Best Learning Style to Study CIMA

In this article, Hugo Newman (PhD) discusses how best to utilise various approaches to learning when preparing for your CIMA exams - based on the latest science of learning.

How To Find Your Learning Style

Each of us tends to lean towards one learning style or other. While some of us prefer to read to learn, others like to listen to podcasts, while others like to roll up their sleeves and actually do what it is they're trying to learn. The concept of distinct learning styles has been around for a while now.

learning styles

Researchers agree that there are indeed different learning styles (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic being the most commonly referred to). The problem is that it has become quite commonplace for learners to utilise a single style exclusively, believing that's the only way they should learn. This is the notion that a single learning style is best for each of us. That seems to make intuitive sense, doesn’t it? However, that notion is wrong!

Here’s The Hook

Researchers who explored what the different learning styles do for learners discovered a very different pathway to learning well. What they did was analyze learning styles and the different methods used to deliver the information.

Any idea on what the research revealed? If you happen to be a visual learner, you don’t grab the gist of the content any better from reading it as compared to hearing the content. The same happens to be true if you are an auditory learner. You won’t pick up what’s going on any faster hearing the content as you would reading it.

What this means is that you will still learn something, but it won’t matter if your teaching is done in the same method as you learn.

But It Gets Better

The same research shows that if you focus on your specific learning style to pick up new information, you will reduce the ability to learn through other senses.

In case you didn’t quite get that…

...if you are an auditory learner and you solely rely on learning by listening, you are not working your visual skills. What this means is that by utilizing all of your senses, you should receive a well-rounded dose of the data that you should be learning from.

More specifically, if you are an auditory learner, that is what you will believe you are. With this in mind, you will work to process information that you hear. That makes sense, right? As an auditory learner, you will do whatever you need to cater to your auditory learning needs.

So, audiobooks, listening to lectures, webinars and other types of teaching tools that focus on delivering information with words and sounds you can hear would be what you would seek. But by doing this, you would be neglecting the most common and significant ways in which most people receive information that they process. That would be with your eyes e.g. reading.

There Is An Art To This

Let’s take this into another arena. Let’s say you have been using your preferred learning style to study for an exam. Whether or not you crammed for the test is insignificant at this point (although we at VIVA do not like cramming as an exam strategy!). The all-nighters and the extra tutoring are not going to have a lot of impact here. Well, that is, unless you used your visual style of learning along with your other senses.

Reading is a highly visual art, but to retain and recall the things learned through reading, we tend to do better when we also combine the reading with hearing. Add feeling (kinaesthetic or tactile learning) to the mix and you now have a teaching/learning trifecta.

An example of using these three elements is sitting watching a video lecture where the teacher is presenting a topic. You would be watching the teacher and anything on an overhead presentation using your visual senses, listening to what the teacher is saying with your auditory senses and taking notes using your feeling senses holding a writing instrument and touching a notepad or notebook.

Okay, maybe writing is too old school. You’d still be picking up the information being taught with your hands and fingers if you were typing notes into a laptop. The point here is that you would be using three different kinds of senses to process the same information which amplifies the amount of information you hold onto.

The Misinformation About Learning Styles

If you have been convinced that you should only use a particular learning style, you should not. That’s the myth behind it all. What puts it into perspective is that the misconception of learning styles has become a big business much like healing crystals or aromatherapy (or anything sold by Gwyneth Paltrow).

Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow, CIMA, learning styles

Authors have been making a lot of money in the ‘self-help’ section of your local library or online bookstore selling volumes on learning styles. With all of it aimed at convincing young minds that to succeed, you need to match your learning style with the method of information delivery.

Companies and consulting firms have also cashed in with this idea, developing and administering all kinds of tests. These tests, by the way, are devised to reveal what kind of learner you happen to be.

Hey, if it gives you something to go on if you need a label to describe how you process information, go for it. But you don’t need books, tests or any other gimmick when working on how to find your learning style. That’s because it’s a non-truth.

How To Make Revision Interesting

Accounting skills are an interesting example. You need your visual, auditory and tactile senses intact to tackle the average balance sheet. Unless you have the mind of a scientific calculator, revising totals and input data requires the whole trifecta of learning skills.

You will need to see and read the numbers on the financial statements. You will require hearing to fully comprehend the data that you are visually processing by listening to the input information that might be changed. Thirdly, you will be touching a keypad as you revise a spreadsheet or scribble down numbers on a piece of paper to verify the new calculations. Moreover, accounting is most definitely a "doing" subject. It's not enough to listen to a lecture or read a book - you need to roll up your sleeves to, and actually draw up the accounts.

Do you think just reading the information would be how to make revision interesting? You probably could get through it but with the bonus of listening and feeling/doing, you have tripled the effectiveness of your work.

Do You Have One Learning Style Or More?

If you’ve made it this far, you should know by now that by focusing on just one learning style you are in a way handicapping yourself. It’s like being left-handed and trying to write notes with your right hand.

You are not utilizing your skills correctly.

With learning styles, you can’t just rely on one because it doesn’t provide all that you need to fully understand the information you are supposed to learn from. You will have greater success by making use of all of your senses.

The Key: Be All-Inclusive

It’s nothing new. The all-inclusive thing. We talk about it all the time as we deal with the way things are in society. The same idea should be adopted in your learning. You have multiple tools that will assist you as you prepare for your CIMA exams. You just have to use them all for full benefit.

Charlie Munger, hammer, nail, learning styles, CIMA

Listen to what you are being taught in online video lectures. Read the information that comes from that lesson in your textbook or through summary notes. Feel that data by recording it with your hands and making notes. Take practice tests where you actually "do" accounting by solving problems. When you use all your learning senses, you process information better and learn skills more effectively.

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