Is there more than one way to be smart?


According to a popular theory, there are many types of "intelligence" that a person can have. Some people are strong in one area, and not so strong in the rest. Others are equally strong in many areas. Sometimes, a student can be strong or weak in the same "intelligence", it just depends on the topic!

It's possible to increase the strength of any intelligence type, but it's not always needed. When it comes to studying, efficiency is key. Students should focus on using their strengths when learning new material. Sometimes this requires extra effort, but it's worth it in the end. High-quality study sessions lead to higher chances of achievement.

Howard Gardner, the theory's creator, wrote about at least nine types of intelligence:

  • Musical-rhythmic-harmonic
  • Visual–spatial
  • Verbal–linguistic
  • Logical–mathematical
  • Bodily–kinesthetic
  • Interpersonal
  • Intrapersonal
  • Naturalistic
  • Existential

Not one of these types of intelligence is greater than the other. They are just different ways in which we view the world. They are the primary ways in which we understand ideas. It only makes sense to work within the perspective we feel at home in.

Here's a brief description of each type. In later posts, I'm going to describe learning techniques perfect for each one. You may find you fit into many categories on some level or another. Congratulations, you're about to get better at studying!


If you have strong musical-rhythmic-harmonic intelligence, well it's no secret that you enjoy listening to music! You might find yourself absent-mindedly walking in step with a beat. You might be a great dancer despite never taking a lesson. You have a great sense for pattern and tone and just know when something feels right.


If you have strong visual-spatial intelligence, nothing makes you happier than order. Colors speak to you and shapes have more than three dimensions. You doodle in the margins and read pictures more often than books. You tend to be creative, and you are definitely a daydreamer.


If you have strong verbal-linguistic intelligence, you love stories, either reading, writing, or telling them. You would rather go without small talk and have a friendly debate, which is even better over a game of Scrabble. Another hint: if someone always asks to copy your notes, that usually means you're good at it.


If you have strong logical-mathematical intelligence, you love puzzles and games, especially the video kind. Making sense of complicated matters is your version of fun. Your mind is detail-oriented because you know the consequences of every action. You try to see the world in an objective manner, but you still don't "get" most people.


If you have strong bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, you are always on the go. If you don't play sports, you still find ways to spend your energy. Activities don't make sense unless you get a chance to do them yourself. When you talk, your hands move more than your mouth. You might have won the class clown award at one point or another.


If you have strong interpersonal intelligence, chances are no one has called you a 'wallflower.' You are at your best working in a group, and enjoy talking to everyone. Your friends might seek you for advice since you're such a great empathizer. You wish for world peace on your birthday candles at the party you throw every year.


If you have strong intrapersonal intelligence, you're pretty much the opposite of the above. Instead of hanging out with groups, you prefer to hang out with yourself. You spend a lot of time reading, writing, and thinking. You like to talk about philosophy with a few close friends. You also often feel like a mind-reader, but you won't tell anyone.


If you have strong naturalistic intelligence, you spend every possible moment outdoors. You have an intuitive understanding of the cycles that govern the planet. You appreciate fruits and vegetables, and might even grow them. You find it easy to categorize and notice features of objects, animals, and people.


If you have strong existential intelligence, you spend most of your free time pondering. You ask, why are we here, and, where do we go when we're gone? You wonder what your life purpose is and seek to fulfill it. Some people refer to you as an 'old soul.' You like to discover the meaning beneath events and ideas.

OK, so I know what kind of smart I am now, but how will that help me?

Knowing your primary types of intelligence gives you a big clue about how you learn. Information comes in many forms. You can learn from books, videos, or group discussions. You can learn by creating art, or music, or lessons. Knowing which ways work best for you give you a way to decide how to spend your time. With knowledge of yourself, you can tailor your notes to be just the way you like it. You might even make learning fun!

Look back here for future articles! Later parts will go into more depth about each intelligence and offer study suggestions.

Questions, comments, philosophies? Comment here or follow the discussion on Twitter and Instagram @StudentCoachNB!

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