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Study Zone

Style + effort = substance

How do you exploit your learning style to your best advantage? James Taylor explains all

May 2016

In last month’s PQ magazine (April 2016) I wrote about how identifying and embracing your ‘learning style’ can make you more effective and help you get more out of your study time.
In this issue I want to build on that by providing you with a selection of study and revision tips (for each learning style) that you might like to adopt to help you be more productive.
Visual learning style: Individuals with a visual learning style prefer the use of pictures, charts and graphs to understand and absorb new information.
Mind maps and flowcharts tend to be very effective tools for visual learners. A mind map is a graphical representation of concepts and ideas, which are often used to break down big topics into handy chunks. Mind maps tend to work for visual learners as they encourage the use of colour and images.
Flowcharts often work best for process-driven subjects such as audit (sales systems, accounting systems), where one action leads to another with specific outputs and outcomes.
Mindmaps and flowcharts, when completed, should be photographed (and kept in your smartphone’s photo library), then stuck on the wall in your study area.
The use of different colour pens as you create your study notes or topic summaries aides visual learners.
Auditory learning style: Students with a strong auditory learning style best learn through listening and speaking.
One technique that we advise our students to adopt, if they recognise themselves as an auditory learner, is ‘talk to the wall’. When you have been through a topic or chapter (ideally reading out loud) stand in front of a wall and try and recall what you have just covered by talking out loud. Granted, if somebody sees you doing it they may give you a funny look, but the advantage for auditory learners is that you will be hearing the content over and over again.
Read and write learning style: Students with this learning style learn best through words, and tend to be avid note-takers and readers of textbooks.
Students with a read and write preference tend to benefit from topic summaries and memory notes.
• Ideally using only one page of A4 (or A3) students should create a summary for each topic/learning outcome and place this in their folders. These should be handwritten.
• Memory notes focuses on getting students to read and then summarise a specific subject, before asking them to turn over the summary and re-write it. The more often this method is applied (with checking to ensure completeness) the better for individuals with a read and write preference.
Kinesthetic learning style: Individuals who are kinesthetic learners best develop their understanding through doing – that is, they best learn through trying and figuring things out.
We recommend that kinaesthetic learners dive into question practice as soon as possible, and we have a method that we find is very effective for MCQs.
• Start by selecting two sets of between five and 10 questions on a specific topic.
• Do the first set of questions to time under exam conditions and then check your answers to the first set of questions. Make sure you take time to understand any mistakes you have made (going back to content if required). Move on to do the second set of questions to time, under exam conditions; again, checking your answers to the second set of questions (and taking time to understand any mistakes you made).
• Make a cup of tea or coffee and watch TV for 20 minutes.
• Come back and do the first set of questions again, to time and under exam conditions and check your answers. Once checked, do the second set of questions again, to time and under exam conditions, remembering the check your answers.
• During long-form question practice only work for 45 minutes at a time – after 45 minutes give yourself a 15-minute break.
It is important to remember that practice makes permanent. The more you do (checking your answers as you go along) the more likely it is to stick.
Adopting the right technique for you (and it may be a combination of the above) is all about working smart, getting the most out of the time you invest in your studying. It may take a little time, but understanding what makes you tick and what works for you will, in the long run, means you should get the results you want.
• James Taylor is a director at HTFT Partnership

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