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Tips for Powerful Revising – How Identifying Learning Styles Can Help You Study

In this article, we’ll look at the different kinds of learning styles and how identifying how you learn best could help you learn how to study more effectively.


Chances are, there are some subjects you love and do really well at and others that you just can’t get your head around, right? Well, according to research conducted throughout the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s, it might not just be the content of those lessons that is leaving you struggling, but the way they are being taught.


Now, we’re not for a second pointing the finger at teachers by saying this; some subjects naturally allow students to learn in more engaging and practical ways than just studying text books and writing pages and pages of notes. However, the research found that - like almost everything in life - there was no ‘one size fits all’ solution to studying effectively; people learn best in different ways. This means that a lesson format that works well for one student may not work well for another.



The VARK Model


In 1987, a teacher and theorist called Neil Fleming introduced the VARK model; a theory that students could be placed into categories based on the learning style they found most effective.


The four core learning styles identified in the VARK model are:


Visual Learners
  • Learn best by ‘seeing’

  • Respond well to demonstrations and visually pleasing presentations

  • Think in pictures and enjoy doodling, drawing and creating mind maps

  • Like to create an association between a concept and an image or symbol

  • Is generally creative and artistic

  • Helpful learning tools include graphic displays such as charts, diagrams, flash cards, illustrations, videos and handouts


Aural Learners
  • Aural (or auditory) learners learn best by listening and verbalising

  • They respond well when things are read aloud so will thrive in lectures

  • They listen for keywords and phrases and tend to remember the information they are told

  • Thinks in a linear fashion

  • Helpful learning tools include word play (such as rhymes and acronyms) podcasts and audiobooks


Read-Write Learners
  • Read-write learners learn best by reading about a subject and writing notes

  • They most likely take a lot of notes in class and are good at translating lessons into words

  • They organise their thoughts by making lists

  • They enjoy reading and easily understand explanations when they are written down on paper or flash cards


Kinesthetics Learners
  • Kinesthetics learners (or tactile learners) prefer a ‘hands-on’ approach to learning

  • They use multiple senses to engage with the subject

  • They learn through trial and error

  • They generally have a short attention span

  • Helpful learning tools include experiments and problem solving


The VARK model has since been expanded further to include:


Logical Learners – logical learners have a mathematical brain and can easily comprehend concepts and patterns. They like to group ideas into common categories.


Social Learners – social learners can communicate well both verbally and non-verbally. They often have an empathetic nature and are quite sensitive. Social learners might prefer learning through study groups, discussions and quizzes.


Solitary Learners – in direct contrast, solitary learners prefer to learn on their own and have complete focus on their subjects. They may make notes or create flash cards and recite them back to themselves


Criticism of Learning Styles


Like any theory, the VARK model has its critics with some feeling that categorising students into only being able to learn in one particular way could hinder their studies.


However, in the main, both students and teachers accept the concept. In fact, a survey of teachers in 2012 found that 93% of schoolteachers in the UK agreed that ‘individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style’ and in 2014 it was found that 76% of UK schoolteachers used learning styles in their lessons.


What’s Your Learning Style?


So, how do you find out what your learning style is and harness it as your revision superpower? Read on.


To find out your possible learning style try asking yourself some questions about how you enjoy learning and what techniques have worked best for you in the past.


Here are some possible questions you could ask yourself to get started:


Visual Learners

  • Are aesthetics, art and beauty important to you?

  • Do you need to see information in order to remember it?

  • Do you often draw mind maps or flow charts to help you process information?

  • Does visualising information in your mind help you to recall it?

If you answered ‘yes’ to most of these questions then you may be a visual learner. Try introducing more graphs and mind maps into your revision.


Aural Learners

  • Do you remember information better if you read it out loud?

  • Do you prefer to listen to lectures rather than study a text book?

  • Does creating rhymes or songs help you remember things?

  • Does the idea of re-listening to a recording of a lecture appeal more than reading over your class notes?

If you had more positive answers to the questions above then you may be an auditory learner. Try introducing podcasts or creating a recording of your own notes and explanations and use it as part of your revision.


Read-Write Learners

  • Do you find you learn a lot just by reading a text book?

  • Do you enjoy creating presentations and making lists?

  • Do you write a lot of notes in class and make notes whilst you read textbooks?

  • Do you like it when teachers provide handouts?

If you answered yes to most of the questions above then you probably have a leaning towards the read-write learning style so continue to write notes and thoughts down in order to learn it.


Kinesthetics Learners

  • Do you excel at applied activities such as art, home economics, woodwork and sports?

  • Do you enjoy experiments and performing hands on tasks that involve different objects and materials?

  • Do you learn something best by practising it?

  • Do you find it difficult to sit still for long periods of time?

If you answered positively to most of the questions above then you could benefit from adopting some of the recommended kinesthetics learning styles. Look for ways in which you can introduce practical tasks into the way you learn your revision notes.


Multimodal Learning Style


As we mentioned earlier on, there is no one size fits all solution to studying effectively. You may well have answered yes to questions in more than one category which means you could try a mix of the learning styles suggested for each.


Or, perhaps try varying the revision methods depending on the subject or topic you are studying – this is known as multimodal style. For example, for art revision you might try being more hands on and painting in the style of the artist you are studying – utilising your visual and kinesthetics techniques. If you rely on read-write learning styles you could write a short story about a famous person you’re revising for an English Literature, Religious Studies or History exam.


Revision Techniques – Keep it Personal


The key to using learning styles to learn or revise effectively is to not be afraid to try new things.


Gone are the days when students were expected to revise purely by sitting at a desk in silence re-writing the contents of a text book onto sheets and sheets of paper. There are other more visual and practical ways to learn about facts, theories and events and the trick is to find the ones that excite and engage you and help you best learn.


Revision Flashcards


Revision flashcards are an incredibly useful revision tool and can be used for revision no matter what your preferred learning style may be.


Here are some examples:


Visual Learner


Use the front of the card to create diagrams, sketches or symbols that relate to the information you need to recall then use the back of the card to handwrite the fact or theory the drawing relates to.


Aural Learner


Write keywords or dates as prompts on one side of the card and explanations or facts on the reverse then use them to test yourself, speaking the answers out loud before turning the card over and checking whether your answer was correct or incorrect.


Read-Write Learner


Flash cards are a fantastic way to condense pages and pages of notes into essential facts you must recall in an exam. You could try revisiting old exam papers online and writing some of the questions on one side of the flash card and the correct answer on the reverse. Test yourself by only looking at the questions on the cards and writing the answers in your notebook in a short and concise way. Then mark your paper using the answers on the reverse of each flash card. The ones you got incorrect can be added to the next ‘test’.


Kinesthetics Learner


Flash cards can work well for those who enjoy more practical revision techniques because the process of making the flash cards and flipping through them will appeal to your need to move your hands. You could also try role playing the test situation in the room you study in.


Remember, there is no one size fits all solution to learning. Go with whatever style suits you best. Good luck!


Check our our range of revision stationery in our online shop.


For more revision tips and advice visit our revision advice blog.

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