Monday, July 1, 2013

How to Revise As a Kinaesthetic Learner: The How-To Revision Guide for University Students

by Chris S Cox

Revision tips for the kinaesthetic learner

Kinaesthetic learning (tactile learning) is one of the three styles of learning (visual, audio, kinaesthetic.) It is characterised by the need to be carrying out a physical activity while studying to ensure your maximum learning potential is achieved.

Kinaesthetic learners are the do'ers in a group and make up a very small minority of the population (about 5%) hence are often overlooked by lecturers and teachers.

While kinaesthetic learning as a style is not in doubt, the benefits of adapting material for kinaesthetic learners has not been proven beneficial.

Determine whether you are indeed kinaesthetic

As a kinaesthetic learner I will share with you a few revision tips I use to ready myself for exams. I strongly suggest forward planning, timetabling and setting goals on a daily basis. For most, that isn't an easy task; for kinaesthetic learners it proves even more difficult.

Search online for kinaesthetic learning styles and ensure you are actually this type of learner. As stated above, only 5% are. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that the reason they can't learn properly is because they are not either audio or visual learners.

This does not mean you are kinaesthetic! Statistically the likelihood is that you just haven't found what works best for you within either of those two learning styles.

Traits of a kinaesthetic learner

No two people are the same but have a look at the following points and see if you resonate with any of them:

  • You struggle to listen to the radio
  • You write things down more often than most
  • You draw, underline and embolden text written during lectures
  • You use gestures to explain points and use physical based humour
  • You are adventurous by nature
  • You are good at sports, engineering, design, mechanics or good with tools
  • You love to explore
  • You needs frequent breaks
  • You remember things best when you experienced them, rather than heard something told to you
  • You have a busy conscience which asks questions/ analyses the world you're seeing constantly
  • You struggle to rest properly

Kinaesthetic? Now work out what your secondary learning style is

You will not be 100% kinaesthetic in your learning style. It's highly likely you are a good mix of two with a small amount of the third.

As an estimation I would say I am 50% kinaesthetic, 40% visual and 10% audio. Knowing your own breakdown is not an exact science but informs you about what types of physical activities will aid your learning as a kinaesthetic learner.

With anything like this don't focus too much on the numbers but find what works for you and explore that avenue.

For the remainder of this article K-V and K-A will be used for Kinaesthetic-Visual and Kinaesthetic-Audio respectively.

How to study as a Kinaesthetic learner (inclusive of K-V and K-A)

These tips will aid you but note they frequently cross over with the audio and visual techniques. For my in-depth personal tips read the prose below this paragraph:

  • Think about the day ahead. Allocate a goal for the day e.g. today I will have revised X number of chapters, or alternatively, if revising from notes, place a bookmark in the page you want to reach.
  • Do not have a messy workspace. Kinaesthetic learners love to get distracted. Just have your desk, pen, laptop, study materials and drink. I will teach you healthy ways of distracting yourself.
  • If you can face it, use a pen not a keyboard. It works wonders for kinaesthetic learners (and visual learners).
  • Use highlighter pens to mark either keywords, phrases, or titles.
  • Use colour coding (more about that below).
  • Try to work in slots of 30 minutes with 15 minute breaks at first. Try to increase this as exams loom to 45 minutes with 10 minute breaks.
  • Don't just stop because your timer goes off. If you're on a roll, keep going.
  • Make good use of your breaks. Find something to do that will not require the use of your memory and will steal your focus completely. Watching TV and surfing the internet are good enough for most but kinaesthetic learners may prefer a more hands on approach e.g. cooking, cleaning, exercising, fixing, building, weight lifting, gaming etc. If you can do something beneficial in this time it will give you the distraction you need and will subconsciously take a weight off your mind of tasks to do later!
  • Play music in the background that is familiar e.g. music you have heard before that you won't rush to replay at the end. Classical music has featured recently in multiple studies purporting to be beneficial!
  • Get yourself into cycles during the day with regard to drinking, eating, socialising etc. More about that below.
  • Use the added discipline to improve your diet. Whether you believe it's a scientific fad or actually beneficial is your call but it can't hurt to eat foods claiming to be good for brain and memory function.
  • Whether to look out of a window or not is your choice. I used to vary this approach although I only had a quiet cul-de-sac to view with very little happening.
  • Vary study locations. More about this below. In short, find different places to study and make good use of them.
  • Exercising in your breaks is great as long as you give yourself a minute to relax again before picking up the books. Also ensure you maintain your blood sugar levels - a store of banana's is highly recommended.
  • Exercising while studying - try it. Kinaesthetic-Visual learners may struggle with learning on treadmills for example as you will struggle to read whereas a K-A learner will be able to listen to a podcast/ recorded lecture etc. Keeping the heart rate up is fine so long as your energy levels also remain high. Tiring yourself out will force you to lose your concentration.
  • Shower in the morning, eat a proper breakfast and drink a 'moderately caffeinated drink.' Try to avoid drinks high in sugar or caffeine wherever possible; especially in the mornings! (This may require discipline and weaning off high tolerance levels of caffeine for some)
  • If there is something pressing on your mind that needs to be done, go do it. If it's stealing your attention it will continue to do so. Sort it.
  • Ensure your phone is on silent. Completely silent. Don't even let the screen light up. Alternatively, leave it in another room or off. Check it in every break though.
  • If you know another kinaesthetic learner on your course, talk to them. Use them to your advantage. If there are activities you both enjoy e.g. fitness, schedule in a time to learn through talking and walking. If you are K-V it will help you to picture them talking about a difficult subject. Let them draw to assist you. If you are K-A you will remember the way they speak. Ensure you can hear them wherever you are.

