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Mind Maps: A Quick Guide

What is a mind map?

Mind mapping is a popular revision technique that encourages learners to categorise key points around a central topic. The Picture Superiority Effect is a 30-second video that provides an overview of how we remember information more effectively when it is digested as words and pictures rather than words alone. In the context of revising for exams, it can be an extremely effective way of absorbing information without the need to repeatedly read the same blocks of text.

The process of mind mapping has evolved with such sophistication over time that it has even become entire business ventures for software developers that have harnessed the power of visual mapping of information. Pattern recognition is one of our core cognitive skills so it makes sense that the patterns we create as mind maps present us with a more effective way of retaining information.

What makes a mind map?

According to some mind mapping websites and advocates, there are a few characteristics that are needed to build a successful mind map:

  1. The topic of focus is written or illustrated centrally.
  2. Primary themes appear as branches from the centre.
  3. Less important topics appear as ‘twigs’ spreading from branches.
  4. Branches can connect two or more associated ideas.
  5. Keywords can also be written along branch lines.

Most important though, is that the mind map be a visual representation that the learner is able to use, and learn from.

Try it yourself

Tony Buzan is an expert on the brain and thinking patterns and has been credited many times with the invention of the mind map; he trademarked the term and is certainly a driving force in its popularisation. Here are some of the top tips he provides for effective mind mapping:

  • Use colour! It’s great for adding vibrancy to your notes and colours excite the brain.
  • Make your branches curved, this makes them more interesting to your brain.
  • Use keywords; short and snappy works best.
  • Make connections. When you have multiple ideas and associations, you are more likely to commit them to memory if you can visualise the journey between two keywords or ideas.
  • Use imagery; you don’t have to be an artist, even having a few doodles can help to keep the brain engaged.

Prefer flashcards? We can create bespoke revision cards with information relevant to each subject.

Over to you: Do your students have a preferred revision method? Use the form in the right-hand menu to get in touch and tell us about it!