There is no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to studying. In fact, there are four distinct learning styles in the VARK model — visual, audio, research/writing and kinetic — which drastically affect the way you process and retain information. By figuring out your unique learning style, you can maximize your study session productivity and feel confident in preparing for finals.
If you remember things best after looking at graphs, charts or diagrams, you might be a visual learner. As the name would suggest, these types of learners need to see information in order to remember and process it. Visual learners comprise roughly over half of the population, so it’s the most common style, but many people don’t know how to tailor their studying to fit this method of learning. Tips for visual learners are to take thorough and detailed notes, create color-coded flashcards, and make diagrams, charts or timelines outlining the information you want to study. Watching videos online about the topic that you’re studying can also help conceptualize the information better than just reading it. A good rule of thumb for visual learners is to use colors to categorize information. For example, highlighting different ideas and themes with specific colors can help make the information more organized and easier to process. Watch out for clutter in your study space and try to keep your environment as tidy and organized as possible to avoid any visual distractions.
Auditory learning — remembering information better when it’s heard — is the second-most common learning style. To maximize their studying, auditory learners should record and re-listen to lectures, review notes and flashcards aloud, and discuss class material with peers. Study groups are a great help for auditory learners as they provide the opportunity for discussion and verbal processing. Try to use office hours and seek tutoring if you need extra help, as talking through materials will be more useful than just looking at them. Using jingles and rhymes to remember specific facts is another excellent strategy, as well as reading from textbooks and assignments out loud. If you’re an auditory learner, try to study away from distracting noise, like loud music and conversations, as this will easily break your focus. Seek quiet locations to study and turn off your phone so that you won’t be tempted to check your notifications.
Reading/writing learners are a mix between tactile learners and visual learners. People with this learning style remember information best after reading and then writing assignments or class notes. Have a notebook or loose paper handy to write down detailed notes, including key definitions. Be prepared to write down the same thing multiple times as the repetition will help solidify the information in your memory. Reading/writing learners should write their first set of notes verbatim and then practice rewriting them in their own words.
Kinesthetic learning is the chameleon of the VARK model as this learning style is often supported by one or more of the other methods. Kinesthetic learners are the rarest and they process and retain information best during physical activity, whether that be drawing a model of a cell or pacing the room while reading notes. Unconventional study methods work for those with this learning style, like physically acting out concepts. The Pomodoro technique, where you study in 25-minute intervals before taking a five-minute break in-between for four consecutive cycles before taking a longer 15-30 minute break, can be great for kinesthetic learners who have a lot of energy and struggle to sit still for long periods of time. Watch out for giving yourself too many breaks or not spending enough time on one subject. Because kinesthetic learners have a lot of energy and don’t do as well in traditional classroom settings as the other learning styles, they can become distracted easily. Avoid static study sessions which last more than an hour without a break so that you don’t lose focus and waste time reading without actually comprehending the material.
You can take the VARK test here to figure out your learning style.