The Importance of the Right Study Partner(s)

Having (or not having) study partners is a key decision in medical school. If you are a lone wolf studier, as many are, that is great. If you prefer the company of others or learn better as a part of a team, then carefully consider who you choose to be your study partners.

“Spend time assessing your goals, priorities, self-discipline, and requirements for intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.”

Dr. Jack T. Wilson, Contributor, Med Student Edge

You need to choose a person or group that has similar study habits, hours, and work ethic as you do. If you are the hardest working, most focused person in your medical school class, then pair up with someone similar. Spend time assessing your goals, priorities, self-discipline, and requirements for intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Be true to yourself. Allow these factors to influence your decision and pair with someone similarly minded. For example, if you require absolute, prolonged silence to study, then do not pair up with a chatty individual. In the end, this is a business decision and make the right decision for you.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Upsplash

I attribute a lot of my success to the two study partners I had for the duration of medical school. One is the founder of this website (Dr. Carter Boyd), and the other is a contributor (Dr. Zach Gentry). They are two of the hardest working people I have ever met and I hold them in the utmost esteem as people and as doctors. I had never met them prior to school but we came together in a study room after noting we were keeping similar long hours at the library most days of the week. We did not have the same interests in medicine, but we did share an incessant desire to push ourselves to success. We formed a bond over our shared goals which helped fuel our intensity and focus. What made our group of three such a good partnership was the fact that we carried similar hours and habits. We were not a group that burned the midnight oil very often. On long days, we were usually in the library around 6:30-7:00 a.m. and out before 9:00 p.m. It was motivating to have those two with me. As they say, misery loves company, and it is encouraging to have people suffer with you. Don’t get me wrong—medical school was a lot of fun, but we all know there are some days where enthusiasm wanes, and it helps to have people in solidarity with you to encourage you. The motivation is invaluable, but the variance in perspective and ability to approach a problem from a different angle was also helpful. If I was stuck on a complex learning point, I could usually consult Zach or Carter and see if they were having more success. Group size is also important. Three was the right sized study group for us, but anywhere from two to four is probably acceptable. Any more than that and there is too much risk for distraction. Any less, and well you do not have a group at all. These are just a few factors to consider, but it is a good starting point.

If you aren’t getting along with your group or just need some time to yourself, take a hiatus and study solo for a while or in a new location. Don’t sweat it. It is okay to get tired of someone after spending that much time together. Heaven knows Carter and Zach were probably tired of me most of the time.

Know yourself and your goals. Use those to find your study companion or group. If it is not working out, don’t be afraid to make a change. Moving on isn’t personal. Your goal is to maximize your success and perform well academically.

Do you prefer to study alone or in a group? What qualities are you looking for in a study partner or study group? Comment below or contact us with any questions. 

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