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Go Back       Himalayan Journal of Applied Medical Sciences and Research | Volume:3 Issue:2 | April 20, 2022
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DOI : 10.47310/Hjamsr.2022.v03i02.010       Download PDF       HTML       XML

Research Article

Learning Style Preferences of First-year Undergraduate Medical College Students; Assessment using VARK Strategy

Tazeen Khan1 and Zahid Ali Khan*2

1Department of Physiology, Government Medical College Srinagar J&K, India

2Department of Community Medicine, Government Medical College Baramulla J&K, India

*Corresponding Author

Zahid Ali Khan

Article History

Received: 06.04.2022

Accepted: 13.04.2022

Published: 20.04.2022

Abstract: Learning styles and approaches for gaining knowledge vary considerably among individual undergraduate medical students.  Students differ in their preferred methods of acquiring, processing, and recalling new information. This study aimed to investigate the learning style preferences among undergraduate medical students by using the standardized VARK questionnaire and determining the relationships of learning preferences with their gender and academic performances. The study was conducted among 108 undergraduate (1st year) medical students of Government Medical College Srinagar. The Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic (VARK) methods of learning was assessed among the students. Association of learning style preferences with gender and academic performance was determined by chi-square test, student independent t-test and one-way ANOVA. In this study 35.2%, 47.2%, 15.7% and 1.9% of students preferred unimodal, bimodal, trimodal and tetramodal learning styles respectively. Among students with unimodal learning style, kinaesthetic modality (20.4%) was the most preferred learning style whereas read/write (1.9%) was the least preferred style. No significant difference was observed in the preferred modality according to gender (p=0.404) and academic performance (p=0.643). To conclude, students have varied learning styles for acquiring knowledge. Assessment of their preferred learning styles early in the course and subsequent planning of suitable teaching-learning methods will lead to the optimal success of students.

Keywords: Learning, performance, VARK, students, teaching.


Students come from different backgrounds and possess different educational experiences during the years of attainment of knowledge. Students and learners possess distinctive styles of acquiring knowledge and differ in their preferences (Zhao, B., & Potter, D. D. 2016). Many students may not be satisfied with the traditional curriculum and teaching-learning methods as they are passive methods of teaching with a unidirectional transfer of information (Felder, R. M., & Brent, R. 2005). Hence, knowledge of preferential learning methods of each student is important for their optimal perception of, interaction with and response to the learning environment.

In recent years, as the trend of education has shifted towards student-specific learning, the instructors and educators need to understand, recognize and value the divergent styles of learning styles of the students. Once the teachers are aware of the learning method preferred by their students they can adjust the teaching methods to make teaching-learning more satisfactory and successful (Romanelli, F. et al., 2009; Vaughn, L. M., & Baker, R. C. 2008; & Divaris, K. et al., 2008).

Many methods and models have been recently developed to assess the learning style preferences of learners in the teaching-learning process (Coffield, F. et al., 2004; Hosford, C. C., & Siders, W. A. 2010). Currently the most popular and widely used model for assessment of the preferred learning style of students is the VARK model developed by Neil Fleming in 1992 (Fleming, N. D., & Mills, C. 1992). This model classifies the learning preferences based on four sensory modalities; visual (V), aural/auditory (A), read/write (R), and kinaesthetic (K) (Introduction to VARK/the VARK modalities).

Visual learners prefer to acquire knowledge through visual stimuli like charts, diagrams, graphs and maps. Aural individuals grasp knowledge through auditory stimuli by listening to audio or lectures. Individuals with read/write learning style gain knowledge by reading text material whereas, kinaesthetic learners prefer direct participation in simulation or reality and use experiences to grab concepts (Introduction to VARK/the VARK modalities).

The study was conducted for the assessment of learning style preferences of medical students using the VARK strategy and also to determine its association with gender and course performance.


This study was conducted among 108 1st year undergraduate MBBS students of Government Medical College Srinagar for a period of 2 months from Nov to Dec 2021. Out of 180 students of the first-year MBBS batch, only 108 students participated in the study. Participation and submission of the questionnaire by the students was considered as their informed consent.

The English version of VARK questionnaire version 8.01 was administered to the students to assess their preferred learning style (The VARK Questionnaire, version 8.01). This questionnaire contains 16 multiple choice questions with 4 options designed in a manner that the student will provide his preferred method of learning in a particular situation. Students were allowed to select more than one option for a particular question so that a minimum score of 16 and a maximum score of 64 could be obtained from each of the respondents.

If the student preferred only one of the 4 VARK learning styles, then he/she was categorised to have a ‘unimodal’ learning style and if more than one style was preferred, then it was labelled as ‘multimodal’. The multimodal category was further subdivided into bimodal, trimodal and tetramodal learning styles if the respondent preferred two, three and all the four VARK learning styles, respectively.

Statistical analysis was done in SPSS version 21. The academic performance during their first-year MBBS curriculum was obtained for determination of any relationship with their preferred learning style. The presence of any association of gender with learning style preference was determined by the Chi-square test. Student’s independent t-test and one-way ANOVA were used to find the association of academic scores with gender and VARK learning preferences.


