse group can help create a question bank for friends to test each other. But it is not advisable to actually study with a larger group as you are more likely to distract each other.

While studying with a peer can have many benefits and most importantly help you be more productive, you have to be wary of becoming excessively dependent on your friend. Ensure that you spend some time everyday studying on your own so that the habit of self-study does not become alien to you. Further, some people may not be suited to studying with friends. And that’s perfectly okay too.

The author is director, Prayatna. Email:

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 3:01:32 AM |

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