When I was a student I struggled with vocabulary quizzes. To help me study, I would ask my friend to read off a word and I would attempt to give her the definition. After studying using this method, I would walk into my classes confident about acing my tests. To my dismay, I actually struggled to do well. The only assumption I could make at that time was that I had test anxiety. Years later I realized that ‘studying’ for tests and exams are not enough. How I studied had an impact on how I ultimately performed! I had no problem recognizing the definitions, but I was not able to confidently match them to the correct word in the first column on paper. This is because I listened to the words my friend was quizzing me on, but I had not taken the time to look at the actual words I was defining. When I saw the words on paper, I struggled to connect the verbal pronunciations I had heard with the actual letters that I saw.

Since I am a visual learner, studying in an audio learning style was a major deterrent to performing well.

I frequently run into parents who are baffled at how their high performing students get low ACT/SAT scores. The stark difference between GPA and ACT/SAT scores can be perplexing and difficult to reconcile. This is compounded when their student’s peers – who typically struggle in school and/or barely prepare – get exceptionally high scores. Why does this happen?

Like in my story, students struggle to perform well when there is a mismatch between how they study and their primary learning style. This issue is further compounded when the test format is not a match to a student’s learning style. A student’s future and dreams have the potential to blow up since college admission and scholarships depend on high ACT/SAT scores.

Discovering your own learning style can boost self-confidence, improve scores and open doors to a wide range of careers your student might not have considered.

So what are learning Styles?

All of us have our own unique learning style that impacts the way we learn. Our learning style is connected to how we prefer to receive information, and then how we refer to process that information. We learn through a combination of seeing, hearing and experiencing. However, for most of us one learning style stands out. Research shows that when students learn in a way that supports their learning style, they perform better on tests, improve grades and enjoy learning.

Let’s just say you are about to try something new. Which one of these sounds the most like you?

  • I prefer to HEAR someone tell me what to do

  • I prefer to SEE the instructions myself and look for images to help me understand what I need to do

  • I prefer to start DOING it and discover what needs to happen as I DO it

These three ways of tackling something new demonstrates three different learning styles.

  1. Audio learners learn by HEARing

  2. Visual learners learn to SEEing

  3. Kinesthetic learners learn by DOing

Let’s break each of them down, discover how they study best, and which test formats are best for each style.

Auditory Learners

Learn best with their ears and when the material is spoken to them.

They tend to:

  • Enjoy listening but can’t wait to talk. Talk to themselves a lot. Move their lips while reading as well as read out loud

  • Learn best when they hear their own voice. This is why they vocalize in the middle of a class, meeting or movie

  • Struggle with reading and writing tasks

  • Remember names, but not the face or appearance of someone they just met.

  • Explain things well

  • Natural listeners

  • Think linearly

  • Prefer to hear rather than read information

  • Be distracted by sounds

  • Follow spoken directions over written

  • Enjoy music

  • To be good at giving explanations and oral reports

  • Not afraid to speak in class

  • Like reading out loud

  • Interpret the underlying meanings of speech through listening to the tone of voice, pitch, speed, and other nuances. A raised voice might be an argument to them, but just ‘a discussion’ to those with a different style

  • Sometimes remember things by setting information to a tune or rhyme

  • Common phrases they may use: I hear what you’re saying, please describe it in more detail, tell me how to do it, and can you repeat what for me?

Studying suggestions for audio learners

  1. Try to get textbooks on tape

  2. Participate in class discussion and ask questions during class

  3. Use word association to remember facts and lines

  4. Record lectures and listen to them repeatedly again

  5. Watch videos

  6. Since they learn by hearing their own voice, they should process out loud alone or with someone else.

  7. Read notes out loud after writing them

  8. Watch videos

  9. Repeat facts with eyes closed

  10. Participate in group discussion

  11. Record notes after writing them and play back the recording

  12. Have someone read to you

Best test types: Oral exams. Writing responses to lectures they’ve heard.

