Chances are, your parents thought less about learning styles during their high school or college education than you do. In the last several years, there’s been a push toward acknowledging and accommodating a variety of learning styles—a positive change for learners of every age. By now, you’ve likely recognized your own strengths and weaknesses as a learner and have started adapting to them.
If you’re a visual learner, you may find it difficult to follow along in more traditional study scenarios. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to adapt your study routine to your visual learning style.
Get things written down
To ensure your study routine is one that works for you, make sure that you get everything written down. In an audio lecture, you’ll find it helpful to take notes and then reorganize and even type them out later on.
You might also try speaking to your teacher and discussing your desire for assignments to be written down. He or she may be able to provide you with a handout, write assignments on the board, or provide other learning tools that will ensure you’re following directions.
It can be helpful to develop your own form of shorthand (or learn someone else’s) too. When you can associate symbols with certain types of knowledge, it can be easier to recall things. Find a system of note-taking that works for you and be diligent about your process.
Get insight from others
While you should never copy from others, visual learners can benefit from sharing study materials with their peers. You might compare notes with a peer to see where you may have missed things or can add to their understanding—which will also deepen your own.
Your classmates may also have different ways of working with a system that typically favors auditory learners, and these strategies are sure to help you. Share graphs, maps, diagrams, and pictures to accumulate a source of study materials that is comprehensive and useful.
To transform information covered in class to information you can easily retain, you’ll want to spend some time creating visually appealing documents. This might include webs, diagraphs, and even visual presentations. Preparing these will serve two purposes—first, you’ll review the material you need to study, and second, you’ll have materials that better suit your style when you review at later dates.
Something as simple as transforming words into art can be a big help for you, so don’t downplay the necessity of well made visuals. Even color-coding your notes can produce significant results.
Pay attention to visual cues
Chances are, you’re doing this anyway. As a visual learner, it will be especially important that you focus on body language and nonverbal cues when you can. Try to find a balance between note-taking and watching the speaker present if you can, even recording the lecture for more complete note-taking after the fact (if allowed by your teacher).
Many students neglect the creation of a great study space, but it can make all the difference when you’re trying to achieve academic greatness. If you’re a visual learner, you’ll want to make sure that the space you have is free of visual distractions. You’ll be naturally drawn to them, so save yourself the temptation—while keeping your workspace visually appealing, of course. You’ll need plenty of loose paper, highlighters, markers, and flashcards. You may also need access to technology—YouTube videos are a great resource for a ton of educational topics.
If you’re familiar with the kinds of things that work for you, there’s no reason your study routine cannot be adapted to accommodate your visual learning style. At first, it may feel like an endless process of trial and error, but ultimately, you’ll find a routine that is comfortable and effective—and your academic career will thank you!
Heather Hamilton is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.