When revision time crops up and you feel daunted by the stack of notes on your desk, there is a handy tool which boosts your memory and makes study a more creative, appealing pursuit.

A mind map – a kind of diagram which represents all the information you need to learn, present or analyse, in a visual manner – enables you to get to grips with a large body of information, increase memory retention during the revision process and even boost your creativity.

Mind maps have been used for centuries, yet they were first brought to the mainstream public by Tony Buzan in the 1970s, who introduced the public to this new method of study. Buzan and other proponents of the use of mind maps pointed out that the natural human tendency is to scan an entire page in a non-linear manner. Studying from written texts, on the other hand, forces us to read from left to right, a process we can find tiring and resulting to a loss of interest and focus. Mind maps, on the other hand, allow us to capture and comprehend the associations that can arise from one topic.

Advantages of mind mapping:

Proponents of mind mapping point to a host of advantages, including:

  • Mind maps enable us to organise information better visually, through the use of branches and sub-branches.
  • They encourage idea generation, since the process is a highly creative one that encourages us to view ideas and topics from fresh perspectives and to think in a non-linear fashion.
  • Mind maps allow us to organise massive volumes of information, encouraging us to focus on the ideas and facts that really matter.
  • They can be used for much more than revision; they can aid us in carrying out various tasks, including planning projects, making negotiations and presentations, problem solving, project management, collaboration, brainstorming and note taking. Mind maps can even be used to help us make personal decisions.
  • Mind maps make facts easier to remember thanks to the colours and images they contain, which are easier for the brain to retain than linear text.
  • They encourage us to use analytical left brain by training us to search for key words and ideas.

How to use a mind map effectively for exam revision:

You have two choices when it comes to making your own mind map: you can either draw it by hand or use a wide range of interesting software options which are ideal for collaborative projects. Regardless of which type you choose to work with, a few basic principles to follow when using mind maps for revision include:

  • Start at the centre with the page with a circle or square (‘central node’) indicating the main topic.
  • The main ideas that make up the topic should be represented by thick branches that emanate from the central node. Your branches should have one word or two for the purpose of clarity. Think of each branch as a heading in an essay or a book.
  • Create smaller sub-branches which extend out from every branch. Think of these as sub-headings.
  • At the end of each branch, write out one key word or concept. This will make it easier to remember key concepts during revision.
  • Find images or pictures which illustrate your ideas and paste them onto key areas in your diagram.
  • Try to find connections between the various branches and sub-branches; this is a crucial aspect of critical thinking.

For further information on mind mapping check out this interesting range of books on the subject.

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