Study Groups: Truths & Myths, Do’s & Don’ts

Mateo Kossmann

Before starting your INSEAD journey, everybody is very excited and curious about an awful lot of things. One of these are the study groups: a group of five to six people that will work together during all the courses of P1 and P2. Who will I be grouped with? Where are they from? How much smarter are they than me? How many consultants are in the group?

After completing P2, I can share some insights about the reality of study groups and tips on how to make the most of the experience.

Let’s focus first on some truths and myths…

Groups are truly diverse: Truth

When the MBA team creates these groups, they try to mix people as much as possible in terms of professional background, race, gender and geography. There’s so much to listen to, learn and understand from the culture, personalities and experiences of your team members.

Groups are meant to fight: Myth

When talking about the study group experience with INSEAD Alumni, many warn you that groups are made to fail and fight. This doesn’t have to be true. There can be tension and arguments but, as long as it’s kept task-oriented and constructive, there’s no need to escalate.

It’s going to be very intense, get ready: Truth

There are so many things to do academically, socially and professionally. If you are wise and prioritise correctly you will have enough time to cover the bases right. It’s not impossible, it’s just a way to test your endurance.

Study groups are just for the first four months then it’s done: Myth

The academic work might be over, but the lessons you learned from the assignments and the time spent together will stay with you. There will be other groups throughout the MBA but it’s never going to be the same as the first experience.

Once you meet your group, you may want to try these hard-learned lessons and to avoid some of these pitfalls.


  • Make the effort to get to know the people in your group. Go for lunch, drinks or any other fun activity. Create a psychologically safe and candid environment, where everyone is comfortable to take risks. You will also learn a whole lot of the others’ past personal experiences.
  • Commit to the team and the team activities. Take the group experience as a professional one. Be prepared for meetings, arrive on time, get involved and complete the next steps afterwards. If everyone shows commitment, it’s much easier to tackle all the different challenges and it will make the time together much more enriching.
  • Have a course boss (CB) in charge of leading the team in each of the six to seven courses you’ll be taking in every period. This person knows everything about the agenda of the course, prepares better for the assignments and projects and is responsible for submitting all the work.
  • Work on your leadership skills. It’s a great opportunity to develop your leadership style. Be conscious about how you communicate with each other, about the team dynamics and keep referring to the learning goals. This will also be supported by the PLDP (Personal Leadership Development Programme).
  • Have A LOT of fun! Enjoy your group, listen to their stories, learn from them, laugh together. The better you get along the more pleasant and useful the experience will be. It’s not about having the perfect study group, it’s about making the most out of this learning opportunity.


  • Share inside information or complain about team members to the outside. What happens in the group stays in the group. The group should work like a team, all relying on each other and working together towards a common goal. You can solve your issues together (or with the coach’s help).
  • Focus on getting to answers/solutions quickly by taking shortcuts. Everyone knows there is a lot of information available about past courses but using them right from the beginning will ruin every learning opportunity. You can always check the solutions later if you are stuck or when you finish.
  • Split assignments. This way only one person will learn. The schedule at INSEAD is tight, but there’s enough time to do all the group assignments together. You will learn more, be more prepared for exams and be ready if you’re called out in class.
  • Have the expert cover the topic. INSEAD is a learning playground, it’s the perfect time to make mistakes, so get out of your comfort zone and embrace the unknown. If you have a finance background don’t be the course boss of Financial Accounting. Don’t take on an assignment and finish it as fast as possible, that’s not the goal. The goal is for you and your team to learn. With your expertise, you can help and guide others through the process, building also your leadership skills.

What has your study group experience been like? If you will be joining the INSEAD MBA, do you have any questions about the study groups? Please join the conversation and share your thoughts on the comment box below.