In our last learning styles blog, we introduced the four main learning styles--Visual, Kinesthetic, Auditory, Reading and Writing--and discussed how knowing your learning style can help you study more efficiently. But many of you asked, how can knowing my learning style help me study for the SAT and ACT?
Focus is key to learning and your learning style taps into your power to pay attention. When information is presented in a style that matches your strengths, it makes it more engaging and easier to process and retain!
Neurons that Fire Together, Wire Together
Neuroscientist Donald Hebb had the idea that “neurons that fire together, wire together.” What does this mean? Learning in a style matched to your strengths builds strength in other modes of learning too!
This is great news for kinesthetic and auditory learners since standardized tests tend to favor visual and reading/writing learners. Use your learning style to build neural connections during the study process! Once you have those connections, even your less preferred learning styles can tap into your newfound knowledge. Those neurons that were fired together during prep, are now wired together for optimal performance on test day.
Does it sound too good to be true? Recent fMRI studies provide evidence. Participants were asked to visualize themselves playing tennis. Brain scans revealed that this activated cortical regions involved in motor movement. Even though they were only thinking of themselves moving, their brains were acting like they were actually moving!
Study Tips for Each Learning Style
- Code your learning. You can use colors to code question types on practice test sections. For example, in the Reading Comprehension section, code main idea questions yellow and detail questions blue. If you don’t like using colors, try using symbols instead. A magnifying glass can be for “detail” questions and a lightbulb for “main idea” questions. You can also use these symbols to annotate the readings!
- Diagramming sentences is a great way to visualize sentence structure, especially when it comes to pesky grammar questions. And, it’s a surefire way to improve your writing skills!
- Use and create visual aids. For example, the unit circle is a great tool for those pesky trigonometry questions n the math sections. Charts can also be a great way to visually organize related information, like all those many linear equation forms.
- Move when you are studying. When you are studying, try pacing the room, or using a bouncy ball chair. Even subtle movements like chewing gum or moving your toes will help you concentrate.
- Act it out. Reading one of those pesky historical speeches? Try acting it out like you are giving the speech. You can also act out math word problems. For example, when Jim is building that house or Kayleigh is racing that car, use movement to demonstrate what is happening. (Reading out loud works too!)
- Get a whiteboard, blackboard, or easel. Using a whiteboard increase the physicality of studying. It’s great to use for solving math problems or pulling key information from reading portions. On the day of the test, if you can’t visualize your whiteboard, then you can replicate your notes in the margins.
- Explain how to solve a problem. Explaining the difficult material you have been learning and practicing is especially helpful for those difficult math problems. If you have a younger sibling, put them to good use! No one around? A recorded explanation that you can watch later can also do the trick.
- Pair readings with audio. Practice reading a passage while listening to the audio recording. You can use subscription services, but there are also a lot of recordings in the public domain. While you might not be able to do this for your practice tests in particular, this extra-work will show when taking the test!
- Find a study partner. Listening and talking about the test is a great tool. Don’t know someone else taking the test? One-on-one tutoring can give you the benefit of both listening to someone explain something you're having trouble with, and then recalling what you just heard by explaining it back.
- Take notes. Not only will this help you learn, but you’ll have material to review later. Annotating your test, particularly in the reading portions will be very important. Writing a key word or two for each paragraph in a reading passage, and underlining what you’re looking for in the math section will keep you from making mistakes.
- Read study materials. Reviewing math concepts? Rather than watch a video, try reading an explanation followed with practice problems. Many videos now come with transcripts for you to follow along--these can also be very helpful for these learners!
- Turn on the captions. Watching one of those useful Khan academy explanations? Turn on the captions.
A final note about learning styles
Remember, learning styles are just one way to approach studying. No matter your style, practice is key. And the more ways we practice, the more chances we have to learn something new. So even if you know your learning style, I encourage you to try all of these tips. Who knows what will stick? The more you can fire those neurons, in whatever way, the more you will learn!