How to Use Multiple Intelligences to Study for a Test

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Are you one of those people who have a difficult time sitting down to study for a test? Perhaps you get distracted and lose focus easily, or maybe you are just not the type of person who likes learning new information from a book, a lecture, or a presentation. Maybe the reason you dislike studying the way you've been taught to study—sitting in a chair with an open book, reviewing your notes—is because your predominant intelligence has nothing to do with words. The theory of multiple intelligences may just be your best friend when you go to study for a test if traditional study methods aren't quite suiting you. 

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

The theory of multiple intelligences was developed by Dr. Howard Gardner in 1983. He was a professor of education at Harvard University, and believed that traditional intelligence, where a person's I.Q. or intelligence quotient, did not account for the many brilliant ways in which people are smart. Albert Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” 

Instead of a the traditional "one-size-fits-all" approach to intelligence, Dr. Gardner stated that he believed there were eight different intelligences that covered the scope of the brilliance possible in men, women, and children. He believed that people have different intellectual abilities and are more adept in some areas than others. In general, people are able to process information in different ways, using different methods for different things. Here are the eight multiple intelligences according to his theory:

  1. Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence: "Word Smart" This type of intelligence refers to a person's ability to analyze information and produce work that involves spoken and written language like speeches, books, and emails. 
  2. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: "Number & Reasoning Smart" This type of intelligence refers to a person's ability to develop equations and proofs, make calculations, and solve abstract problems that may or may not be related to numbers.
  3. Visual-Spatial Intelligence: "Picture Smart" This type of intelligence refers to a person's ability to understand maps and other types of graphical information like charts, tables, diagrams, and pictures. 
  4. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: "Body Smart" This type of intelligence refers to a person's ability to use his or her own body to solve problems, find solutions or create products.
  5. Musical Intelligence: "Music Smart" This type of intelligence refers to a person's ability to create and make meaning of different types of sound.
  6. Interpersonal Intelligence: "People Smart" This type of intelligence refers to a person's ability to recognize and understand other people's moods, desires, motivations, and intentions.
  7. Intrapersonal Intelligence: "Self Smart" This type of intelligence refers to a person's ability to recognize and understand their own moods, desires, motivations, and intentions.
  8. Naturalistic Intelligence: "Nature Smart" This type of intelligence refers to a person's ability to identify and distinguish among different types of plants, animals, and weather formations found in the natural world.

lt is important to note that you do not have one specific type of intelligence. Everyone has all eight types of intelligences although some types may show up stronger than others. For example, some people approach numbers warily, while others relish the idea of solving complex mathematical problems. Or, one person may quickly and easily learn lyrics and musical notes, but does not excel visually or spatially. Our aptitudes at each of the multiple intelligences can vary widely, but they are all present in each of us. It's important not to label ourselves, or students, as one type of learner with one predominant intelligence because everyone can benefit from learning in various ways. 

Using the Theory of Multiple Intelligences to Study 

When you prepare to study, whether that be for a midterm, a final exam, a chapter test or a standardized test like the ACT, SAT, GRE or even the MCAT, it's important to tap into your many different intelligences as you take out your notes, study guide or test prep book. Why? Using a variety of methods to take information from the page to your brain can help you remember the info better and longer. Here are a few ways to use several of your multiple intelligences to do just that

Tap Into Your Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence With These Study Tricks

  1. Write a letter to another person, explaining the mathematical theory you've just learned.
  2. Read your notes aloud while studying for your science chapter test.
  3. Ask someone to quiz you after you've read through the study guide for your English literature quiz.
  4. Quiz via text: text a question to your study partner and read his or her response.
  5. Download a SAT app that quizzes you daily. 
  6. Record yourself reading your Spanish notes and then listen to your recording in the car on the way to school. 

Tap Into Your Logical-Mathematical Intelligence With These Study Tricks

  1. Reorganize your notes from Calculus class using an outline method like the Cornell note-taking system. 
  2. Compare and contrast different ideas (North vs.South in the Civil War) with one another. 
  3. List information into particular categories as you read through your notes. For instance, if you're studying grammar, all parts of speech go in one category while all punctuation rules go in another. 
  4. Predict outcomes that could have happened based on the material you've learned. (What would have happened had Hitler never risen to power?)
  5. Figure out what was happening in a different part of the world at the same time as what you're studying. (What was happening in Europe during the rise of Genghis Khan?)
  6. Prove or disprove a theory based on information you've learned throughout the chapter or semester.

Tap Into Your Visual-Spatial Intelligence With These Study Tricks

  1. Break down information from the text into tables, charts, or graphs.
  2. Draw a small picture next to each item in a list you need to remember. This is helpful when you have to remember lists of names, because you can draw a likeness next to each person.
  3. Use highlighters or special symbols related to similar ideas in the text. For instance, anything related to Plains Native Americans gets highlighted yellow, and anything related to Northeast Woodlands Native Americans gets highlighted blue, etc.
  4. Rewrite your notes using an app that allows you to add pictures. 
  5. Ask your teacher if you can take pictures of the science experiment as you go so you remember what happened. 

Tap Into Your Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence With These Study Tricks

  1. Act out a scene from a play or do the "extra" science experiment in the back of the chapter.
  2. Rewrite your lecture notes with pencil instead of typing them out. The physical act of writing will help you remember more.
  3. As you study, do a physical activity. Shoot hoops while someone quizzes you. Or, jump rope. 
  4. Use manipulatives to solve math problems whenever possible. 
  5. Build or craft models of items you need to remember or visit physical spaces to cement the idea in your head. You'll remember the bones of the body much better if you touch each part of your body as you learn them, for instance. 

Tap Into Your Musical Intelligence With These Study Tricks

  1. Set a long list or chart to a favorite tune. For example, if you have to learn the periodic table of elements, try setting the names of the elements to "The Wheels on the Bus" or "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."
  2. If you have particularly tough words to remember, try saying their names with different pitches and volumes. 
  3. Have a long list of poets to remember? Assign a noise (a clap, a wrinkled paper, a stomp) to each. 
  4. Play lyric-free music when you study so the lyrics don't compete for brain space. 

Multiple Intelligences Vs. Learning Style

The theory that you have many ways of being intelligent is different from Neil Fleming's VAK theory of learning styles. Fleming states that there were three (or four, depending on which theory is used) dominant learning styles: Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. Check out this learning styles quiz to see which one of those learning styles you tend to use most!

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Your Citation
Roell, Kelly. "How to Use Multiple Intelligences to Study for a Test." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Roell, Kelly. (2023, April 5). How to Use Multiple Intelligences to Study for a Test. Retrieved from Roell, Kelly. "How to Use Multiple Intelligences to Study for a Test." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).