Discover different learning styles and how to use them in your studies

Discover the different types of learning styles and some practical tips on how to apply them

Aug 17, 2023
Learning styles and practical study tools

Are you curious about learning styles? From kinesthetic learners who love to move to visual learners who love to listen, many learning style theories can be used as a guide to better studying.

This post will outline three popular learning style methods: Neil Fleming’s VARK model, David Kolb's Learning Cycle, and Peter Honey and Alan Mumford's model. On top of the models, we’ll explore the best ways to integrate practical tools that match your learning style. 

What are learning styles? 

Learning styles are the unique ways that individuals process, retain, and understand new information. How many learning styles are there? Learning is a complex process and can include a lot of factors, so there is still debate about how many styles exist.

That being said, many professionals in the field have simplified study models to make them easier to understand and apply.

Tip: For more practical tips on studying and improving your learning, head to this post on “13 effective study methods and how to use them”.

What are the different learning styles?

A few of the most popular and accepted models of learning styles are Neil Fleming’s VARK model, David Kolb's Learning Cycle, and Peter Honey and Alan Mumford's model.

This section will go into these models in more detail, giving some practical ideas for how you can use them.

Neil Fleming’s VARK model

Neil Fleming’s VARK Model is arguably the most well-known of these models, popular for breaking down learning styles into four main categories: kinesthetic, visual, auditory, and read/write learners.

Here we’ll go into these categories and the effective ways to use them in your study and daily life.

Kinesthetic learners

What is a kinesthetic learner? Kinesthetic learners grasp information best through hands-on experiences, physical activities, and practical applications.

Kinesthetic learners excel in activities such as conducting experiments, participating in role-plays, and engaging in interactive learning games.

Kinesthetic learners often have a strong sense of coordination and timing, and are sometimes labeled as “hyperactive” because they often move their body around a lot.

Tips for kinesthetic learners:

  • Create physical study tools: Create study material that you can touch and interact with, such as flashcards, to associate physical movement with the information. You can also print and cut things like diagrams to assemble them in front of you. 
  • Keep moving: Working standing up or walking as you recite information can help some people who are distracted by sitting in one place for long periods.

Visual learners

What is a visual learner? Visual learners process information best when presented through images, charts, graphs, or other visual aids.

Visual learners thrive in activities such as watching educational videos, studying from infographics, and using mind maps or diagrams to organize information.

A visual learner will likely have strong visualization skills, be able to create clear images in their minds, and pay close attention to body language.

Tips for visual learners: 

  • Make annotations: When you are reading your material, highlight the most important parts it using different colors to make it easier to retain. 
  • Create visual tools: Create and design documents such as mind maps or charts to better visualize the ideas, hierarchies, and concepts you need to learn.  

Auditory learners

What is an auditory learner? Auditory learners comprehend information more effectively when presented through sound, such as listening to lectures, podcasts, or group discussions.

Auditory learners excel in activities such as participating in group discussions, engaging in debates, and listening to audio recordings of study material.

An auditory learner will likely have strong language skills that help with their oral communication, will be able to accurately remember details of a conversation or lecture, and might show natural language learning skills.

Tips for auditory learners:

  • Say things out loud: Talk to yourself or the people around you to better understand and remember your material. Paraphrasing in this way is a very useful technique. 
  • Record yourself talking: Instead of writing down a lot of notes, an auditory learner might benefit more from creating their own study notes by recording a message that can be replayed. 

Read/write learners

What is a read/write learner? Read/write learners grasp information more effectively when presented in written form, such as reading textbooks, taking notes, and writing summaries.

Reading/writing learners thrive in activities such as reading books, writing essays, and taking detailed notes during lectures.

Read/write learners often do well in multiple choice and essay tests, and they generally like to use dictionaries and other reference materials.

Tips for read/write learners:

  • Read, write, and repeat: Write notes multiple times, rewriting major ideas and principles into your own words as you do it. 
  • Write exam answers: Write and answer your own tests. Use a tool like ChatPDF to easily create an exam using AI models. 

David Kolb's Experimental Learning 

While the VARK model is one of the most widely used, there are many learning models that you can use as a guide to better understand your study preferences and success methods.

David Kolb's learning style model, also known as the Experiential Learning Theory (ELT), is a framework with four primary learning styles.

It’s based on the idea that learners go through a cycle of concrete experiences, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation when learning new material.

Stage 1: Concrete Experience (CE)

Learning is initiated through direct experience and engagement with the subject. To incorporate this into your study routine, consider the following practical methods:

  • Hands-on activities: Participate in labs, field trips, or practical exercises to gain direct experience with the concepts you're studying.
  • Role-playing: Create scenarios related to the topic you're learning and act them out to understand real-world applications.