My personal experience of Kinaesthetic learning

I have added this so that I can expand upon the methods that worked well for me particularly. I am not claiming that this is the best way, the only way or even a legitimate way for a K (K-V) to learn but it has helped me in the past and I hope it helps someone else.


I find using headphones better than computer speakers as it gives me a greater sense of control over extraneous distractions. I usually have the volume just high enough so that I can't hear anything else in the environment, regardless of whether I can hear the lyrics or not.

Spatial note taking

As a K-V using a pen as opposed to a keyboard was the most important switch in learning style I ever made.

Typing keeps everything very neat and tidy but every paragraph looks like the last and you don't get the same sense of accomplishment starting a new page as opposed to turning your piece of paper over!

While you can use colours and diagrams online I find it much better to sketch them quickly by hand annotating the important parts.

If you need an accurate diagram make it on Excel quickly and print it off then stick it onto your page. Sounds like a lot of effort but I guarantee it will help you remember it better!

Spatial note taking is the practice of not confining your sentences to straight lines or blocks of paragraphs. I haven't any to hand to photograph but my pages were not linear but broken up into boxes, coloured areas, underlined sections, pictures, squiggles and memorable events or thoughts.

It may sound like a perfectionists hell but actually I have a huge desire to keep things ordered, structured and well presented. If it's not pleasing to your own eyes you are going to struggle to visualise it from memory. Make it work for you.

Squiggles, memorable events and thoughts?

Touching on a point in the last paragraph. When you are revising something and it sparks a memory, write that memory down next to that bit on your paper.

Form an association between that content and that memory. For me it was a hilarious guest lecturer we had once and something stupid a friend drew on my notes that I remembered well. It's a small thing but makes one page or paragraph unique relative to others.

Visualise projects

This is something the Visual learners may well practice frequently but is also helpful for Kinaesthetic learners.

If you are about to start a particular topic, subject or revision for a specific exam quickly visualise in your mind or (for K's) write down all the major headings you are going to encounter. Getting a sense of the bigger picture will help you no end when it comes to planning and timetabling your work.


My own playlist for revision:

  • Anything by composer Ludovico Einaudi, in particular
  • Nuvole Bianche
  • Fairytale
  • Dietro Casa
  • The Earth Prelude
  • Some works by Giovanni Allevi
  • A select few from Hans Zimmer
  • Other film music
  • Instrumentals

Chew gum

A simple little thing but kinaesthetic learners benefit from doing something while studying. Chewing gum is a perfect little distraction.

Learn in different places

I found this easier for A levels as I was studying for three very distinct topics as opposed to university with similar themes cropping up everywhere. If you have three exams all on hugely different materials then consider using this technique.

Study in different places for each exam. Use your bedroom predominantly for one. Use the quiet room in the library for another. Use a friends room, kitchen table, a different library, private study room or somewhere else for the third.

The reason is so that you associate that place in your mind with the work you are doing. It could be likened to creating a new folder in your mind which you can access on the exam day by simply picturing the place in which you revised.

This is much more suited for K-V learners though as opposed to K-A.

Tell people you live with you are studying

But don't ask people to hold you accountable to working. That's a sure fire way to feel guilty and increase your stress levels when they ask you.

Just make it known that you intend to study for X amount of time and to not expect any replies to texts, tweets, messages etc etc. It takes a little bit of pressure off!

Set goals

Kinaesthetic learners enjoy the feeling of movement, progression and achievement. So set yourself personal goals for each 10 minute break, e.g. If I study well until the hour mark I will get/do/enjoy ...

I will leave these up to your imagination but the list is endless. Use everything to your advantage: males in particular will find one thing particularly distracting ... and yet surprisingly rewarding if saved!

Favourite foods

This is a list of the foods I found helpful. Essentially anything you can frequently pick at that won't fill you up. I'm sure you have much better ones.

  • Nuts, seeds, raisins
  • Chunks of chocolate. Not bars!
  • Small fruits e.g. dates, prunes, apricots, grapes
  • Carrots and other vegetables that can be eaten raw
  • Cereal bars
  • Protein, fats and starchy foods in the morning for slow release
  • Try to avoid high sugar which will give you spikes in blood sugar

Favourite drinks

Always have a glass of water on the go. If you don't like water add something to it but try to avoid drinking copious amounts of sugary fruit juices due to the sugar spikes!

Drink more frequently that you would normally as it will keep you alert and over time you will find yourself getting into a rhythm of needing the toilet during your breaks! Plus it's another way of making an essential task work in your favour!

Avoid high caffeine drinks and try to wean yourself off caffeine if you are somewhat of an addict. It may seem counter-cultural but the benefit in doing this is that caffeine will become your friend again e.g. when you use it, even a small amount will work effectively.

What else can I try?

If you are K-A you could try downloading the lectures as podcasts and then go for a walk on your own. Pause the recording and repeat something difficult back to yourself. Run it back and listen to a difficult part again.

Make good use of the highly intelligent friends you have who are good with language. Let them explain something to you succinctly.

Read things aloud ... sing them to yourself if you are brave.

Or K-V's you may also want to try the post-it note trick. Cover different parts of your house with post-it notes.

The idea is to make them appear when you least expect them e.g. toilet seat, inside the fridge, back of the door etc. This is an intensive method and may be too intense for most people as it prevents proper rest!

K-V's tend to thrive on colour codes. Use a different colour for either different topics or subjects, or as an indication to yourself how well you understand what you have written. It makes skim reading when cramming a breeze as you know how best to spend your time.

This article was taken from the University Student website 'The University Blogspot' and was written by Chris S Cox.

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