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CFA Society Chicago Study Groups: Study Guide

Here are a few tips to make the most of your study group sessions. Remember, the study group is meant to be beneficial for all members of the group.

  • Be prompt for each session. Come to the study group prepared to work and to learn. Establish some ground rules for participation in the group. For example, discuss the importance of being responsible, showing up on a consistent basis, and going over the material prior to each meeting.
  • Become aware of your study group expectations. Before you join or form a study group, consider what you hope to get from the experience. People join study groups for different reasons. Your reason for joining a study group should guide decisions as to the composition and goals of the group.
  • Become aware of the benefits of study groups. These benefits include better understanding and retention of information, opportunity to learn from and teach peers, receiving support from peers, and increases in confidence in academic abilities.
  • Study groups are not necessarily for everyone. Think about whether you have had positive study group experiences or have participated in successful group projects in the past. If you have not had productive study group experiences, consider whether you can alter your approach before you decide that study groups are not for you.
  • Maintain an optimal group size. The size of the group is important. It can involve as few as two individuals, but an optimal group size is about three or four people. This group size will allow participation and discussion, yet also allow the group to function if one member cannot attend a meeting.
  • Establish Study Group Goals. A study group should be composed of candidates who have similar goals. The existence of different goals among members of a study group can lead to confusion, anxiety, and tension. At the beginning of your initial meeting, discuss the objectives of the group with your peers. Ask yourselves, “What does our group want or need to accomplish?
  • Establish a schedule of meetings and assignments. Having weekly meetings and following a regular schedule will allow you to keep up with the course material. This will also prevent cramming because there will be consistent studying and review prior to the exam. It is also important to agree on guidelines for meetings. Discuss the frequency and length of the group meetings, and lay out a tentative meeting calendar.
  • Select a location for meetings. Avoid meeting in places that are too comfortable or full of disturbances that can be distracting to the group. An open area in the library may distract library patrons as well as group members. However, an isolated room at someone’s residence next to a neighbor with loud speakers may prove equally distracting. Determine a suitable meeting place which is free from these distractions.
  • Develop an agenda. Outline goals and a timeline for each meeting. A session of 60 to 90 minutes usually works best. If you opt for a long session, be sure to take planned breaks. Muscle-stretching not only helps the body but also the mind! Set the date, time, and goals for the next session BEFORE the end of the current session. This planning will help to insure an active and productive group.
  • Prepare for the meetings. A study group is not a substitute for doing your own work. A study group is most beneficial when members are prepared with topics to discuss, points of confusion, or important questions. Study groups should be used to review material and to test understanding of that material. Additionally, time should be set aside during each group meeting to discuss material that students do not understand.
  • Evaluate the group. If the study group is not meeting your goals, discuss your concerns with the group and try to come up with suggestions for improvement. If you decide to leave the group, do not leave your colleagues in a bind (by dropping out the week it is your turn to lead a group meeting, for example).
  • Embrace diversity within a group. The varying skill sets of each group member should be recognized as strength, not a weakness. Similarly, each person’s schedule and time commitments should be respected and accommodated.

Defining Roles within a Study Group

To be effective, group learning must be balanced both in terms of the skills of the various members and the extent to which all group members participate. Initially, a study group might seem to be a leaderless, loosely connected meeting of students with a common interest. But in any group, a leader will emerge, help to define roles, and ask for volunteers to fill those roles or rotate them. Some suggested roles:

The Facilitator:

  • Will ask the questions and encourage full participation from all members.
  • Will pull the group from digressions and chatting back to the task at hand.
  • Will summarize what was covered at the end of each session.
  • Will help to ensure that all learning styles are being considered.
  • Will divide work up for the next meeting

The Clock Watcher:

  • Will be aware of time spent on tasks and subjects.
  • Will indicate when it is time to move on.
  • Will prevent one area/topic from monopolizing the session.
  • Will maintain the structure of the session.

The Note Taker:

  • Will keep a log of who was present and what was discussed.
  • Will present the agenda at the start of the meeting.
  • Will remind members who is responsible for what.
  • Will ask for volunteers to assume a different role for the next meeting.


Creating a Study Group Agenda

During the first meeting get to know one another if you are not already acquainted. Brainstorm a list of what you hope to accomplish, and come to a consensus on what agenda items should be emphasized. These items might include, but are not limited to:

  • Reviewing study materials together.
  • Discussing key themes and/or unclear information from study materials.
  • Working on review questions.
  • Assigning sample test questions to complete for the next session.
  • Selecting and taking practice tests together.
  • Doing an analysis of review question and sample test results.
  • Referring to the CFA Institute and CFA Society Chicago websites for additional study strategies as needed


Additional FAQs

How do you handle a group member who is not engaged but comes to the meetings?
Try to find innovative ways to get group members involved in the discussions. Without being obvious, occasionally ask the quiet group member for his or her opinion. Reassure the group member that his or her contributions are greatly appreciated.

How do you liven up a lackluster group?
Many newly created groups suffer from growing pains. Limit the duration of your group meetings and keep all other personal concerns to a minimum. Focus the group on the task at hand. It might help to create a task list before the end of the study group meeting. You may also want to meet in a new location. Sometimes a change of scenery can infuse a group with new energy. Set time aside talk about what you are getting or not getting out of the study group format. Have each member share his/her experience. This open sharing of expectations will help to focus, improve, and reenergize the group.

How do you handle the overzealous group member?

Approach the overzealous group member after your meeting and mention (in a non-accusatory way) that “the information that you are providing to the group is great, but you may want to let the other members participate a little more.” Or, the facilitator for the meeting could begin the session by reminding the members of the importance of equal participation.

How do you handle a group member that shows up sporadically for the meetings?
Scheduling conflicts may come up over the course of the semester. During the first meeting you should discuss the group’s attendance policy. When someone is showing up on an inconsistent basis, you may want to address the individual as a group, or pull him/her aside after a meeting. Upon doing so, remind the individual that you appreciate his/her contribution, but that in order for the group to work, members must attend the meetings regularly.