The data used in our VARK research was collected from the online version of the Standard VARK Questionnaire, version 8.01, between September 2022 and August 2023. During that time, 1,048,292 people filled in the questionnaire, and 92,987 (9%) of those people also filled in the research questions that followed the VARK Questionnaire.
Distribution of Learning Preferences
The table and pie chart below show the distribution of learning preferences for the 1,048,292 people who filled in the Questionnaire. A VARK Single Preference is defined as a stand-out questionnaire score among the four preferences. Where there are small differences between the raw scores for a learner’s modalities, VARK defines those broadly as Multimodal preferences.
|VARK Type One
|VARK Type Two
Common and uncommon preferences
VARK Type Two is the most common preference, with 25.4% of participants having this four-part preference. Kinesthetic is the most common single preference (23.2% of participants). Visual is by far the least common single preference with only 1.9% of participants having a single Visual preference.
When looking at the prevalence of each of the four modalities, we can simplify the data by looking at the number of people who have each of the modalities included in their preferences, whether that preference is a single or multimodal preference, as shown in the following chart:
The chart above shows that most people (87.6%) have some Kinesthetic included as part of their preference, and less than half have some Visual (48.7%) or Read/write (45.0%) included in their preference.
While a significant proportion of those who include Kinesthetic have it as a single preference (over one-quarter of those who have Kinesthetic included in their preference have it as their single preference), the other modalities are more likely to be included as part of a multimodal preference; this trend is most pronounced with the Visual modality, where less than 4% of those who have some sort of Visual preference have it as their single preference.
Of the people who provided gender information, 60% were female, 38% were male, and 2% specified a non-binary option. The distribution of preferences within each group is similar, with over 85% of each group including Kinesthetic in their preferences. The most significant difference between the groups is that more females have Read/write included in their preference than have Visual included, but for males, that is reversed.
A majority (55%) of respondents are aged 25 or under, with 22% being aged 12-18 years, and 33% being aged 19-25 years.
For all age groups, between 80% and 90% of people have Kinesthetic included in their preferences. Younger people are more likely to have Aural included in their preferences and are less likely to have Read-write included. By the 35-44 age group, the difference in percentages of people with V, A, and R in their preferences is less distinct.
There is no significant difference in the proportion of people who have a multimodal learning preference when comparing the different age groups.
When asked whether they think their learning preference result matches their own perception of how they learn, 72% said that it did match, 25% said they weren’t sure, and 3% said that it did not match.
There was very little difference in the “match” response when comparing those who include each of the four modalities in their preference, nor when comparing those with single vs. multimodal preferences. Those with Aural included in their preference were very slightly more likely to answer that they weren’t sure or that their preference did not match their perception, but that seems to be a result of age rather than learning preference – those in the 12-18 and 19-25 age groups (groups that include a higher proportion of people with Aural in their preferences) were more likely to choose “no match” or “not sure” than those aged 26-54.
Those who said their preference did not match their perception were asked which preference they believed was more likely. By far the most common choice was “Single Visual” at 26%, followed by “I don’t know” at 19%. The choice of “Single Visual” was surprising, as that is a very uncommon preference. However, the reasons that people gave indicate a lack of understanding of the definitions for VARK modalities – particularly Visual and Kinesthetic. In fact, 35% of those who thought that their preference should be Visual rather than what their results indicated, had results that suggested they have a Kinesthetic or an AK preference. When asked why they thought their result should be Visual, they said:
- I like to see things as they are explained.
- I am a hands-on learner, watching someone do something and then doing it myself.
- My learning style is being shown how to do it.
- I learn best when things are hands-on, rather than listening and trying to understand graphs and charts.
- Walk us through things we don’t get.
- By sight and hands-on.
- I have to see an example done and the steps then I can do it.
- When I see someone else do it, I feel like I understand it more.
- I like learning hands-on and watching teachers show me how to do something.
- I learn by watching
- I like videos.
- I am a hands-on kind of learner.
- I prefer live examples of content covered.
These comments all suggest Kinesthetic rather than Visual preferences.
Participants were asked to select sources of information about VARK that they had received (or expected to receive) from the following list:
- I have already read through the helpsheets/study strategies for my learning preference.
- A teacher or trainer (or someone similar) has explained VARK to me in some detail.
- I have read about VARK and have a good understanding of it.
- I expect to receive further help from a teacher or trainer to put what I have learned about VARK into practice.
The system also records whether they have filled in the Current Strategies Questionnaire.
The more information they had received, the more likely they were to perceive their preference result as being correct, supporting the possibility that a proportion of those who think their VARK result is wrong might do so through a lack of understanding of what their result means. The most significant sources of information, with respect to a correlation between receiving the information and perceiving their VARK result as being correct, were having read about VARK, and having read the VARK Helpsheets.
Perceived helpfulness for learning
When respondents were asked how helpful they expected VARK to be for their learning, 80% said they expected it to be either very useful (46%) or slightly useful (34%). Only 3% said that they didn’t expect VARK to be useful at all.
Those who thought their preference result matched their perception of how they learn were more likely to expect VARK to be helpful (87%), but interestingly, a majority of those who thought that their preference “was not” or “might not be correct” still expected VARK to be useful, although they tended to think it might be “slightly” rather than “very” useful.
The more information about VARK that a person received, the more likely they were to expect VARK to be helpful, with 86.3% of people who had read something about VARK expecting it to be useful, and 84.4% of those who had read the VARK Helpsheets. Those who had not received any extra information about VARK were significantly less likely to expect it to be useful, with only 67% of them expecting it to be useful, compared with 81% of people who had had one source of information about VARK.
