One of the more important insights about learning in the past 50-years is the understanding that learning styles make a real difference in how we learn. If you are a logical/mathematical learner then forcing yourself into a visual corner does no good and, perhaps, causes harm. If the goal is to learn, then it makes perfect sense to study within your own style of learning.
Discovering Your Personal Learning Style
There are any number of self-administered tests to accurately uncover your own learning style. We know that learning styles are not singular. There is always a dominant learning style but it does not function in isolation. Two and even three sub-styles add to the robustness of the dominant style. This does not mean that dominant and subordinate learning styles are always complimentary. I, as a quick example, have a dominant linguistic learning style. My most powerful subordinate style is visual. Then I have a bit of logical added to the mix. This mix lets me trust words, understand images while remaining rational.
Discovering one's personal learning style is taking a self-administered test, usually no more than 20 questions. You may find as many as you would like to take on Google. I have no personal favorites. I do suggest that to arrive at a reliable answer you consider taking three or more. Observe the commonalities while asking questions about the differences. You'll be able to truly understand your personal learning style using this method.
Learning Styles: Step Two
Once your learning style is established begin to dissect study tips in order to determine how any particular tip fits your learning styles. Let me share an example with you. One of my subordinate styles is logical. A study tip for logical learners is to create outlines, a form of organized thinking. But, I can only outline after something is written. To be an outliner would work for me if the logical was dominant. Another subordinate learning style of mine is visual. I have found a fabulous way to organize my thinking that is both visual and logical, the mindmap. If I use mind mapping software to think through a problem I am, in fact, visually outlining the problem. With a click of a mouse, I can convert the mindmap into outline form.
The key to understanding how to study smart is to uncover with a degree of certainty your learning styles. Doing so provides a leg-up when it comes to selecting the right ways to address any study situation.
Some Final Thoughts
Uncovering your own learning style with certainty is easily done. Take a few self-administered learning style tests and analyze the results. Do not rely on your intuition or you might miss something. I know I would have missed the logical part of my own learning style completely.
Learning Styles: A Note to Teachers
If you are a teacher, administer two or three learning style tests to your students. Have them calculate the results and analyze their findings. Once this is done, collect the tests, make a record of styles and file the tests. Now you and your students both know and understand how they learn. Now gear your teaching to address all the learning styles in the room. When I did this as a teacher I would always say something about how to adapt the work to learning styles.
Learning styles are not fixed for a lifetime. They shift around from time to time, sometimes unexpectedly. Teachers can often tell if a change has occurred. Re-testing from time to time, whether guided by a teacher or self-administered, is a good idea. Knowing your learning style is a way to maintain concentration on your studies.