I’ve been told more than once about the usefulness of mind mapping, but never really used it to study until very recently (namely a genetics exam that I had yesterday). I tried it before with biology last semester, but it didn’t really click with me, so I just stopped trying because I felt it was a waste of time, and that I would do better if I read the book and added detailed notes to my print-outs of the professor’s PowerPoint lectures.
However, with the discovery of this amazing program called NovaMind, I realized that mind mapping is very useful. Instead of having long hand-written pages of notes, I compressed the same information to a visually-organized map, with bubbles, lines, boxes, etc. around important points. I did this to review for my genetics exam, as our professor gave us a review PowerPoint with key topics to focus on. Thanks to this, I walked into the exam knowing the material — 2 and a half chapters worth — with only a week of studying. Making the maps was helpful in being exposed to the information as well as organizing it so that I could remember it better.
So how does mind mapping work? It’s pretty much how you were taught to “brainstorm” in early education. (At least, I learned how in elementary school.)
Here’s a really artistic mind map, created using colored pencils and markers. It’s really detailed, and I’m sure it’s lots of fun to make and draw. (However, I’m pressed for time, so more simple mind maps with just words and short phrases suits me better.)
This mind map is from an e-book titled “Global Warming: A Mind Mapper’s Guide to the Science and Solutions”. For more examples of mind maps, check out the free e-book! (Book title is a PDF link.)
If you’re still kinda fuzzy on how mind mapping works, here are two resources: 1) a step-by-step process, and 2) some nifty time-saving tips to keep in mind when you’re mapping. The most important tips, I think, are to practice mind-mapping on a daily basis and to not mind-map everything you’re reading. Also, it helps to plan out your mind-maps by drawing out a rough one with the main topics you need to map out. This is useful so that you can organize the information in the mind map more efficiently!
While hand-written mind maps are easy in the sense that you can make them anywhere, what’s even more useful are digital mind maps. There are a variety of mind-mapping softwares that you can download, but my favorite one that I’ve found so far is NovaMind 5. It’s not free (it costs $79) but it does have a 30-day trial (I’m on day 26, at the moment). There are a variety of versions of the software, but the cheapest version is plenty enough for a student. Check it out! (Here’s an article that neatly summarizes why mind-mapping is so useful, especially for students.)
For free mind-mapping software, I found this website. It’s not as fancy as NovaMind, but I suppose you could print out your mind maps and enhance them with diagrams or pictures.
As an example of a mostly words-only mind map, check out this physics mind map about torque that I made, in light of a lovely physics test coming up next week.