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Learning Styles

What are Learning Styles?

Some students find they learn best from a lecture when the professor presents key points in a visual manner-either on the board, on an overhead, or with a handout. Others find they have a much easier time hearing someone talk about a subject rather than reading the same ideas on paper. These two examples present the two key learning styles: Visual and Auditory. But learning styles are not limited to the senses of hearing and sight; there are as many different ways of learning as there are learners.

While learning styles are varied, there are some specific categories which people fall into, and there are some specific hints for each category on how to learn more effectively.


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What is the VARK?

VARK, first suggested by Fleming and Mills (1992) is an acronym which stands for Visual, Aural, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic learning preferences. These learning preferences are the preferred way learners naturally choose to take in information. Ones learning preference can also be used to study and recall information.  Although there is some overlap between them they are defined as follows:

Visual Learners learn through seeing...                    .

These learners need to see the teacher's body language and facial expression to fully understand the content of a lesson. They tend to prefer sitting at the front of the classroom to avoid visual obstructions (e.g. people's heads). They may think in pictures and learn best from visual displays including: diagrams, illustrated text books, overhead transparencies, videos, flipcharts and hand-outs.  During a lecture or classroom discussion, visual learners often prefer to take detailed notes to absorb the information.

Aural Learners learn through listening...

These learners learn best through hearing what the teacher is saying to understand the lesson. They prefer classroom situations that include verbal lectures, discussions, talking things through and listening to what others have to say. Aural learners interpret the underlying meanings of speech through listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed and other nuances. Written information may have little meaning until it is heard. These learners often benefit from reading text aloud and using an audio recorder to play back information heard or read.

Read/Write Learners learn through words...

These learners learn best through anything that can be read and written. They learn best through interaction with print including lists, headings, glossaries, definitions, handouts, textbooks, manuals or the teacher’s notes. During a lecture they are often found to write notes verbatim. They may also write in margins of the text and/or highlight with a color coded system.

Kinesthetic Learners learn through, moving, doing and touching...  

These learners learn best through a hands-on approach, actively exploring the physical world around them. If this experience is not available in the classroom, they will need a concrete personal experience related to the content being learned. Kinesthetic learners may find it hard to sit still for long periods and may become distracted by their need for activity and exploration.

Multimodal Learners learn well in two or more areas...  

These learners do not have a standout mode with one preference score above the others. They may be equal or vary slightly in many areas.


To find out your learning preference visit: 


Kinesthetic Study Strategies

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If you have a strong Kinesthetic preference for learning you should use some or all of the following:


To take in the information:

•         all your senses - sight, touch, taste, smell, hearing...

•         laboratories

•         field trips

•         field tours

•         examples of principles

•         lecturers who give real-life examples

•         applications

•         hands-on approaches (computing)

•         trial and error

•         collections of rock types, plants, shells, grasses...

•         exhibits, samples, photographs...

•         recipes - solutions to problems, previous exam papers

SWOT - Study without tears

To make a learnable package:

Convert your "notes" into a learnable package by reducing them (3:1)

•         Your lecture notes may be poor because the topics were not 'concrete' or 'relevant'.

•         You will remember the "real" things that happened.

•         Put plenty of examples into your summary. Use case studies and applications to help with principles and abstract concepts.

•         Talk about your notes with another "K" person.

•         Use pictures and photographs that illustrate an idea.

•         Go back to the laboratory or your lab manual.

•         Recall the experiments, field trip...


To perform well in any test, assignment or examination:

•         Write practice answers, paragraphs...

•         Role play the exam situation in your own room.

You want to experience the exam so that you can understand it. The ideas on this page are only valuable if they sound practical, real, and relevant to you. You need to do things to understand.


Visual Study Strategies

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 You want the whole picture so you are probably holistic rather than reductionist in your approach. You are often swayed by the look of an object. You are interested in color and layout and design and you know where you are in your environment.  You are probably going to draw something.


Aural Study Strategies

If you have a strong preference for learning by Aural methods (A = hearing) you should use some or all of the following:


To take in the information:

•         attend classes

•         attend discussions and tutorials

•         discuss topics with others

•         discuss topics with your teachers

•         explain new ideas to other people

•         use a tape recorder

•         remember the interesting examples, stories, jokes...