Worse test types: Reading passages. Writing answers to timed test.

To Prep for ACT or SAT

  • Math – create a catchy jingle that centers on core mathematical principles

  • Listen to tutorials on YouTube and Ted Talk

  • Get the practice tests in audio form

  • Listen to audio -tapes to build your vocabulary

  • Listen to science and math articles to improve your critical thinking skills

Visual Learners

Learn best with their eyes. There are two kinds of visual learners.

Visual – linguistic learners tend to:

  • Learn through written language such as reading and writing

  • More likely to remember tasks if they write them down, even if they don’t go back to read them again.

Visual -Spatial learners tend to:

  • Have difficulty with written language and do better with diagrams, demonstrations, videos, maps, colorful charts and visual aids

  • Gaze into ‘space’ in the middle of a conversation to ‘picture’ what is being said (this can appear disrespectful to other learning styles)

  • Find it easy to visualize faces and places

  • Recall conversations based on where it happened

  • Easily distracted

  • Take detailed notes

  • Often choose to sit in front of the classroom

  • Common phrases they may use: I see what you’re saying, it’s clear cut, in light of, can you show me?

Studying suggestions for visual learners

  1. Color code notes – while studying underline as well as use highlighters, sticky notes, folders, and colored labels/flags. Organize your notes by assigning each subject a different color. This will reduce the amount of time it takes to access information both mentally and physically

  2. Organize your workspace so it flows well in your mind

  3. Draw or outline information you need to remember

  4. Copy what you see on the screen or board

  5. While studying events in – draw a map of events

  6. While studying subjects that have steps or processes – draw the process.

  7. Use flashcards

  8. Watch videos and look for instructional videos online

  9. Make lists

Best test types: Map reading. Diagram activities. Essay tests. Tests that require demonstrating a process.

Worse test types: Listen and respond tests

To Prep for ACT or SAT

  • Review formulas and shapes using index cards

  • Use colored highlights to make content association

  • Use flashcards to build vocabulary skills

  • Get study guides and prep tests from the companies that publish the tests. Map and draw

Kinesthetic Learners

Learn best through touch and doing activities using their hands.

They tend to:

  • Tend to be the slowest talkers of the three learning styles

  • Learn by being involved, touching and/or moving

  • Remember what was done rather then what was said or seen

  • Have to move in order to concentrate

  • Like hands-on approaches

  • Become easily distracted during a visual or auditory presentation. Will take notes so they can move their hands

  • Need the big picture first before getting the details

  • Need space to draw pictures, doodle, shake their leg, chew gum and fidget while you communicate helps them hear and learn more effectively

  • Use gestures when speaking and stand close when speaking or listening

  • Study with loud music

  • Suffer from short attention span

  • Enjoy adventure books and movies

  • Good at sports

  • Often they are poor spellers and will write words to determine if they “feel” right

  • Tend to drive visual learners crazy with their constant movement

  • Attack problems and express frustration physically – they’re your door slammers and fist pounders

  • Common phrase they may use: Can I try?

Studying suggestions for kinesthetic learners

  1. Use checklists to stay on top of material you’re learning

  2. Write all your notes

  3. Trace words or diagrams on paper to connect visual with physical

  4. Hands-on learning

  5. Study in small chunks

  6. Act out your study notes

  7. Study in groups

  8. Use flashcards and memory games

  9. Take field trips to reinforce knowledge

Best test types: Fill in the blanks. Multiple choices. Short definitions.

Worse test types: Essay tests. Long tests.

To Prep for ACT or SAT

  • Translate what you learn, hear and see into your own words – don’t copy

  • Sketch pictures and symbols in your notes

  • Draw and label geometric shapes, charts, and graphs

  • Walk while studying

When you target your own learning style and use these techniques, you’ll soon realize that you can remember and understand the material better and feel less stressed about tests. I’ve seen my clients find freedom in knowing their style and embrace learning with a renewed sense of joy!

Ready to discover how you learn? Contact me today!