Stage 2: Reflective Observation (RO)

After the concrete experience, take time to reflect on what you've learned. Practical methods to implement this stage include:

  • Journaling: Maintain a learning journal to jot down your thoughts, emotions, and insights after each study session. 
  • Mind mapping: Create visual representations of your understanding to gain a clearer insight into the topic. 

Stage 3: Abstract Conceptualization (AC)

Learners attempt to create abstract models and theories based on their reflections. To incorporate this style into your study routine, consider:

  • Concept mapping: Organize and connect concepts in a structured manner to form a comprehensive understanding of the subject. 
  • Teaching others: Explaining what you've learned to someone else can help you develop a deeper understanding of the subject.

Stage 4: Active Experimentation (AE)

Learners apply their conceptualizations and theories in real-world scenarios. To perfect this learners should focus on:

  • Practical projects: Undertake projects or experiments related to the subject to test and apply your knowledge.
  • Independent discovery: Focus on independently researching more and exploring new questions that you have about the subject.

Honey and Alan Mumford's Learning Styles 

Peter Honey and Alan Mumford's learning style model is an approach that categorizes learners into four styles: Activist, Reflector, Theorist, and Pragmatist.

They used David Kolb’s model as a basis for their own, so there are visible similarities between the models.


Activists thrive on hands-on experiences, enjoy taking risks, and learn best through experimentation and group activities.

Tips for activist learners:

  • Group discussions and debates: Explore different perspectives on a topic by talking with the people around you. 
  • Practical exercises: Things like simulations and real-life applications reinforce learning.


Reflectors observe and think before taking action, often seeking to understand the reasoning behind concepts.

Tips for reflectors:

  • Take your time: Review and reflect on study materials before attempting to apply them. 
  • Create a journal: Keep a learning journal to record thoughts, observations, and questions during the learning process. 


Theorists enjoy analyzing abstract concepts, creating models, and understanding fundamental principles.

Tips for theorists:

  • Organize by logic: Categorize study materials into logical frameworks, mind maps, or flowcharts.
  • Focus on critical thinking: Engage in critical thinking exercises and theoretical problem-solving to deepen understanding.


Pragmatists value practicality and prefer learning through real-world applications. They seek immediate relevance in what they learn.

Tips for pragmatists:

  • Tips for pragmatists: Practical experience: Look for internships, projects, or part-time jobs related to your studies to gain practical experience.
  • Real-life examples: Connect theories to real-life examples and scenarios for a deeper understanding and set up study groups to discuss how concepts can be applied in practical situations.

Integrate online tools into your study routine

Are you looking for effective ways to enhance your study techniques and truly engage with your learning materials? Whether you're a visual learner who thrives on colorful annotations or an auditory learner seeking to absorb information through spoken words, there are tools to help,

Here we’ll explore how online tools can be a powerful ally for your preferred learning style.

Highlight PDF text: Use the mobile Edit PDF tool to highlight text in different colors. Visual learners can use this feature to emphasize key points and make the material more visually memorable.

Use a PDF annotator: You can also annotate your material on Mobile or Web. The annotate feature is beneficial for reflective learners who can use it to add thoughtful comments and notes, allowing them to analyze and understand the reasoning behind concepts more deeply.

Record a voice message: The Mobile version of the Edit tool enables you to record a message and place it inside of a PDF ready for playback. This technique is perfect for the auditory learning style.

Convert PDF text to audio: Use the OCR PDF tool to convert any unselectable text from a PDF into selectable text. Auditory learners can convert the material to text and then use text to speech software to listen to the content.

Create presentations with PowerPoint: This converter allows visual learners to make PowerPoint presentations from PDFs. Visual learners can use this tool to create visually engaging slides, making the content more digestible and memorable.

Split PDF to create custom material: The PDF page extractor is a useful tool for reflective observers. The PDF splitter enables you to extract specific pages from a document to select relevant sections, create custom study materials, and review specific content without distraction.

What is my learning style? Try out a learning style quiz 

Do you want to take a learning study quiz? These learning style quizzes are a quick way to give you an idea about what your preferences might be.

These tests primarily focus on breaking down the VARK learning styles: kinesthetic, visual, auditory, and read/write learning.

  • Learning Style Quiz gives a detailed and useful visual breakdown of your preferences, with more tips on understanding your learning style and optimal learning methods.
  • Download this PDF provided by Oxford University for a printable learning style quiz that you can take with you and give to others (perfect for teachers to use in a classroom).

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