Should you get a study buddy?: the pros and cons of social studying

Davis: Hey everybody, this is GRE Bites. My name is Davis, and I’m an educator with over ten years of experience.

Orion: And I’m Orion, the founder of StellarGRE.

Davis: We’re here to bring you your weekly bite-sized episode on GRE prep and grad school admissions. Check out our top-rated GRE self-study program at And don’t forget, you can use the code “BITES” for 10% off any membership.

Alright, I’ll be straight, simple, and sweet to the point this time. Study buddies: should you have one for the GRE? Pros? Cons? What are your thoughts on study buddies?

Orion: Yeah, it really depends on personal preference. I think. Well, I taught a class in San Francisco for many years around the Stellar system. I had a great time teaching that class. It was also very social. I believe the fact that these folks developed relationships with the other people in the class made it more likely that they were consistent. They showed up week after week to put in the time, especially since the classes were held after work on a weekday. At such times, it might be difficult to muster the focus and willpower to sit through a GRE prep class. So, those relationships, I think, actually helped people adhere more closely to the system. I do believe that having a study buddy can help maintain commitment to a program.

Davis: I completely agree. As someone who took that maybe six years ago with you in San Francisco, having a place to go and a community of people who were all in the same boat together was a bulwark. It truly bolstered my ability to make it through the program and achieve the results I wanted. Additionally, another benefit I found was that people would ask questions I hadn’t necessarily thought of. So, I gained exposure to more questions and content sooner.

Orion: So you’re talking about a group setting that was like seven or eight people minimum?

Davis: If I remember correctly, it was maybe 10 people max, or something like that. You know, if that kind of environment is not available, how can someone still derive the same benefits at home? Is just one other person enough?

Orion: Sure, just having one other person, I think, can help maintain compliance. This is true for all kinds of things. If you have a new habit that you’re trying to start, like going to the gym, dieting, or starting some other new hobby, it’s sometimes very useful to have a friend with whom you’re doing this to keep each other accountable. This is because habits are easiest to break when they’re new.

Davis: Right.

Orion: They haven’t yet really become ingrained in that person’s lifestyle and their behavioral repertoire. Having someone to keep us on track when necessary can help ensure we put in enough time and repetition, so that we see the results we’re looking for when initiating a new activity. I think you just need one other person as a study buddy. Building on what you just discussed regarding one of the benefits of the class — where people would ask questions that you hadn’t thought of — that kind of accelerated your growth.

Davis: I think that observation was really interesting and well said.

Orion: Another real benefit to having a study buddy is that most likely, you’ll have complementary strengths. It’s almost impossible for two people to be exactly the same with respect to their performance across all three sections of the test. This is great because one of the best ways to learn is to teach. I learned that a long time ago when I started my teaching career. If you’re going to get in front of a group of people and demand their attention for hours at a time, you really need to know your stuff. You have to be prepared for any question that could possibly be asked, or else you’re wasting people’s time. So, the need to teach drives the necessity to understand.

Davis: Okay, so if you’re working with somebody and they are weak in sections in which you are strong, and vice versa, you can consolidate and solidify your own understanding through the necessity of teaching those concepts to your study buddy.

Orion: Actually, the best way for you to learn is to be able to teach your strengths to someone with a complementary profile.

Davis: Is there another perspective? Have you been exposed to anything in your psychology background and work? Is there evidence to suggest that learning material in a group setting, or with another person, because of an emotional connection, a novel emotional environment, or the need to teach—or having someone to rely on and learn from—does that aid in memory retention? Does it compare to, for instance, studying alone under a desk light at night and then falling asleep halfway through your study session?

Orion: You know, I’m not aware of any study like that. What I am aware of is that when people get together in real time to study, they need to have some structure to that activity. Otherwise, others can be distracting if not managed properly. That’s why, in settings like libraries, there’s a strict protocol of silence. People are generally together, but they remain separate and isolated.

The best way to study in a group is to structure periods of quiet, intense individual focus, interspersed with opportunities for socializing. Everyone should be on board with this arrangement. It could look something like 30 minutes of focused, quiet study, followed by 15 minutes of socializing, where group members chat, talk, or ask each other questions. Then, it’s back to another 30 minutes of quiet, individual studying. This approach helps people stay on track. It makes the study session more enjoyable by blending study time with social interaction, while also limiting distractions that could hinder memory consolidation and lead to frustration.

Davis: That’s an excellent point, and one I can attest to as well. When you’re picking a study partner, it’s really important to be careful about compatibility. As you said, it’s crucial that your goals are aligned and that you can agree on a systematized or structured interaction period. This will drive success much more than just an amorphous, unorganized “get together and let’s try to figure this out” approach. So, compatibility is really important when picking study partners.

Thanks, everybody, for tuning in. We’ll be back next week with another bite-sized episode of GRE Bites. If you have a topic you’d like discussed on a future episode, let us know at And if you’re ready to take your prep to the next level, check out our top-rated GRE self-study program at You can use the code “BITES” for 10% off all memberships there. Talk to you soon.

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