Looking for ways to improve your studies? Whether it’s understanding how best to approach complex subjects or managing your time better during exam season, what doesn’t get talked about nearly enough is how our individual learning preferences influence our study habits. While we often think about preferences in terms of what we like, preferences are also about instinct and playing to your strengths. Rather than continuing down the road of just doing things as always, what if you aligned what feels right with what works best, giving your study skills a natural edge?
3 main learning styles
You may have heard people talking about different learning styles. Often conversations are quite general; however, there’s significant educational and neuroscience research that’s been undertaken to establish how these style preferences can be modeled for learning, teaching, and studying. Each style has distinct characteristics, although people tend to have some overlap between styles, with a more dominant style reported.
The three key learning styles are:
- Visual learning (around 65% of people)
- Auditory learning (around 30% of people)
- Kinesthetic/tactile learning (around 5% of people)
People find they can recognize themselves within a style quite easily, such as Visual learners liking to use images while studying, Auditory learners opting to participate in group discussions to process information, and Kinesthetic learners finding they need to be in motion to effectively comprehend a concept.
Study Medicine Europe created a thorough infographic to help you discover your learning style and develop smarter study techniques based on that style. Not only does this graphic provide detailed tips and facts, but it also addresses the nuances of social vs. solitary learners. Read on for the full resource below.
Created by Study Medicine Europe
How to study smarter by discovering your learning style
Research shows that everyone learns differently. Gaining a better awareness of how your brain processes information can help refine your study technique and boost your chances of academic success.
Study smarter, not harder
Discovering your unique learning style can help you:
- Develop strategies to make your study time more productive
- Better prepare yourself for classes, lectures, and exams
- Communicate more effectively with your instructors about your needs
- Take the stress and frustration out of the revision process
- Gain insight into your strengths, weaknesses, and habits as a student
Related: 5 Study Smart Tips for All Students
What’s your learning style?
The majority of people have a mix of learning styles with one dominant style. You may also find that you use different styles in different circumstances.
65% of learners fall into this category.
Are you a visual learner?
- Do you learn best by sight?
- Can you easily visualize things in your mind?
- Do you prefer to see something demonstrated rather than hear it verbally explained?
- When reading, do you tend to visualize images in order to better understand the text?
5 effective study techniques for visual learners
1. Supplement your notes with visual aids such as diagrams, charts, images, and videos.
2. Use flashcards to help you memorize important information.
3. Use color-coded highlighting to mark out key concepts in your textbooks and notes.
4. Watch related documentaries and videos to reinforce your knowledge.
5. When brainstorming, draw mind maps to help you understand how ideas are related.
30% of learners fall into this category.
Are you an auditory learner?
- Do you find it easiest to remember information that has been explained in class?
- Do you have strong oral communication skills and a well-developed vocabulary?
- Do you prefer to think aloud?
- Do you enjoy participating in group discussions?
5 effective study techniques for auditory learners
1. If you can get consent, record your lectures.
2. Record yourself reciting notes from class.
3. Explain concepts aloud to others.
4. Make flashcards to review aloud.
5. Read written material aloud then restate it in your own words. Close your eyes to eliminate visual distractions.
3. Kinesthetic or tactile learning
5% of learners fall into this category.
Are you a kinesthetic or tactile learner?
- Do you prefer to learn by engaging in “hands-on” activities?
- Do you tend to concentrate better when movement is involved?
- Do you dislike sitting still while working?
- Do you prefer to see someone do something then try it yourself?
5 effective study techniques for kinesthetic/tactile learners
1. Copy important notes repeatedly in different formats (e.g., mind maps, flash cards, bullet points, etc.).
2. When memorizing, recite the material aloud while pacing around the room.
3. Study in short periods. Take regular set breaks during which you get up and stretch your legs.
4. In your notes, give examples of how you can apply the study topic to your life.
5. If possible, physically practice concepts.
Are you a solitary or social learner?
Social/interpersonal learners prefer:
- Studying in groups
- One-on-one tutoring
- Learning from mentors
- Group discussions
Solitary/intrapersonal learners prefer:
- Taking a private, introspective, and self-directed approach to study
- Quiet and secluded study spaces
- Creating planning tools such as lists, goals, priorities, and agendas
10 tips for a productive study session
- Stay hydrated.
- Create a dedicated study environment that is suitably quiet and equipped with everything you need.
- Take breaks during which you leave the study space and move about.
- Don't push yourself too hard—stop studying if you feel tired or lose focus.
- Set small, specific, realistic goals to stay motivated.
- Opt for healthy snacks such as almonds, dark chocolate, fruit salad, or yogurt.
- Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule and avoid all-nighters.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your teacher or classmates.
- Plan your time by using organizational tools such as alarms, calendars, and to-do lists.
- If your study session has been particularly productive, reward yourself with fun activities.
We hope this infographic helped you better understand yourself as a learner. All students have the potential to be great learners, but they also need the right tools, resources, and knowledge to reach that potential. Use these tips to refine your learning style and be more productive in your academic life.