Of the 108 students who participated in the study, 50 (46.3%) were males and 58 (53.7%) were females. Figure 1 shows that around half of students (47.2%) and one-third of the students (35.2%) preferred bimodal and unimodal learning styles respectively and only 1.9% of students preferred tetramodal learning style. Among students depicting unimodal learning style, kinaesthetic modality was the most preferred learning style whereas read/write was the least preferred style.

Image is available at PDF file

Figure 1: Learning style preferences of medical students

Table 1 shows that no significant difference (p=0.404) was observed in the preferred modality according to gender. Also in the unimodal style, the preferences for visual, auditory, read/write and kinaesthetic learning styles were similarly distributed (p=0.707) among males and females.

The mean academic scores of the students during their course did not reveal any significant difference according to preferred modality (p=0.643). Also in the unimodal category, students who preferred the kinaesthetic type of learning style had the highest mean academic scores (59.3 ± 6.4) whereas those preferring the visual method of learning achieved the lowest mean scores (55.8 ± 10.8). However, this difference in mean academic scores was statistically not significant (p=0.755) (Table 2).

Table 1: Learning style preference of students according to gender





Preferred Modality






















Unimodal Preference






















Table 2: Mean academic course score according to gender and preferred modality



Mean ± SD





56.8 ± 9.3




59.5 ± 10.0

Preferred Modality



58.5 ± 7.2




57.2 ± 11.0



60.6 ± 11.1



60.0 ± 9.9

Unimodal Preference



55.8 ± 10.8




58.9 ± 7.5



56.5 ± 3.5



59.3 ± 6.4


VARK assessment helps to recognize the preferred learning modality of students. Awareness of their learning style preferences is essential for planning their teaching and will improve the quality of teaching, satisfaction of students and success rates of the teaching-learning process. This study helped us to understand the diversity of learning processes among our undergraduate medical students as they come from different cultural, social and intellectual backgrounds.

In our study around one third (35.2%) of the students preferred unimodal and the rest preferred multimodal learning style that comprised 47.2% bimodal, 15.7% trimodal and only 1.9% tetramodal learning styles. In support of our findings, one study from the United States also reported that 36.1% of students preferred unimodal learning style, however, on the contrary, 43.45% preferred tetramodal style (Lujan, H. L., & DiCarlo, S. E. 2006). Peyman H et al also reported unimodal preference among 41.8% of students similar to our findings (Peyman, H. et al., 2014). Varied results in the preferred learning style among students have been reported in the literature (Meehan-Andrews, T. A. 2009; Dobson, J. L. 2010; Panambur, S. et al., 2014; & Khanal, L. et al., 2019).

Among students depicting unimodal learning style, kinaesthetic modality was the most preferred learning style depicted by 20.4% of students and read/write was preferred by only 1.9% of students. Kinaesthetic modality has also been reported to be the most preferred learning style in studies conducted by (Khanal, L. et al., 2019; Liew, S. C. et al., 2015) However some studies have reported the kinaesthetic modality as a less preferred learning style among students (Peyman, H. et al., 2014; Murphy, R. J. et al., 2014; & Rezigalla, A. A., & Ahmed, O. Y. 2019).

We did not find any significant difference in the preferred learning modality according to gender. Similarly, no significant gender differences in the preferred learning styles have been reported in many studies conducted by (Dobson, J. L. 2010; James, S. et al., 2011; & Alkhasawneh, I. M. et al., 2008). However, Wehrwein EA et al reported significant differences in the preferred learning styles of male and female students (Wehrwein, E. A. et al., 2007).

We also compared mean course performance scores of students with gender and preferred learning style and found no significant differences in both the comparisons. However, students with kinaesthetic learning style preference achieved higher mean academic scores whereas those with visual preference had obtained the lowest mean performance scores. Dobson JL also reported no significant association of course performance with gender and preferred learning style, although students preferring kinaesthetic modality depicted the lowest course scores in contrast to our findings (Dobson, J. L. 2010).

It is not clear why there are conflicting results reported in the literature regarding VARK preferences or their association with gender and course performance. The only logical reasoning that could explain these discrepancies can be either disproportionate gender differences among the students or variations in the teaching-learning methods during their years of schooling. Variations may also be attributed to social, cultural and intellectual differences among students of different backgrounds.

A significant limitation of this study was the number of students who participated in the study. Only 2 students preferred the tetramodal style of which none was female. Further among students preferring unimodal style only 1 each of male and female students preferred read/write learning style. This may be the reason that the study could not provide significant results regarding the association of learning style preferences with gender and course performance. Hence, a large level study, preferably a multicentric one can help in providing better insight into the learning style preferences of the medical students and its impact on their academic performance.


Students depict variations in their preferred learning styles which may be attributed to discrepancies in the mode of attaining knowledge in their school life. However, VARK assessment should be done early in the course for understanding students’ learning style preferences and present information to them accordingly for a successful teaching-learning process.

Conflicts Of Interest

None declared


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