Know Your Learning Styles to Increase GPA and Test Scores

Co-authored by Renae Hintze

Let’s play detective. I’m going to give you a quick case, and see if you can solve it!

Meet Sara. She’s a Freshman in High School.

Sara notices she’s struggling on her vocabulary quizzes, so she asks her friends to help her study. At lunch, Sara’s friends help her practice by:

  1. Reading off a word
  2. Asking her for the definition

Sara is able to memorize every definition and repeat it back to them, and goes into her next class confident that she will pass her quiz.

But when Sara looks down at her quiz, something is wrong… she recognizes the definitions listed in the second column, but she can’t seem to match them to any of the words in the first column!!

Despite studying for the quiz, Sara has no idea what the answers are. She’s forced to make her best guess and turn her paper in.

What happened?? 

If you guessed test anxiety, guess again!

When Sara studied for her exam, she:

  1. Listened for the words her friends would say
  2. Verbally delivered their definitions

But what she DIDN’T do was LOOK at the actual words she was defining!

When Sara saw the words on the test, she struggled to connect the verbal pronunciations she had heard with the actual letters that she saw. That’s because Sara relies primarily on a visual learning style.

What Learning Style Are You?

The story I just told is meant to demonstrate to you how it can be valuable to know what style of learning you benefit most from.

To be successful when you study for quizzes and exams, it’s not enough just to study. HOW you choose to study will affect how well you perform.

Why is this the case?

Think about when you start a new game. You don’t know how to play so you have to learn the instructions. What you may not realize is that there are different ways to do this.

Which of these sounds the most like you when you’re learning how to play a new game? 

  • I listen to someone else read the instructions
  • I ask to see the instructions myself and look for images that help explain
  • I tell them to start the game and tell me the rules as we go

These 3 options illustrate the 3 main learning styles a person can have.

I’ll explain what these are in more detail in a second, but first, let’s find out which ones work best for you. To help you find your learning style, I have a resource for you!

Take the Education Planner’s 20 question Learning Style quiz. This learning style assessment will help you to better determine which learning styles are dominant for you.

How to Use Your Learning Styles to Succeed 

It’s important to note that many teachers don’t target all of the learning styles, so you need to know how to use them on your own.

Also, relying primarily on a visual or kinesthetic learning style doesn’t mean that you don’t also learn through auditory methods. But every person has a preference for one or two learning styles more than the other, and honing in on the ones that work best for you will greatly improve your ability to retain information!


Being partial to the visual learning style means you learn best with your eyes and when you are provided with visuals of what you are learning.

Common Phrases You May Use:

  • “Let me see.”
  • “Can you show me?”

Ways You Can Study:

  • Viewing maps, graphs, and charts (Example: pie charts, bar graphs, and webs)
  • Highlight important things to remember in your books and notes (Green and yellow highlighters work best)
  • Draw pictures in your notes that help explain difficult concepts
  • Write down the study material on flashcards and quiz yourself
  • Look up instructional videos online (Example: The Youtube channel Crash Course provides several cartoon videos that are perfect for visual learners, such as this video on the Period Table of Elements.)


Auditory learners learn best with their ears, and when the material is spoken to them.


Common Phrases You May Use:

  • “Tell me how to do it.”
  • “Can you repeat that for me?”

Ways You Can Study:

  • Participate in class discussions and ask questions during class
  • After class, ask your teacher to repeat concepts that you found confusing
  • Practice reading assigned passages out loud
  • Look up songs and rhythms for material you need to memorize (Such as this popular song for remembering the “50 Nifty United States”)
  • Try to get text books or summer reading books on tape
  • Ask friends or family members to give you verbal quizzes on the material you are learning


A kinesthetic learning style means you learn best through touch. You learn better through activities where you can use your hands.

Common Phrases You May Use:

  • “Can I try?”

Ways You Can Study:

  • Use checklists to stay on top of the material you’re learning
  • Write all your notes. (When you draw a letter with your hand, each letter feels different. When you type a letter on a keyboard, all the keys are the same, and you’re relying mainly on your visual learning.)
  • Trace words or diagrams on paper to connect visual with physical
  • Try acting out different things. In one example, the word “Shoved” is acted out by students in the class and made a little more interesting by adding a “Southern twang”.
  • Add choreography or movements to materials you are learning (The Disney Channel showed this method in a funny episode of the show Hannah Montana where the main character Miley does a “bone dance” for Anatomy class.)

What if no “one” learning style seems to be effective?

 is a writer for Psych Central with 30 years of experience in tutoring, test prep coaching, and home-school teaching.

In her article Learning Styles:” The Problem Isn’t Obvious, But It’s Important, she challenges the idea of learning styles, and says there’s more to it than simply targeting one or two for yourself:

What I know about myself is that I can learn well by reading, and I can also learn well by listening, but whatever I do, I need repetition and I need processing time. By now I know that I can’t cram-study, and that I can’t learn something brand-new and be an expert on it tomorrow. Other people with different brains can do these things. I accommodate my learning “style” by beginning study well in advance and reviewing regularly. – Leigh Pretnar Cousins

What should we take away from this?  

While there may not be substantial research to support that any one learning style will prove to be the absolute BEST way for you to learn… what works, works.

So go with the learning styles that suit you best, and supplement these with:

  1. Repetition
  2. Time to process what you’ve learned
  3. Any other alterations you may need depending on your needs


When you start to target your own learning styles using these methods, you’ll realize a few things:

  1. You’re able to remember and understand the material better
  2. You feel less stressed about your quizzes and exams
  3. Studying may actually turn out to be kind of fun!

Ultimately, your GPA and test scores will increase because now when you take the time to study, you’ll be 10x more likely to remember everything.

What’s your learning style, and which study methods work best for you? Do you use a study method I didn’t list above? Tell us about it in the comment below!

0 0 votes
Article Rating
The following two tabs change content below.

Todd VanDuzer

Co-Founder & CEO at Student-Tutor
Hello! My name is Todd. I help students design the life of their dreams by ensuring college, scholarship, and career success! I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, host of a career exploration podcast for teens, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. I invite you to join my next webinar to learn how to save thousands + set your teenager up for college, scholarship, and career success!
Notify of

1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
8 years ago

As a teacher, I try to incorporate all of them into my lessons…but sometimes there is not enough time! This is a great article for students know identify their preferred styles (and what all of them are) and how to study more effectively.