•         describe the overheads, pictures and other visuals to somebody who was not there

•         leave spaces in your notes for later recall and 'filling'

SWOT - Study without tears

To make a learnable package:

Convert your "notes" into a learnable package by reducing them (3:1)

•         Your notes may be poor because you prefer to listen. You will need to expand your notes by talking with others and collecting notes from the textbook.

•         Put your summarized notes onto tapes and listen to them.

•         Ask others to 'hear' your understanding of a topic.

•         Read your summarized notes aloud.

•         Explain your notes to another 'aural' person.


To perform well in any test, assignment or examination:

•         Imagine talking with the examiner.

•         Listen to your voices and write them down.

•         Spend time in quiet places recalling the ideas.

•         Practice writing answers to old exam questions.

•         Speak your answers aloud or inside your head.

You prefer to have this page explained to you. The written words are not as valuable as those you hear. You will probably go and tell somebody about this.


Read/Write Study Strategies

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If you have a strong preference for learning by Reading and Writing (R & W) learning you should use some or all of the following:


To take in the information:

•         lists

•         headings

•         dictionaries

•         glossaries

•         definitions

•         handouts

•         textbooks

•         readings - library

•         notes (often verbatim)

•         teachers who use words well and have lots of information in sentences and notes

•         essays

•         manuals (computing and laboratory)

SWOT - Study without tears

To make a learnable package:

Convert your "notes" into a learnable package by reducing them (3:1)

•         Write out the words again and again.

•         Read your notes (silently) again and again.

•         Rewrite the ideas and principles into other words.

•         Organize any diagrams, graphs ... into statements, e.g. "The trend is..."

•         Turn reactions, actions, diagrams, charts and flows into words.

•         Imagine your lists arranged in multiple choice questions and distinguish each from each.


To perform well in any test, assignment or examination:

•         Write exam answers.

•         Practice with multiple choice questions.

•         Write paragraphs, beginnings and endings.

•         Write your lists (a, b, c, d, 1, 2, 3, 4).

•         Arrange your words into hierarchies and points.

You like this page because the emphasis is on words and lists. You believe the meanings are within the words, so any talk is OK but this handout is better. You are heading for the library.


Multimodal Study Strategies

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If you have multiple preferences you are in the majority, as approximately 60% of any population fits that category.

Multiple preferences are interesting and varied. For example you may have two strong preferences Visual and Aural (VA) or Read/write and Kinesthetic (RK), or you may have three strong preferences such as VAR or ARK. Some people have no standout scores. Their scores are almost even for all four modes. For example one person had scores of V=6, A=6, R=6, and K=6. She said that she adapted to the mode being used or requested. If the teacher or supervisor preferred a written mode she switched into Read/write for her responses and for her learning.

So multiple preferences give you choices of two or three or four modes to use for your learning and for your interaction with others. Positive reactions mean that those with multimodal preferences choose to match or align their mode to the significant others around them. But, some people have admitted that if they want to be annoying they may stay in a mode different from the person with whom they are working. For example they may ask for written evidence in an argument, knowing that the other person much prefers to refer only to oral information. This can be used in argument or debate.

You will need to read two or three or four lists of strategies provided in the help sheets. If you have two almost equal preferences please read the study strategies that apply to both preferences. If you have three preferences read the three lists that apply and similarly for those with four. There is obviously no multimodal help sheet. One interesting piece of information that people with multimodal preferences have told us is that it is often necessary for them to use more than one strategy for learning and communicating. They feel insecure with only one. Alternatively those with a single preference often "get it" by using the set of strategies that align with that single preference.

We are also noticing some differences among those who are multimodal and who have chosen fewer than 25 options and those who have chosen more than 30. Those who have chosen fewer than 25 of the options in the questionnaire prefer to see their highest score as their main preference - almost like a single preference and they use their preferences singly to suit each situation. Those who have a total VARK score larger than 30 tend to use their preferences in combination. 


© copyright 2001 - 2011 Neil Fleming

© Copyright Version 7.8 (2014) held by VARK Learn Limited, Christchurch, New Zealand.

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Last Modified: 10/26/16