We're heading into exam season – and it just seems unfair that you're stuck inside studying instead of enjoying the first summer weather, doesn't it?
The solution? Studying as effectively as possible so you can spend more time enjoying the start of summer, without sacrificing your grades.
And the best way to do that? Making sure your studying techniques match your natural learning style. And focusing on the studying styles that work best for you – and ditching the ones that are (probably) just wasting your time.
In other words, making sure you can get better grades in less time. Here's how to do it.
First, Find Your Learning Style
While every person is unique, learning styles generally aren't. And scientists have found there are four learning styles that most people fit into.
You're a visual learner if ... you learn best by looking at charts, pictures and infographics. If you can "see" the info in your mind, you'll probably remember it.
You're an auditory learner if ... you learn best when you can chat about what's on the test. Conversation (even if you're talking to yourself!) helps you remember your notes better than reading them quietly.
You're a reading and writing learner if ... writing stuff down is the best way to remember everything – and writing your appointments down (either on paper or in your phone) is the best way to remember them.
You're a kinesthetic learner if ... typical study methods have always left you cold – but once you start getting hands-on experience, you've got it.
Don't worry if more than one of these learning styles sounds right. You could be a blend of two or more – and, good news, that means even more of the tips below will help you!
The Best Study Tips for Visual Learners
Visual learners learn best by – duh – visualizing the information. So your study methods should make it easy to "see" the concepts you'll be tested on. Here's what to do.
Use charts and graphs whenever you can. As a visual learner you should use as many visual cues as possible. Organizing the test material into easy-to-understand graphs will make them easier to remember.
Color code your notes. Some types of information just don't work in chart form – but you can still add visual cues to your notes! Use highlighters or markers to group similar information by color, so you'll more clearly link it together in your memory.
Write outlines and summaries. Sure, you can't "see" several pages' worth of notes in your mind – but maybe you can visualize a one-page outline or summary. Making an outline for each chapter (or the materials for each test) may help you retain the information better.
The Best Study Tips for Auditory Learners
Learning by listening and talking puts you at an advantage, since lectures should be extra effective study aids for you. Here's how to make the most of your study sessions.
Go to every class – and pay attention! Sounds obvious, right? Well, sure – but you'll have an easier time learning in-class than the average person, so take advantage of it!
Find a quiet place to study. As an auditory learner, you're prone to picking up anything that's going on in the background – and getting distracted from your study goals. If you can't find a place to study that's totally quiet, try listening to white noise or using noise-cancelling headphones.
Talk it out. You'll learn most effectively by talking about the test material (and listening to someone else chat about it). So find a study buddy to review your notes with – talking through the concepts will cement them in your mind.
The Best Study Tips for Reading and Writing Learners
Putting pen to paper (literally or metaphorically) is your best way to learn. So your study strategy, in a nutshell? Lots of notes.
Write and rewrite your notes. Jotting stuff down is the best way for you to recall future information – so get writing! Rewriting your notes after class allows you to learn via repetition, so you'll be able to remember the material more easily come test day.
Write down everything. Okay, you don't need to write down every "uh" and "um" that your prof says during lectures – but you should try to take the most detailed notes possible. Develop your own shorthand to take down notes quickly, and use these four simple tips for more effective notes.
Transform visual aids into written notes. While visual learners thrive studying charts, you probably don't. So when your prof gives you a chart of graph as part of your lecture notes, write down the crucial information and key takeaways from the graph in words, so you'll remember them better.
The Best Study Tips for Kinesthetic Learners
You learn best by doing – which, admittedly can be tough to do in some circumstances. Here's how to study most effectively as a hands-on learner.
Use a dedicated study space. Getting into the right mindset is especially key for kinesthetic learners, and you can get your mind into the study zone by having a dedicated study space. Try finding your fave corner of the library, or set up a desk at home that you use only for studying – so you know when you sit down, it's time to work!
Feel free to fidget. We'll be honest, most test material doesn't allow for much "hands on" learning. But repetitive physical activities can make it easier for you to concentrate and recall the information later. So chew gum, play with a ball or fiddle with your keys while you study – it'll help you stay focused.
Find a study buddy. Need to take a more hands-on role in your studying? Try playing teacher, and explain the test concepts to your study buddy to better engage with the study materials. You can also try this technique alone – just pretend you're lecturing to a packed classroom – to master the test materials.
About the Author
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Before launching her writing business, she worked as a TA and tutored students in biology, chemistry, math and physics.