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The importance of understanding your learning style

By Veronica Merry.


There are many different learning style theories that have been developed, however, my favourite theory is VAK – visual-auditory-kinaesthetic.


Visual learners

Visual learners prefer to learn by reading and seeing. You will recognise a visual learner in meetings as an avid note-taker. If they were constructing a piece of IKEA furniture, they would read the manual before starting. Visual learners have a clear advantage in achieving academic success, especially in learning online.


Tips for visual learners to make studying easier:

  • Write summary notes of course content in your own words.
  • Use mind mapping tools, acronyms, or draw pictures to remind you of content.
  • For improved learning performance, test your knowledge by picturing what your summary notes look like in your mind and writing what you see down on a blank piece of paper. Compare what you wrote to your summary notes and highlight what you forgot.
  • For improved writing performance, as you read journal articles, make notes in your assignment template on the author, the top 3 points and which argument you will use the research for.

Auditory learners

Auditory learners prefer to learn by listening and talking about what they’ve learned. You will recognise an auditory learner at work as the person who might be talking to themselves as they write! Or has to block out the office noise by listening to music as they work.


Tips for auditory learners to make learning easier:

  • Listen to recordings of the content. Pause every 5 minutes and verbalise what you just heard as if you are teaching the content to someone else to boost retention.
  • Join a study group. If you are an online student, consider hosting regular Skype calls to share ideas and discuss learnings.
  • Try to attend any face-to-face workshops that are offered if you can. Auditory learners tend to prefer to learn socially, so ensure that you take advantage of any opportunities your university provides for connection with your peers.
  • For improved learning performance, make your own audio summaries of course content. I use ‘Voice Memos’ which came inbuilt into my iPhone to make the recordings. I listen to them in the car, or on the bus on the way to work, or as I’m cleaning the house. As auditory learning is my dominant preferred style, I can truly say that this method works like a charm and is very handy when exams are fast approaching.
  • For improved writing performance, engage in discussions on the course forum. Don’t just lurk – get involved! Ask questions and check your understanding of content. Also, after you’ve written a paragraph of your assignment, speak it out loud. Ask yourself: ‘is that what I really wanted to say?’.

Kinaesthetic learners

Kinaesthetic learners prefer to learn by doing. At work they tend to be action-oriented and prefer to engage in trial and error as opposed to over-planning. They give it a go, learning from the challenges they face and leveraging successes as they progress.


Tips for kinaesthetic learners to make studying easier:

  • Listen to recorded lectures but move as you do so. Perhaps go for your daily walk as you listen to the audio recording. When you recall the information, make the association with where you were as you learned the new information for increased retention.
  • Complete the questions and problems at the end of text book chapters.
  • For improved learning performance, practice completing practice exams in the allotted time. Visualise yourself walking into the exam room and calmly completing each question without a worry in the world. Stretch out your arms or move your head from side to side in between questions to refocus.
  • For improved writing performance, plan out a series of writing sessions in the lead up to the due date. Use a free dictation app like ‘Dragon Dictation’ via the App store for iPhone users or ‘Dragon Mobile Assistant’ at the Google Play store for android users. It enables you to speak and instantly see your text, allowing you to move around as you write your assignment. Mind you it doesn’t always pick up every word perfectly but it’s a hell of a lot better than starting from scratch!

Some final thoughts on learning styles

Most people tend have a dominant learning style but this is not to say that they won’t utilise the other styles as well. For example, even though my dominant preferred style is auditory, I like to take summary notes and use acronyms to aide my memory recall which is a visual learning technique. However, I will tend to voice out loud what I have just written for maximum retention.

I cannot recommend highly enough to find out your learning style through this online test and adjust your studying techniques accordingly. Knowing my style has saved me so much time and makes study session so much more productive!


What is your learning style?

About the Author

Veronica Merry (MerryCoach) is passionate about helping people and organisations learn, adapt and evolve to achieve their vision. Veronica has over 17 years’ experience in designing and delivering learning programs across a broad range of disciplines including organisation development, change management, leadership and performance development, mentoring and coaching.  Contact Veronica to help you design and deliver your next organisational development program.


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