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To construct an accurate and comprehensive user model is required in e-learning. User model can describe explicitly the learning goals and information needs about an individual learner. In this paper, we analyze learner characters and propose an ontology-based user model, which involves five modules. After that, we separately introduce the representation methods and run mechanisms of the five modules in detail. This approach greatly improves the accuracy of knowledge acquisition. A new adaptive learning pattern is proposed. At present, this work has been applied in junior high school physics. Through experiments it proves to be an efficient method for adaptive learning.