We all know what it takes to study hard, but how about what you need to know to study smarter?
We only need to glance around a classroom, library, or boardroom to see the ways we learn best vary greatly between ourselves and our neighbours.
While some of us thrive in silence, others focus better with a study song to aid concentration. While your classmate might relish hitting the books amid organised chaos, you might be more productive in a dedicated study space.
A whole host of influences can impact your ability to study effectively, but your preferred learning style may be one of the most important factors to consider.
What is a learning style?
Your learning style is the way in which you learn best. Most people generally favour auditory learning, visual learning or kinaesthetic learning. But what do these mean, and how do you know which learning style is right for you?
If you’re a kinaesthetic (or tactile) learner, you’re likely to love sports or creative arts and grasp ideas better when you can be physical or hands-on. Instead of sitting and listening to a lecture, you’d rather:
- Take classes with a lab component
- Physically touch something, or pull it to pieces, to understand it
- Go on a field trip to explore the topic you’re studying
- Build a model
Want to tap into your tactile learning style to ace those upcoming exams? You’ll be more efficient when you can include some physical activity into your study session, so take regular short breaks to get up from your chair.
Consider squeezing a stress ball as you write notes, or pace the room as you read or listen to study guides. Staying active will help you process information, so even if you’re at your desk, the motion of tapping the keys of your keyboard will help keep you focused.
If you’re a visual learner, you’ll learn most efficiently when information is presented in visual formats such as pictures, diagrams or words. You’re more likely to enjoy reading or watching films in your down-time. Instead of using your hands to take in information, you’d rather:
- Read and re-read text
- Take detailed written notes
- Draw mind maps and pictures to remember information
- Skip a lecture but take a handout summary
- Watch an online video highlighting practical aspects over theory
To study smarter as a visual learner, utilise visual resources like videos and flashcards. Create visual memory links with mind-maps, diagrams and charts, and highlight important information. Draw pictures and symbols alongside your written notes, and try visualising your charts and illustrations when recalling information.
If you’re an auditory learner, you’ll process and retain information best when it’s presented as something you can listen to. You’re likely to always be plugged into your iPod, or perhaps playing an instrument of your own. Instead of reading, you’d rather:
- Listen to a lecture or watch it online
- Participate in a group discussion
- Listen to audio lessons or texts
- Read aloud to help process information
- Study with a buddy and quiz each other on facts
To maximise your study time as an auditory learner, use as many recorded resources as possible, or create your own. Listen to audio lectures, or read your notes aloud and record them so you can listen back to them later and help them sink in. You might even swap the words of your favourite song out for facts and equations to help make them memorable.