Organise Your Thoughts With a Mind Map

Mind Maps are one of the most useful tools to help you organize your thoughts for a subject.  They go beyond writing notes to help you understand the connections between various topics, which are often explicitly tested in exam questions.  Writing notes is a very passive form of learning which is probably best for information that needs to be memorized only.  Most subjects however, will not simply test your ability to remember information, they will ask about relationships between various concepts which is not easily memorized by writing a set of notes.

The most pragmatic way to use mind maps for an entire subject is to begin by listing each topic within that subject and creating a mind map for each topic.  These will complement your comprehensive notes as a way to help you relate all your information back to the bigger picture.  The aim is that it will give you a “summary snapshot” of the topic so that as you read each section of your notes, you will be able to organize it back to the “whole”.  There are five key steps to writing an effective mind map:

  1. Write the TOPIC in the middle of the page with a big square or circle around it.
  2. Start creating “branches” to represent each idea or concept that is covered within this topic – write these concepts in as few words as possible and print them clearly (hint: refer back to your course outline or syllabus to choose this level of branches)
  3. For each concept, continue writing branches for further ideas including formulae, comparison/contrasts, rules and so forth.
  4. Continue your branching until all your ideas are on the map
  5. Connect other ideas with lines and “explanatory words” as to how they relate to each other

A Few Hints To Make A Mind Map Work

  • The first few attempts may get messy, if that’s the case then keep persisting until you learn to simplify them using fewer words each time
  • If you need to attach more paper, do so until you get the hang of it
  • Use colors to represent different levels of detail within your branches eg Topic>Sub-Topic>Formula etc
  • Graphics can also be a good way to represent your ideas

Mind Maps can be difficult to create at first, because they force you to laterally connect various bits of information together, which is very different (and more difficult) than simply writing a set of ordered notes from reading your textbook.  Given that it is an active form of learning, the actual process of creating a mind map will help you remember your knowledge far better as well as having a useful summary of connected ideas for your subject. 

How To Make A Mind Map

The Basics - Mind Map

Mind Map Diagram

Example Mind Map Diagram