ACTSAT

How to Start Your Own Study Group

How to Start Your Own Study Group

“Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope. You will fill yourself with hope.”

–President Barack Obama

As you gear up for a high-stakes test like the SAT or ACT exam, a study group can be a beneficial supplement to dynamic online test prep. You don’t have to spend all your time studying alone — you can share your study journey with other determined test-takers.

In a recent post, we discussed four specific reasons why you should join a study group. But that leaves us with an important question: What if there isn’t a study group available to you? Well, the answer is simple . . . 

You can start your own study group!

I know the very idea of starting your own study group may seem a little intimidating, but there is absolutely nothing to be nervous about. It’s really not that hard to do. 

A caveman discovered fire. You can start a study group!

America put a man on the moon. You can start a study group!

Ben Affleck played Batman. You.Can.Start.A.Study.Group.

Here are some practical how-tos for starting a study group to get you started right away:

1. Invite Fellow Students to Join

(See, I told you this wasn’t going to be hard.) 

The important thing to remember here is to invite the right kind of peers. This isn’t a hang-out with your closest friends. When setting up a study group, you want to invite students who are serious about prepping for the test. 

If you’re studying for the SAT or ACT exam, find peers who are as serious about going to college as you are. Some of these invitees may be established friends, but others may be students you’ve just recently met. That’s totally ok, this isn’t a social club. If they are serious, studious, and smart, put them at the top of your we-should-study-together list. 

2. Think About How Many People You Want in the Group

A common mistake in the study-group game is having a group that is too large. If your group has too many people, study sessions can actually become distracting. Too many voices in the room isn’t a good thing. 

On the other hand, if your group is too small (say just 2–3 students), one cancellation can derail that week’s study session. 

Too many students = Bad  |  Too few students = Also bad

The ideal size for your study group will be 4-6 test-taking peers. This will accommodate fruitful academic interaction, where each member of the group walks away from weekly sessions better prepared for their test. 

3. Be Enthusiastic, Energetic, and Ambitious 

(Admittedly, this is where it gets a little harder but read on.)

If you possess an outgoing personality or if you’re the quarterback of the football team, this might come pretty easily for you. However, if you’re an introvert by nature or if you spend more time hangin’ in the library than calling plays in the huddle, words like “enthusiastic,” “energetic,” and “ambitious” might feel like disqualifiers. 

I assure you, they are not.

Leadership doesn’t mean “loud.” Happy doesn’t mean “hyper.”  

Here’s what “enthusiastic, energetic, and ambitious” looks like when you are starting a legit study group:

Enthusiastic: You’re not afraid of your upcoming SAT or ACT exam. In fact, because you’re practicing with premium online test prep and spending time each week with your new study group, you’re actually excited about exam success. That excitement — that enthusiasm — is contagious and will benefit every member of your group.

Energetic: You don’t have to be a hype man to be energetic. When you show up prepared to study, encourage group members who are nervous about the test, and even bring yummy snacks occasionally, you’re bringing an energy to the group that will make every study session a success.

Ambitious: Ambition is all about taking initiative. This is your study group, after all. Be ready to plan study times, send out group texts with details and reminders, set up a study agenda, keep the group on task, and even bring yummy snacks occasionally. (Are you sensing a yummy-snacks theme?) 

Note: You don’t have to do all the work yourself. It can be helpful to designate certain duties to other willing group members. 

4. Pick a Space Conducive for Studying

Before you start inviting other students to join your study group, you’ll want to have a good spot in mind because “Where do we meet?” is sure to be one of the first questions people will ask you.

  • Areas with lots of foot traffic are too distracting. 
  • An outdoor location is weather dependent. 
  • Loud places are obviously no good. 

So, that rules out the school cafeteria, your local park, and a Jonas Brothers concert. Hmm, what’s left?

You’ll want to pick a location that is quiet, cozy, and convenient. If you, or another group member, have a room in your home that meets those criteria, that could work. Another option is a local coffee shop that isn’t too busy. And if you have a public library nearby, that would be great (assuming you quiz each other in hushed tones). 

5. Establish Group Standards

Be on time. 

Come prepared. 

All questions are welcome. 

Speak up if you don’t understand. 

Phones turned off for the hour we are studying. 

These are just a few examples of study group standards you and your peers can set for yourselves. 

Mike Krzyzewski, the highly accomplished basketball coach, tells of a meeting he had with the 12 NBA players who had been selected to play on the USA Olympic team. He said that before they even started practicing, he asked the players to put together a list of team standards — we hold each other accountable, we never take a play off, we accept coaching, we treat each other with respect, etc. Krzyzewski was quick to point out these weren’t team “rules,” these were team “standards.”

“The thing I hate about rules is that they’re not yours,” Krzyzewski pointed out during a talk on leadership. “They’re imposed upon you and there’s not much latitude. I understand rules up to a point, but standards are really rules that you own.”

If you want your study group to be effective and beneficial for every member of the gang, take a few minutes as a group to come up with a few standards that everyone agrees with. This will establish expectations and eliminate possible confrontations down the road. 

Congrats! You’re officially ready to start your own study group. Remember, concert venues are too loud and yummy snacks are always a good idea. The rest is icing on the cake. Good luck!


A study group is a great tool for test prep, but don’t make it your only tool. UWorld offers online test prep complete with challenging questions that mimic your SAT or ACT exam, detailed explanations for content mastery, performance tracking to identify areas for improvement, and accurate score predictors for your upcoming exam. Sign up for a FREE seven-day trial today!