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We recently asked three members of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Recruit Class 193 to share their favorite study hacks for acing the academic portion of their training.

Though their answers vary, their advice has one important note in common: Know your learning style and tailor your study strategies accordingly.

Not sure what your learning style is or how to shape your study habits to it? Read on to learn more about the VARK model of learning styles identified by educational theorist Neil Fleming, and how to make your learning style work for you.

Visual Learners

As you’d probably guess, visual learners absorb and retain new information best when it’s presented in a visual format – think photos, maps, charts and graphics.

You might be a visual learner if

You find it easy to “read” data in charts and graphs or spot the differences between seemingly similar pictures.

Study strategies that can work for you

  • When possible, translate your notes into charts, graphs and diagrams.
  • No data? No problem. Doodle in your margins to bring complex ideas to life.
  • Use colored pens, highlighters or paper to link key themes.
  • Make flashcards that include visuals like symbols or initials.

Auditory Learners

If you learn best by listening and discussing new information without needing to write it down, you’re likely an auditory learner.

You might be an auditory learner if

You have a knack for remembering song lyrics or conversations, or you can easily memorize and recite content word-for-word.

Study strategies that can work for you

  • Record your lectures. If that’s not possible, record yourself reading your notes out loud.
  • Find a study group where you can talk out key concepts and quiz each other.
  • Pair up with a study buddy and take turns explaining important ideas and themes.
  • Use mnemonic devices, acronyms, metaphors and similes; say them aloud.

Reading / Writing Preference

You’re likely most at home in this learning style If you’re the student who furiously takes notes throughout the lecture. These learners also tend to like to read.

You might have a reading / writing preference if

You generally understand and remember what you read, and you learn best by spending quality study time with your notes from class.

Study strategies that can work for you

  • Don’t just re-read your notes – rewrite them (and then rewrite them again).
  • Write detailed summaries of visuals like photos, charts and diagrams.
  • Translate complex concepts into your own words in your notes.
  • Place Post-It Notes in high-visibility locations like a bathroom mirror.

Kinesthetic Learners

Also known as tactile learners, kinesthetic learners process new information best through hands-on activities and real-life experiences.

You might be a kinesthetic learner if

You need to do, try or feel something to truly understand it. You learn best through experiences, not abstractions or theory.

Study strategies that can work for you

  • Sit near the front of the room to make lectures more immersive experiences.
  • Make it real. Use real-life examples and case studies when possible.
  • Get physical when you study – for example, stand or pace while reviewing flashcards.
  • Try pairing unique movements with key ideas or terms.

While some students lean heavily toward a single, dominant learning style within the VARK model, others might learn best using a combination of study strategies that support one or more learning styles.

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