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Learning Styles

Learning styles reflect our preferred method of acquiring, processing, storing, and remembering information. Learning styles are primarily grouped in three major categories, though it is possible to possess a variety of these styles. Knowing how you best learn information is an important tool to help you tailor studying, based on your individual needs and preferences. Below is a brief description of the three primary learning styles. Many resources have been designed to help you assess your dominant learning style. Come by our office for more information and to find out the best learning tips for each learning style.


Visual learners prefer the written word, diagrams, and pictures. They find it easier to visualize a task or concept rather than being lectured about the topic. Visual learners may have difficulty following spoken directions. They benefit from written directions, taking notes, color coding notes, and visualizing spelling of words or faces to be memorized.


Auditory learners prefer listening to information, to the spoken word. They may face difficulty following written directions and may benefit from the use of tapes for class notes.


Kinesthetic learners prefer to learn by hands-on experience, by doing. They may have difficulty sitting still and may benefit from experiential learning and taking frequent breaks in study periods.

Memory Skills

Mnemonics are organizational techniques people use to help learn and retain information. These ·memory tricks· help us remember information in many different academic areas and include using acronyms, acrostics, method of loci, and visual associations.

Study Strategies

  1. Identify your best time of day, whether in the morning, afternoon, or early evening. Use this period to study and maximize the amount of work you can accomplish.

  2. Study difficult or boring subjects first, when you are less tired. Save easier and more enjoyable subjects for later, when you are tired but need to continue your work.

  3. Study in a well-lit place and use the same place to study so that it becomes habitual.

  4. Study in chunks of time (30-45 minutes) and take brief breaks (5-10 minutes) in between to refresh yourself.

  5. Avoid distractions (e.g. television and the telephone).

  6. Set up a study schedule and be aware of your time management habits.

Test Taking Strategies

  1. Know what you are preparing for because different tests require different approaches.
  2. Essay tests require comprehensive composition on particular topics and their purpose is to see if you have broad knowledge of material. To prepare for essay exams, read notes, think of potential questions in advance, and practice writing answers.
  3. Multiple-choice tests require more attention to details. Writing facts on index cards can be useful. Also, pay close attention to the wording of such questions, look for absolutes, look out for ·not· questions, underline key words, and make educated guesses as a last resort.
  4. Ask your professor about the range of material to be covered, to provide sample questions if possible, and if tests from previous semesters are available for review.

Different Mnemonic Techniques

The human brain codes and interprets complex stimuli · images, color, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, spatial awareness, emotion, and language. Human memory is made up of all these features.

Typically, however, students use primarily the written word to memorize information, and often resort to reading, re-reading, and repetition to memorize material. We can increase our capacity to retain information by using mnemonic techniques. Below are some brief examples of techniques that can help you improve your memory.

  1. ACRONYMS. You form acronyms by using each first letter from a group of words to form a new word. This is particularly useful when remembering words in a specified order. Acronyms are very common in ordinary language and in many fields. Some examples of common acronyms include NBA (National Basketball Association), and SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus).


  1. To remember the three particles of an atom (protons, electrons, and neutrons) you can use the acronym PEN.
    P (protons)
    E (electrons)
    N (neutrons)

    This sample word can then serve as a trigger to help you memorize these scientific terms.

  2. The five Great Lakes (Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior) can be reorganized into the acronym HOMES.

    Although acronyms can be very useful memory aids, they do have some disadvantages. First, they are useful for rote memory, but do not aid comprehension. Be sure to differentiate between comprehension and memory, keeping in mind that understanding is often the best way to remember. Some people assume that if they can remember something, they must ·know· it; but memorization does not necessarily imply understanding. A second problem with acronyms is that they can be difficult to form; not all lists of words will lend themselves equally well to this technique. Finally, acronyms, like everything else, can be forgotten if not committed to memory.

  3. Sentences/Acrostics · Like acronyms, you can use the first letter of each word you are trying to remember. Instead of making a new word, though, you use the letters to make a sentence. Here are some examples:

    a. My Dear Aunt Sally (mathematical order of operations: multiply and divide before you add and subtract).

    b. King Phil Came Over for The Genes Special (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Genus, Species)

    One advantage of acrostics over acronyms is that they are less limiting. If your words don·t form easy to remember acronyms, using acrostics may be preferable. On the other hand, they can take more thought to create and require remembering a whole new sentence rather than just one word. Otherwise, they present the same problem as acronyms in that they aid memorization but not comprehension.

  4. Rhymes and Songs- Rhythm, repetition, melody, and rhyme all aid memory. Are you familiar with Homer·s Odyssey? If so, then you know that it is quite long. That is why it is so remarkable to realize that this, along with many ancient Greek stories, was told by storytellers who would rely solely on their memories. The use of rhyme, rhythm, and repetition helped the storytellers recall information.

    You can use the same techniques to better remember information from courses. For example, even the simple addition of familiar rhythm and melody can help. Do you remember learning the alphabet? Many children learn the letters of the alphabet to the tune of ·Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.· Using these techniques can be fun, particularly for people who like to create. Rhymes and songs draw on your auditory memory and may be particularly useful for those who can learn tunes, songs, or poems easily. Like the other techniques in this section, however, they emphasize rote memory, not understanding.

  5. Visual Images

    1. Link together familiar images to help you remember words. For example, if you are trying to remember pairs of words, like cat and window, instead of repeating them to yourself, link them together visually. Imagine a cat jumping out of a window. This image may be easier to remember than remembering the words in mere repetition alone. This technique can be useful in memorizing vocabulary.

    i. Example 1: Parsimony · Being careful with money or resources; being frugal or stingy. To remember this word, break the word down into more familiar words. The first half of the word looks and sounds like ·purse,· and the second half looks like ·money.· You can imagine someone tightly holding onto their purse filled with money to help you remember the definition of this word.

    ii. Example 2: Sanguine means happy, content. It also means blood red. One way to remember the meaning of this word is to look at the word and use a familiar image contained within the word. If you look at or pronounce sanguine, you can see that the second part of the word (-uine) looks and sounds like ·wine.· This can serve as a memory cue for both definitions of the word, by imagining red wine, and by imagining someone who is tipsy from drinking wine and feeling quite happy or content.

  6. Method of Loci · This technique was used by ancient orators to remember speeches. It combines the use of organization, visual memory, and association. Before using the technique, you must identify a common path that you walk. This can be the walk from your dorm to class or a walk around your house -- whatever is familiar. What is essential is that you have a vivid visual memory of the path and objects along it. Once you have determined your path, imagine yourself walking along it, and identify specific landmarks that you will pass. For example, the first landmark on your walk to campus could be your dorm room, next may be the front of the residence hall, next a familiar statue you pass, etc. The number of landmarks you choose will depend on the number of things you want to remember.

    Once you have determined your path and visualized the landmarks, you are ready to use the path to remember your material. This is done by mentally associating each piece of information that you need to remember with one of these landmarks. For example, if you are trying to remember a list of mnemonics, you might remember the first · acronyms · by picturing SCUBA gear in your dorm room. (SCUBA is an acronym.)

    You do not have to limit this to a path. You can use the same type of technique with just about any visual image that you can divide into specific sections. The most important thing is that you use something with which you are very familiar.
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