Learning vs. Testing

Learning Style Secrets for Success on Written Tests
by Pat Wyman, M.A.

Did you know that your child’s learning style is the secret to success when taking any type of written test?
Tavis has been home-schooled since age 6 and he loves it! His special learning gifts would never be recognized in a regular classroom setting. Home schooling has virtually guaranteed Tavis’ learning success because his parents have taught and tested him with his learning style in mind.

Now that he’s older, however, there is a problem. Tavis must take state mandated standardized tests, and although he is very bright in many ways, he has problems showing what he knows on the written tests that his parents have given him. They’ve been trying to prepare him for the state mandated tests as well as the SAT’s he will take when he applies to college.

Tavis is frustrated and his parents are concerned. When he’s taking a written test, he just seems to draw a blank and can’t remember what he’s learned. Sound familiar? Fortunately, there is a solution. You need to help your child add a learning style strategy that exceptional “test takers” naturally use – the eye-brain connection.

First, you need to identify your child’s learning style preference. Does he or she learn best by hearing, seeing, or physically touching something? Next, as your child takes a written test, simply ask, “Are you recalling what you have learned in pictures, in sounds, or in feelings”? Their answers will help you add a unique “visual testing strategy” that’s virtually guaranteed to make your child successful when taking written tests.
First, to quickly discover how your child prefers to learn best, go to www.howtolearn.com and click on the free Personal Learning Styles Inventory. Then, read on to learn more about how to help your child experience extraordinary success on the written tests you’ve created or on the standardized tests required in your state.

When It Comes to Test Taking, What Does My Child’s Learning Style Really Mean?
When a child learns new information, he or she processes the data in one of three individual learning styles: Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic (VAK). While your child may be gifted in other modalities, such as music or interpersonal, VAK styles are the most useful for learning and recalling information. Understanding how to use these styles is particularly helpful when learning and retrieving information for a test.


When the visual style is preferred, your child actually thinks in pictures. It is as if they have a movie camera in their mind. They input what they see, hear or touch and translate it into pictures in their brain. When recalling things, they simply glance upward (usually to the upper left or upper right) and look at the image they’ve stored on their “movie screen or inner blackboard”. This eye-brain connection involves reviewing the pictures from the movie and then writing what they remember.

Taking a written test is natural and easy for a visual thinker. These children simply recall their images and convert them to words. They bring true meaning to the phrase, “one picture is worth a thousand words.” They have a “time” advantage over other styles because brain researchers tell us that the brain processes images faster than words or other modalities.


If your child’s highest score on the inventory was auditory, he or she learns best by listening. These children don’t necessarily make pictures in their minds, as do visual learners, but rather filter incoming information through their listening and repeating skills. They tend to take a written test more slowly than a visual learner does, primarily because they hear the words in their head and speech is slower than visual images. In other words, it takes more time to write the words they hear, than to convert an image to a series of words.


The third learning style is physical or kinesthetic. This child prefers to learn physically and if they can touch and feel whatever they are learning about, they will process and remember the information quite well. However, these children are usually quite restless, have difficulty paying attention, and can’t seem to get “focused” (a visual term).

Kinesthetic learners do not make internal pictures of neatness so it is normal to be disorganized. Time is not especially meaningful since they don’t project the consequences of their actions, simply because they don’t “see” into the future. They only understand the present moment.
If tested on what they know in a physical way, their learning style matches the testing format and they perform very well.

All the skills that the visual learner takes for granted, such as remembering information through internal images, neatness, and the ability to remain focused, are not immediately available to the kinesthetic learner and this is what often makes learning difficult for this child.

Children who perform exceptionally well on written tests prefer a visual learning style. This is because they learn in the same style in which they are tested.
They follow a learning model that works well when taking written tests by inputting, storing and retrieving information in a single learning modality.

Here is the model they use. The written test is the output portion.


If your child is not a visual learner, give them a wonderful gift by helping them add a visual learning style strategy as you prepare them to take written tests. Insure that they appreciate the learning strengths they have, but let them know that thinking in pictures is far more efficient when taking written tests.

Spelling can demonstrate what happens when there is a mis-match between learning and testing. When spelling comes naturally, the child retrieves the word from their mind using a picture of the word. They don’t recall the word by “hearing” it because the English language contains so many silent letters. In addition, they don’t “feel” the word because it has been proven that this technique is not a successful spelling strategy.

For example, a model, which illustrates this mis-match between input, storage and output, looks like this:


Kinesthetic Kinesthetic ¹ Visual
Feelings ->Feelings ->Images

This child would be trying to “feel” the subject information, during both the initial hearing and reading of it, and then continue to have “feelings” about the material when they store it in their mind or body. This model will not allow them to recall the information successfully for a written test because their feelings won’t easily translate into the mental pictures they need for recall during the test.

You must teach your child or student how to add VISUAL learning strategies if they are to be successful when taking written tests.

This strategy is based on something many neuroscientists have observed to be an efficient way to both create and retrieve a mental picture of what has been learned. It is this mental picture that enables a child (or an adult) to quickly convert that picture to words on the written test. This is turn allows the child to recall and write information more quickly, which is especially helpful when taking a timed written test.

In the series of 7 newsletters called “How To Learn Anything Fast” all subject areas are covered and each will show you exactly how to help your child add the “visual” learning strategy that will insure success when taking a written test. These strategies have been successfully tested on over 50,000 students and we are pleased to bring them to you at home.

Please go to www.howtolearn.com to review the newsletter subject area, order them and have them delivered directly to your e-mail address.

Pat Wyman, M.A., is the author of several books, including Learning vs Testing, Strategies That Bridge The Gap. She is an Instructor of Education at California State University, Hayward and Director of The Center for New Discoveries in Learning, Inc. You can discover how your child learns best and preview chapters of her book at www.howtolearn.com.

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