How to study for a test

Best Study Techniques for Your Learning Style

All students learn through a combination of seeing, hearing, and experiencing. However, for most students, one learning style stands out. Research has shown that students who study in a way that supports their learning style can perform better on tests and improve their grades.
 
For example, visual learners sometimes struggle during essay exams because they can't recall test material that was presented orally during class. However, if the visual learner uses a visual aid when studying, like a colorful outline of test materials, he or she may retain more information.
 
As you develop your study habits in school, it’s important to understand what type of learner you are so you can craft your learning techniques around that. After all, if you can identify techniques that play to your strengths, your chances of remembering information and doing well in school significantly increase.
 
There are three types of learning styles: visualauditory and kinesthetic. In this article, we’ll identify the characteristics of each style and offer some tips to help you optimize the style that fits you best.

 Visual Learners

Characteristics:


Visual learners are those who learn through seeing. Visual learners typically share the following characteristics:

  • Good at spelling, but forget first names

  • Find quiet study time beneficial

  • Enjoy colors and fashion

  • Dream in color

  • Understand visual elements and charts

  • Able to learn sign language easily

Learning Suggestions for Visual Learners:


Take Notes in Class. Visual learners have a tough time remembering every word the teacher says. That’s why it is critical to take notes during class. Be sure you also write down what is written on the board. Once class has ended, re-read and re-write your notes since that process of reading and seeing the words will help commit the information to memory.

Write Outlines. One of the best ways to prep for school exams is to outline your material. This process is especially useful for those who learn best through sight because thinking through the material – and writing it in outline form – will help you create a visual pattern that’s easy for you to understand and recall clearly for exams.

Mark Up Your Materials. Multi-colored highlighters are a visual learner’s best friend because you will remember what you read based on the colors on the paper. Assign each color a value that you’ll need to recall and then use the appropriate colors as you read your class materials and notes. For example, highlight the issue in yellow; the theory in green, etc.

Other Suggestions:

  • Draw a map of events in history or draw a scientific process

  • Diagram sentences

  • Use flashcards

  • Watch videos


Auditory Learners

Characteristics:

Auditory learners are those who learn best through hearing. They typically share the following characteristics:

  • Like to read out loud

  • Unafraid to speak up in class

  • Good at giving explanations and oral reports

  • Remember names

  • Notice sound effects in movies

  • Enjoy music

  • Able to follow spoken directions

  • Struggle to stay quiet for long periods of time

  • Focused in study groups

Learning Suggestions for Auditory Learners:


Record Lectures. Your first priority as an auditory learner is to pay attention during class lectures since listening is how you will retain information. You will also benefit from recording the lecture on your smartphone. Then make time to listen to the recordings after class and write notes from the information.

Talk Out Answers. If you’re an auditory learner, you probably find yourself talking out loud even when you don’t realize it. It’s like you are – literally – hearing yourself think. When you’re studying with sample essay questions, read the questions and answers out loud. Keep in mind you should write the answers on paper as you speak them since your exams are not oral.

Use Word Association. Word association is a great way for auditory learners to study and remember facts. Mnemonic devices, such as songs or rhymes, are great to pair with your notes and outlines. Your brain will automatically recall the song and the information it represents.

Other Suggestions:

  • Study with a partner or group

  • Repeat facts with eyes closed

  • Participate in class and group discussions

  • Use audio for language practice


Kinesthetic Learners

Characteristics:


Kinesthetic learners are those who learn through hands-on experience. Kinesthetic learners typically share the following characteristics:

  • Good at sports

  • Can't sit still for long

  • May have sloppy handwriting

  • Learn well through lab and modeling activities

  • Study with music

  • Enjoy adventure books and movies

  • Fidgety during lectures

Learning Suggestions for Kinesthetic Learners:


Create Flow Charts. Since kinesthetic learners study best by doing, building a structure for your notes will help your mind comprehend the information and recognize patterns easily.
Create flowcharts and graphs in a visual way when you re-write your notes and outline information. For example, use different color Post-it notes to create flowcharts on whiteboards and empty walls. The act of creating the flowchart will help you retain the information.

Combine an Activity with Studying. Kinesthetic learners retain information best when they are doing activities. Try exercising or going for a walk while listening to audio recordings of lectures and notes.

Keep Your Fingers Busy While Studying. One way to enhance your learning is to engage your fingers in the studying. For example, trace words and re-write sentences to learn key facts. Typing your notes and using the computer is another great way to reinforce learning through sense of touch.