Interestingly, there was a decline in the percentage of people choosing “very helpful” among those having five sources of information, but at this stage the number of people in that group is low, so we cannot yet be sure that this is a reliable observation.
At the time of filling in the research questions, only 21% of respondents indicated they had already read the Helpsheets. This is not surprising as the research questions appear on the page where they get their results; we could hope that a significant number of people go on to read the Helpsheets after filling in the research questions. Unfortunately, website logs indicate that this is not necessarily the case – the number of people who visit each of the Helpsheet pages is between 8% (the Read/write Helpsheet) and 18% (the Kinesthetic Helpsheet) of the number of people who fill in the questionnaire, indicating that a majority of people fill in the VARK Questionnaire, see their results, and never go on to use the Helpsheets.
Do people actually use the recommended strategies for their learning style?
The VARK Strategies Questionnaire is a companion to the VARK Questionnaire. While the VARK Questionnaire is used to identify which modalities someone PREFERS when learning, the Strategies Questionnaire asks them about the study strategies that they actually USE. The purpose of the Strategies Questionnaire is to point people in the direction of the changes they could make to more closely align their practices with their preferences.
In 2022, 11,212 people filled in both the VARK Learning Styles Questionnaire and the VARK Strategies Questionnaire, enabling us to compare their preferences with the actual study strategies they use.
Distribution of Modalities
The results so far show us that people tend to use a wider variety of strategies than is indicated by their preferences. 34% of people have a single learning preference, while only 16% of people use a single modality in their learning. Kinesthetic is both the highest single preference (23%) and the most used single modality (8%). Aural is the second highest single preference (6%) while Read/write is the second highest used single modality (4%).
Conversely, 66% of people have a multimodal preference, while 84% of people use strategies from more than one modality. This makes sense because we don’t always have control over the modalities that content is presented in, or in the modalities that are to be used when presenting content that we have learned, so we are likely to use a greater range of modalities than are indicated by our preferences.
Interestingly, while the most prevalent multimodal preference is “VARK” (31%), the most used multimodal set of modalities is “ARK” (24%). This aligns with an overall under-use of the Visual modality, discussed further below.
Looking at the percentages of people who have each modality included in their set of learning preferences, and the percentages of people who use each modality in their study strategies, we can see that Visual strategies are preferred by a higher percentage of people than those who actually use Visual strategies. Read/write strategies, on the other hand, are used more widely than they are preferred.
Preferences vs. Used Strategies
A majority of people use study strategies that cover all or most of their modality preferences. 43% of people use strategies that cover all of their preferred modalities, while 85% use strategies that cover at least half of their preferred modalities.
A significant number of people also use extra strategies from modalities that are not included in their preferences. 28% of people use strategies from 1 extra modality and 14% use strategies from 2 extra modalities. This is important for two reasons:
- If someone is spending time studying using a modality that they do not prefer, they could be wasting their time. Their study might be more effective if they were to use one of their preferred modalities.
- Sometimes using a non-preferred modality is necessary because that is the modality that the information to be learned is available in, or because it is required by a teacher. In this case, if learners are aware that that modality is not their preference, they may be able to improve their learning by “converting” the content into a modality that they prefer.
The most common “extra” modalities that are used are Kinesthetic, followed by Aural then Read/write. 65% of people who don’t have Kinesthetic included in their preferences still use Kinesthetic study strategies. For Aural, the percentage is 56%, and for Read/write it is 40%. Only 18% of people who don’t have a Visual preference use Visual strategies.
The most common preferred modality that is missing from the strategies that people use is Visual. 72% of people who have Visual included in their preferred modalities do not use Visual strategies. The corresponding percentage for Aural is 28%, 36% for Read/write, and 18% for Kinesthetic.
The fact that people who have not received any extra information about VARK are less likely to expect it to be helpful for their learning, and the fact that a majority of visitors to the VARK website fill in the questionnaire without going on to read the VARK Helpsheets relevant for their preference, suggests that just filling in the VARK Questionnaire is not likely to be sufficient to improve learning. Learners also need to understand something more about VARK in order to see it as useful. In particular, an understanding of each of the VARK modalities seems to be important. With this in mind, we suggest that teachers, trainers and others wanting to introduce VARK to a group of learners ensure that they:
- Give the learners a succinct (and correct) definition of each of the VARK modalities, focusing particularly on Visual and Kinesthetic definitions, which are often confused. Providing this information before learners fill in the questionnaire may lead to more learners seeing value in reading the Helpsheets.
- Follow up the Questionnaire with an activity (such as a worksheet, or group discussion) to stimulate further thinking on how learners may implement any changes to their study strategies as a result of finding out their learning preferences. The VARK Helpsheets would be a vital resource for this.
The Current Strategies questionnaire results suggest that although the strategies that people use tend to align somewhat with their learning preferences, there is room for some improvement for most people. Particularly:
- Those with Visual included in their preferences should check to be sure that they are including some Visual strategies in their study. e.g. by including drawings, symbols, diagrams, and color in their study notes.
- Those who don’t have Read/write included in their preferences should try converting any read/write material they cannot avoid using into one or more of their preferred modalities. e.g. by talking about what they have read (A), by drawing a diagram illustrating the main ideas in what they have read (V), or by relating what they have read to their own experiences (K).