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How to survive group work at uni

Posted at 10 April 2019

6 thoughts you’ll have during group work at uni – and how to deal with conflict without resorting to murder

No student wants to hear the words “group assignment”.

Just organising yourself can be pretty difficult at uni, so having to sync brains, diaries and hangover schedules with four other students on different wavelengths – it can seem impossible.

We’re here to tell you that it isn’t (honestly). You’ll get through it, especially if you have our tips and tricks in your arsenal.

Before we get to that though, keep reading for some classic thoughts that are sure to go through your brain during group assignments.

Don’t insult my intelligence…

“Okay so once this guy stops talking absolute rubbish about being friends with celebrities and having an aunty that works in TV who would be SO happy to help out, we need to decide what actual work we’ll be doing for this project…”

Some people seem to spend more time talking about bells and whistles than actual substance and you might come away from your first meeting feeling vaguely excited but also kind of worried. After a couple more sessions, you’ll probably just feel worried and pretty offended that they thought you’d fall for this guff.

Be besties on your own time guys

“We get it, you have a best friend and you guys are in the same group. I have a bestie too and he’s at the pub right now. Reckon you could stop comparing Tinder profiles for 30 minutes so we can get this done??”

We’ll never understand people that want to procrastinate and slow everyone down – do they know there’s more fun things we could be doing?

WHO is that?

“Why does she keep saying that she’s in our group? I have never seen this girl before in my life…”

You might find yourself sending thoughts and prayers for the mystery character in your group, when you’ve been to every lecture and seminar (thereabouts, we’re only human), and you don’t remember ever meeting them. Don’t let them impact your grade though – our top tips will help you out.

This person can be hilar sometimes too, because nothing is ever their fault.


“Okay so, lots of us are shy and that’s 100% fine. But this is not about being shy. You are going out of your way not to speak to us and you seem pretty damn confident when you’re taking calls mid-convo. Who hurt you in the past?

There are some people who just don’t seem to care and there’s only so much you can do.

Can I rewrite that?

“I’m pretty sure I could do this to a better standard. They don’t seem to care much anyway… can I rewrite it?”

Pretty much, no. But if people are playing to their strengths this shouldn’t happen too much and you can still make suggestions or improve the work as a group. If you think they’ve really put no effort in at all, you’ll just need to let the tutor know in advance.

Let’s just get cracking next time

“Feeling really lazy... Should I put it out there that we’ve done enough for today and suggest sneaking off early? We can always do more at the next session.”

For some people (everyone?), this thought can follow them around way after uni, at work and in the gym to name just a couple of scenarios. Deadlines can come around really fast, and if you find yourself thinking this more than once, give your brain a slap on the hand – you’ll only end up mega stressed out if you let yourself off.

Our top tips

Tell the tutor. Snitches get stitches don’t they? NO, not in this case. Keep your tutor updated as you go along, and make sure you have an assigned task list and a paper trail of everybody agreeing to it, so you can prove which jobs should have been done by who and when. That way they can tell you what to do if someone isn’t pulling their weight – before it’s too late and you get a poor grade.

Make sure everyone is playing to their strengths. So we already kind of mentioned this above, but a chat about which parts your teammates will be most comfortable tackling could do the group the world of good.

Arrange post-meeting rewards. It can feel a bit bossy but somebody has to do it. Build an agenda in Excel to explain what each person needs to have achieved by the end of your weekly session (or otherwise), and suggest going for a drink or something to eat once everything is finished.
Who wouldn’t feel inspired by the thought of post-meeting pizza?

Follow a natural leader. Some people are just good at leading and they’ll help everyone to get motivated and structure things properly. If you don’t know who that is in your group, it could be you.

Do the best you can on your bits – and do them on time! It’s hard to confront someone who isn’t helping out. It’s even harder if you can’t prove that you’re trying your absolute hardest.

Try to enjoy it and take people with a pinch of salt. You never know what’s going on in their lives and you’ll have to do plenty more “group work” once you get a job.

What’s your experience of group work? Good? Bad? Hideous? Give us your top tips for dealing with issues on Twitter @clv_uk for a chance to appear in one of our posts, or head back to the blog to read more.