Other Suggestions:

  • Study in short blocks

  • Take lab-based classes

  • Act out your study notes

  • Take field trips to reinforce knowledge

  • Study in groups

  • Use flashcards and memory games

 
In summary, students generally tend to favor one learning style more than another, but most people are a mix of two or maybe even three different styles. Whether you’re a visual, auditory, of kinesthetic learner, try a few of these study tips to see which works best for you, and use your strengths to be the most successful student you can be! 

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Tips for Academic Success

Finding the right routine:

Allowing enough time to get ready for class, study for an exam, or complete an assignment can be tricky.  The key is to always do what must be done first. This usually involves studying, reading, projects, and weekly homework assignments. Worry about what can be done later, after completing what needs to be done now. If you’re getting ready for a test, don’t check text messages, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, or start any Google internet searches. Enjoy the entertainment side of things after the task at hand is completed.  This strategy reduces a lot of stress that comes with doing things last minute: waiting to study the night before, starting your paper the week it’s due, working on your presentation the morning of, etc. 

Try to stick to a routine or tentative schedule.  This is because time management can be tough for some students. Mainly, because students overestimate the amount of time they have for a task and underestimate how much time it will take for them to do it. All of the student's professional meetings, such as counseling or tutoring, should be pre-arranged.  Most students do well with structure, so meeting at the same time and on the same day works best.

 

Staying focused:

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Students usually retain more information when they study in different locations. If possible, change the studying location from time to time. There are students that do better in a busy area – think of your local public library, the school’s library, Panera Bread, Starbucks, Barnes N Noble, worship center, community center, etc.  Then, there are other students that know they must have silence. These students may prefer a bedroom, basement, home office, private study room, even their home patio, or sun-room.  In case you didn't know, the best place to study is outside. So, try to change the study location when you can!  

You can put your phone across the room or in another room and leave it there.  If you want to check your messages from your friends, you have to get up and walk to it.  Students say that this significantly limits the amount of phone distractions.  If this is too hard for you, set the timer for 15  minutes, and work as hard as you can during that time.  When the timer goes off, get up, check your messages for one minute, and then get back to work.

Playing songs by your favorite artist is fine for routine assignments that do not require too much. However, music should not be played when intensely studying for a big exam. Playing music can negatively impact long-term retrieval.  

When students are having a tough time getting started with homework, it’s always a good idea to begin with an easy task, followed by a difficult one, and then an easy assignment again.  

 

Being organized:

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Record all school assignments on a calendar. You can use a tablet, laptop, smart phone, desktop, or a wall calendar. Record the final due date and then set incremental due dates and associated tasks to get it done on time. By week one, perhaps your topic and introduction should be completed. Then, going into the second week, start doing research on supporting points and arguments.  When large tasks, like a final paper or studying for a mid-term, are broken down into direct, manageable chunks, they are more likely to be completed on time. For instance, if a test is coming up on Friday, the student should record tasks like “complete 1-10 review problems on page 19” and “create flashcards for math steps,” etc. on Monday or Tuesday.  Being specific with your tasks can be far superior to simply jotting down a vague reminder like “study for my math test.”

Tasks that you record should be no more than 30-35 minutes.  When tasks end up taking longer, students are far more likely to procrastinate and avoid doing it altogether.  

Every student should schedule a “binder and backpack sweep” session to help stay organized. Set aside 30 minutes each week and conduct a clean out.  Sundays are perfect for doing this. This also lets the student plan ahead for the week – what’s due and when, starting a long-term assignment, and planning what to work on.  Enter the 30-minute clean sweep on your phone calendar, monthly planner, room calendar, or make sticky notes to remind yourself.

 

Reading and studying:

Active reading should be utilized when preparing for an exam.  Active reading includes writing notes in the margins and highlighting pertinent information.  As reading becomes more complex, these strategies help students to understand more advanced topics. 

Tips:
Read one section at a time.  After you’re done, go back and highlight the important information. The color of the highlighter does not matter at all. Yellow, blue, green, pink, or orange - just pick one!    

Use margin notes. Margin notes are another interactive way of studying. It’s better than just reading the information and moving along. In short phrases, summarize the main points in the margins of text books. Doing so, will help with retaining the information that was read.  

Engage in “self chat” at the end of each section.  The student should ask, “What did I just read here?” or “What’s the takeaway from this section?”  Self chat helps students comprehend what they are reading better.

If you are reading, try the SCAN strategy.  Simply put, before reading do the following:

S = Survey Headings and Turn Them into Questions
Find each heading, and change it into a question.
C = Capture the Captions and Visuals
Review pictures or charts and read the captions beside them.
A = Attack Boldface Words
Hone in on the terms in bold; read these words to gain an understanding of the main idea.
N = Note and Read the Chapter Questions
Check out the questions at the end of the chapter.

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