A mind map is a visual representation of ideas and linked content. It can be used to help you remember, learn, or test content. It’s most effective when it has a health dose of good colour, images and spatial arrangement (where you put things on the page).
An advantage of learning and practising mind mapping now, is that the more you make, the quicker you become at making them and therefore the more effective they are. Also, it’s not just students who use them. Just a quick ‘Google’ will show you that they’re integrated in ‘real life’, so they’re not a skill which you’re going to leave behind once you’ve finished at school.
It works on the fact that you build a thought-map which is learned and can be called upon during the exam. Mind maps are often the ‘go to’ for both teachers and their students, although rarely are they used as effectively as they can be, and they take more of a spider diagram approach than a well thought out structure.
Mind maps are different to spider diagram. A spider diagram is where you place a key word or concept in the middle of the page and then link any associated word you can to it, drawing lines from the central word. Mind maps make you think significantly more, causing you to build links between different content. Used correctly, they can be a bit of a life-saver for those longer answer questions. I recommend students do mini-mind-maps on longer answer questions during the real exam, before they start writing their answer, and it has helped them get more marks.
This is how they work:
- Take your key word or central concept and write it in the centre of the A3, A4, or flashcards (in landscape format). Ideally you should use an image linked to that word or topic, such as a car with puff of smoke coming out the exhaust for ‘acceleration’. A central image rather than just text is more interesting and will help you draw upon the mind map when you need it.
- Add two or more branches. These are going to be the key areas you are going to explore. For example, if you had ‘homeostasis’ as you’re central concept, your branches could be ‘thermoregulation’ and ‘osmoregulation’.
- Choose a colour for each main branch and stick with that colour for all extensions from the main branch. This helps you group information together so it is easier to remember and recall.
- Add smaller lateral branches from the main branches – it’s recommended not to draw straight line and go with slightly curved ones instead, as you remember interesting rather than the mundane.
- Along each additional branch, add a single key word. Limiting it to just a single word will help you extend it further and pull in other linked ideas (have a look at the chunking section in mnemonics). There may be times when you have to have more than a single word, such as an equation, but try to avoid multiple words and phrases.
- Extend your lateral branches with more branches following the one word rule
- Add images, diagrams, pictures and more colour throughout the whole mind map. Remember the phrase “a picture paints a thousand words”…it’s true!
Inspired? Try it now
While the technique is fresh in your head, why not give it a go? Choose a topic and see if this technique is one that can really work for you. Remember, don’t rush – set aside a good amount of time, and make sure you’ve got those coloured pencils to hand and enjoy creating while you learn/revise. Leave a comment if this has/hasn’t worked for you and any tips for others.