I finished my last midterm yesterday. Taking tests again was stressful, and nervous energy coursed through the school all week. Every first year student takes the same classes, so we all went through test hell together. This past week taught me a lot, and I learned that sample tests and study groups are key to doing well on exams.
I have always been a lone studier and viewed group study as a waste of time. As an undergrad I studied theories. The only way to study was to read, memorize, and ponder deep ideas for long hours. Business school is skills driven, so most of the studying is practicing skills through book problems and sample tests. Checking my answers and methods against other people’s answers and methods helped me to learn the material. Several times I didn’t understand how to calculate an answer, even after staring at the answer sheet for ten minutes. Talking through the problem with other students always helped.
Group studying also works well in business school because many people have expertise in class topics. I couldn’t have done well on my accounting test without help from several very time generous accountants. All the engineers know statistics cold, so they are the ones to ask about regression analysis and interaction variables. And previous finance majors walked me through several capital budgeting problems.
Finally, there is the peer pressure of group studying. Studying alone, I could easily put aside the book for a more fun activity, such as watching reruns of Laguna Beach or eating ice cream from the carton while standing in front of the fridge. But in a group I can’t just call it quits after an hour. Other people are depending on me to work with them, and this makes me focus better and longer.
The other challenge I faced this week was finishing my first large group project. The project required three group meetings of two hours, and I spent about 12 more hours completing my section of the project. Luckily my team members were great to work with, so we formed-normed-stormed-and-performed with no problem. But I found group studying more efficient than group project work.
It’s ironic that studying for tests was done better in a group, while the group project could have been done faster individually. Why was group work more effective in one instance than the other? Even the professor seemed to signal that the group project was more about honing group skills than completing a case study, since the project accounted for only 10% of the final grade. Group study or group work, the end result is that my team skills are improving, and that’s what I’m here for.