Organizing Study Groups


Study groups may be informal or formal. There are distinct differences in their characteristics and the way they run. One is not better than the other: each type works better for certain students in certain situations. Identify your needs in this comparison, then follow the guidelines to form or join a group best suited to your needs.

Comparison of Informal vs. Formal Study Groups

  • Informal: Minimal structure required
  • Formal: Moderate structure required
  • Informal: Varied location from week to week
  • Formal: Designated, neutral, meeting space
  • Informal: Weekly schedule may vary
  • Formal: Meets at same time each week
  • Informal: No set start or finish time
  • Formal: Set time to start and (approximately) finish
  • Informal: Students leave when their task is complete
  • Formal: Students remain for entire session
  • Informal: No designated leader
  • Formal: Designated leader or schedule of rotating leadership
  • Informal: Participants may vary from week to week
  • Formal: Same participants each week
  • Informal: 5–7 participants for optimal benefit
  • Formal: 3–6 participants for optimal benefit
  • Informal: Pset driven; preparation for exams and papers
  • Formal: Pset driven; preparation for exams and papers
  • Informal: Often formed among living and social groups
  • Formal: Often initiated among classmates
  • Informal: Varied degrees of productivity
  • Formal: High degree of productivity expected

Forming and Running Study Groups

Guidelines for forming and running each type of group appear on separate pages:

Guidelines on these pages are intended to be flexible, and to help you maximize the benefit you obtain from the experience. In both cases make sure to refer to your syllabus to determine what is acceptable collaboration in a particular subject.

Refer to the Academic Integrity website for more information.

For resources beyond MIT on organizing study groups, visit: