We all lead busy lives with some combination of jobs, children to care for, family and friends who need attention, and household responsibilities that make finding time to study challenging to say the least. However, many students don't realize that graduate school success is not necessarily a matter of how much they study but how well. One of the best ways to study more efficiently (and thereby succeed in graduate school) is to learn how you learn. What learning style do you have? Tailor your studying to fit your style.
Learn How You Learn
No two students are alike; however, there are a few consistent styles of learning. Once you've identified your style, you can then begin to adjust your study habits to suit your needs.
Audial learners often don't take notes in class because they remember everything that the prof says. They can carry on an intelligent conversation and learn a great deal from a good conversation. But books? Here's where their attention may wane. Reading may be difficult and they find themselves reading and rereading the same material.
Audial Learner Strategies:
- Tape your classes. Few professors mind having their lectures tape recorded, and a taped copy of a lecture often helps you keep track of details you may otherwise not have had a chance to pen.
- Study with a partner, a friend, a spouse, or another classmate. Don't just spit facts back and forth. Discuss the issues that you see, take it apart, challenge each other to understand what's important.
Visual learners thrive on books and often take meticulous notes, but don't retain spoken information unless they jot it down.They can often discuss the subject matter fluidly, but may prefer not to think about more difficult concepts or ideas before they've worked through it on paper. A visual learner will generally remember what they've learned, but may get bored or have trouble following a conversation if it gets too involved or too long.
Strategies for Visual Learners:
- Read. Read. Read. Take precise notes.
- If it's rote information, recopy your material by hand to assist you in retaining it. If it's a tough concept that your working on, write a brief paragraph for yourself and think through it with a pen in hand.
- Don't limit yourself to writing only the specific information, but explore what questions you have, even writing down if you disagree with some part of the topic and why.
Face it, some of us don't get it if we don't DO it. Hands-on is the only way to retain some things for you, and studying pure theory can seem impractical. But this is graduate school! How can you survive if you don't read?
Strategies for Manual Learners
- Before you panic and think that you're relegated to the field of welding, think about what it is about your particular field that you plan on working with, and look at how to actually do it. This can be done in any field- from Humanities to Business.
- Spend time in agencies that operate within your field of interest.
- Internships are excellent places to start and can lead to wonderful opportunities. Interview with potential employers or functionaries in the field.
- Don't limit yourself to what you do in classes, but step outside of the class room environment and bring your studies to life through volunteer jobs, and experiencing the world.
Rarely will a student that will fit neatly into one category. Most individuals use a combination of two or more learning styles. They key is to try them on and see which ones fit the best. Don't be afraid to be a little unconventional in your approach to studying.