General Education

Not a Good Test Taker? Consider Your Learning Style

Not a Good Test Taker? Consider Your Learning Style
Image from
Elizabeth Sanchez Quiñones profile
Elizabeth Sanchez Quiñones March 19, 2014

To be a star test-taker requires a bit of soul searching and strategy. Learn how to improve your test-taking skills by figuring out your optimal learning style.

Article continues here

You’ve been told countless times how to study for an exam: Use memorization, put together a chart, write out your notes, create a list, and so on. Perhaps the best way to study is to leverage the way you process information.

Previous research suggested that there was no scientific basis for learning styles, according to a psychologist at the University of Virginia. However, a researcher from Princeton University recently found that changes in pupil size reveal whether people are using their most comfortable learning styles or learning styles they find difficult to use.

Instead of being told how you should study, take cues from your learning style to achieve true studying success. If you’re not sure what your learning style is, find out with this quiz from Edutopia. There are many kinds of learning styles that fit into three basic types: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

Visual learners can remember information best when it’s conveyed through graphs, charts, or pictures. They best memorize concepts by envisioning the information. They learn better by watching lectures.

Auditory learners retain information through hearing and speaking. They often prefer to be told how to do things and then summarize those points out loud. Auditory learners tend to interpret the underlying meaning of a lecture or speech through listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed, and other nuances.

Kinesthetic learners like to use a hands-on approach to learning. Visually seeing how something is done helps the kinesthetic learner fully grasp concepts that they can see, touch, hear, or smell. This is particularly appropriate for math and science learning. Learning in a group makes a lot of sense for this kind of learner because the studying because an enhanced learning experience.

Study Tips for Visual Learners

Compile your notes and create a visual of the study material. Graphs, charts, and pictures are your friends. Feel free to go on YouTube and find some relevant videos about solving a math problem, or watch a video of a lecturer discussing the French Revolution.

Study Tips for Auditory Learners

Read over your notes out loud. Have a conversation with yourself about the material or grab a friend and talk about the events your exam will cover. Download podcasts on the material you need to know to really get yourself familiar with the material.

Study Tips for Kinesthetic Learners

Sometimes you can’t make learning an experience, especially since the library might be too dull of an environment for that. Join or start a study group with like-minded students who study the way you do. Or head to the gym with your textbook and notes, and read while on the stationary bike or treadmill. Find an empty classroom and practice those math equations on the blackboard (or smartboard). Make learning fun in your dorm room by creating flashcards of the material.

Bonus Tips for All Learners

Set up a system of rewards and repercussions to help turn studying into a game. If you don’t get the answer right, do jumping jacks or sit ups. When you get a set number of answers right, reward yourself with mini breaks. Taking breaks has been proven to improve productivity.

Finding your studying style is a journey. You might have thought that you were an auditory learner, but then realized that podcasts are boring. Perhaps you’d prefer to make learning interactive like a kinesthetic learner. That’s totally fine. It’s all about learning what methods make you most excited.

View education as a lifelong endeavor even outside of the classroom. Knowing what makes you passionate now will set you up to being a subject matter expert down the road—whether that’s being the go-to person to learn about a fantasy football strategy or being the person whose up-to-date on foreign policy.


Neighmond, P. (2011, August 29). Think you're an auditory or visual learner? scientists say it's unlikely. Retrieved from NPR

Zandonella, C. (2013, July 11). Pupil study reveals learning styles, brain activity (nature neuroscience). Retrieved from Princeton University Blog

Three learning styles. (n.d.). Retrieved from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Grim, K. (n.d.). Characteristics of an auditory learner. Retrieved from Lehigh University

Korkki, P. (2012, June 16). To stay on schedule, take a break. Retrieved from The New York Times

Photo courtesy of <a href="" target=_"blank">m00by

Brought to you by Chegg Study