MIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
ACADEX: MIT Center for Academic Excellence

Tutoring Options: 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 Formal

Minimal structure required

Moderate structure required

Varied location from week to week

Designated, neutral, meeting space

Weekly schedule may vary

Meets at same time each week

No set start or finish time

Set time to start and (approximately) finish

Students leave when their task is complete

Students remain for entire session

No designated leader

Designated leader or schedule of rotating leadership

Participants may vary from week to week

Same participants each week

5–7 participants for optimal benefit

3–6 participants for optimal benefit

Pset driven; preparation for exams and papers

Pset driven; preparation for exams and papers

Often formed among living and social groups

Often initiated among classmates

Varied degrees of productivity

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. See also Academic Integrity.

For resources beyond MIT on organizing study groups, visit: