How to Mind Map for Study Success

How would you feel if you got 1 out of 20 (5%) for a test or exam? Upset? Angry? Disappointed? This happened to me 6 years ago for my first open book test for law at university. Still to this day I can remember the awkward feeling of taking the test, flipping through my books wildly trying to find answers to the questions in front of me and having no idea what I was doing.

I knew that I didn’t get 5% because I was stupid. Walking out of that test I knew what was missing was an effective way to study. You see, I had managed to get good marks in high school by rote learning (spending hours and hours reading my text books and notes, and being able to repeat it like a parrot). But I never really understood what I was learning, which could explain why I didn’t really enjoy my subjects and graduating from high school was such a relief!

All of that changed when I learnt how to mind map.

For my next test for law (they gave me a second chance), all that I brought in with me was a bunch of simple mind maps. I remember feeling confident and in control doing that test. I got my test paper back and my score had jumped from 1 out of 20 to 15 out of 20. I’m now in my final semester of law, and I can honestly say that I don’t think I’d be here if it wasn’t for my mind maps.

Why do mind maps work so well as a study tool? They engage you in whole brain thinking and allow you to see the big picture (how all the different ideas are to connected to one another). I find that they also help me to clarify my thoughts, simplify complex ideas, memorise information and allow me to be creative so I don’t get as bored as easily.

How can you mind map? Below is a step by step process on how you can create a mindmap. The example used is preparing an event (i.e. school ball), but you could mindmap anything else (e.g. subjects).

centralimage

Step 1: Grab some coloured pens/pencils, a blank piece of paper and turn it sideways. In the centre of the page draw the first image that comes to mind on the topic you are mindmapping. Label the image.

clothesbranch

Step 2: Branch off from your central image and create one of your main ideas (think of each branch as being like a chapter in a book). Label the branch. You can also draw a picture for it.

branch1-minus-pics

Step 3: From your main branches draw some sub-branches and from those sub-branches you can draw even more branches. What you are beginning to do is create associations between ideas.

branch1-complete

Step 4: Draw pictures for each branch or for as many branches as possible. Make each picture as absurd, funny and/or exaggerated as possible. The reason for this is that we think in pictures and remember vivid, exaggerated images more easily.

branch2-complete

Step 5: Draw another main branch but this time use a different colour. Colour helps to seperate out different ideas and keeps your mind stimulated). Draw sub-branches and pictures. If you get bored at any stage, move on and create another branch.

branch3-complete

Stage 6: Keep repeating the above process (different colours, main branch, sub-branches and absurd pictures). Make sure each branch is curved and not a straight line. The brain is more stimulated by curved lines.

finished

Step 7: Voila! You have created a mind map. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a work of art. Allow yourself to be as messy and creative as you like. It doesn’t matter if other people can’t understand your mind map. You just need to be able to.

If you’d like to see how mind maps have been used to simplify complex topics such as global warming, click here.

68 Responses to How to Mind Map for Study Success

  1. SimoneM November 16, 2007 at 11:28 am #

    Brilliant article, Jane.
    Love the steps through the mind map and your openness and honesty about how this technique has improved your education experience.
    Stumbled it for all students to read and apply :)
    S.

  2. Lara November 16, 2007 at 11:57 am #

    What about math?

  3. Jane November 16, 2007 at 12:44 pm #

    You can mind map mathematical concepts. I did that for all my statistics units at university and it helped me a lot.

    Don’t get me wrong, I still had to practice solving problems (over and over), but mapping out the core concepts was a great way to start.

    Why not try it and see how it goes.

  4. 孙小小 January 23, 2008 at 11:21 pm #

    I love the way you explain things so much!

  5. 河西狮 February 1, 2008 at 11:04 am #

    can you recommond some software?

  6. positive76 March 6, 2008 at 1:09 am #

    yes, I like the way of explaining the Mind Mapping.

    and I recommend Nova-Mind Software !!!

  7. Maria May 28, 2008 at 12:55 am #

    i think i’v fount a new studying technic….and just in time. my exams are in 2 weeks!!!

  8. Sara August 25, 2008 at 12:23 am #

    This is a very heartwarming website, i appreciate the openness and sharing of the mind mapping technique and the global warming maps that are for everyone to see, read and use them. Really great!

    Thank you!

  9. Swan October 5, 2008 at 9:17 am #

    heyah..thx for the information..i’m having my exam in 4 weeks and i still dunno how to start until i read your “mindmapring” article..thanks..

  10. crystal December 2, 2008 at 3:00 am #

    Great information. I do workshops for students on various study techniques and would like to use this information to summarize my overall presentation.

  11. Jane December 2, 2008 at 6:11 am #

    Thanks Crystal. I’m happy for you to use this information in your presentations. Best of luck!

  12. Swarna January 9, 2009 at 11:50 am #

    Thanks for this lesson, Jane. And I was impressed by the Global warming maps also.

  13. suzanne March 12, 2009 at 7:09 am #

    thanks for your help!

  14. Samantha June 10, 2009 at 12:59 am #

    Thanks for this post. I realized that I was breezing through University by rote learning. I recently transferred programs here and I realized that rote studying would not get me anywhere. I hope this can help!!

  15. Hardik June 14, 2009 at 1:32 pm #

    Hello, I have read this article. It’s amazing. But i am in std. 12th. How will I manage chart with colours? It will take more time.thank you very much.

  16. richard July 19, 2009 at 3:45 pm #

    Hi Jane, excellent way to explain the mind map. I’m doing law exams at the moment, nas was wondering how you contruct an effective mind map as you study. should you read the content, and then contruct a mind map, or do you create one while reading the material? thanks!

    • Jane August 7, 2009 at 1:47 pm #

      Hi Richard

      Great question! You can use mind maps to prepare for your law exams in a number of ways.

      This is what I usually do to prepare for my exams (with mindmaps)…

      1. First I just read the content. Usually the content doesn’t make much sense the first time I read it but I get a rough idea of the main ideas.

      2. Then I sit down and mind map out the content while reading the material (sometimes I will mindmap out every sentence!). This can take some time, but this really allows me to gain a deep understanding of the material.

      3. Then I convert the content on my mindmaps into flashcards.

      Hope this helps and all the best with your exams!

  17. astha September 19, 2009 at 11:16 pm #

    i really liked the way through which u ‘ve explained……thanks its really very helpful…..

  18. pawel_poland October 19, 2009 at 3:32 am #

    Hello all,
    i was looking for some ideas on legal maps so that I could inspire myself. Im afraid my maps are too strict, too exact copies of lectures&textbooks. I know the mindmaps with a main idea on each branch can give a great review of the most essential ideas but the point is that law is full of data, definitions and Im not sure how to present them not to influence the clarity of it.
    So could you share with us some of your legal masterpieces? :D

    Have a good day!

  19. Jane October 19, 2009 at 8:40 am #

    Hi

    Thanks for your message. You are spot on, law is full of data, definitions, cases, etc so it can be quite difficult just to include main ideas in a word or two.

    Because most of my legal exams were open book exams, I did have a lot more text on my mind maps than the examples I’ve given on this website. I was quite happy to include whole definitions on my mind maps (but of course, they were broken down in picture form too).

    All that being said, my friend Andrew who studied law with me only drew pictures on his mindmaps (hardly any words!)…pretty amazing!

    I will create a blog post this week on how I mind mapped for my law degree and post up some examples of my mind maps.

  20. Julia November 18, 2009 at 2:30 am #

    I hope that this mindmap gives me an “A” in this class because I want to gsee New Moon with my friends

  21. tuustep February 4, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    I say forget the software. Every place on the web where I see mind maps I also see software for people to use. Hell, I know plenty of artists and have completed an art degree myself. There main connection will be made with paper and pencil (or pen or crayon or maker or hell…paintbrush). There is a physical connection between the brain and the body (your hand) that a computer software can’t replace. Try it out for 30 days and see what happens……

  22. shahid February 11, 2010 at 5:02 am #

    Hi,
    I am a mature student and doing a-level chemistry and biology. It seems very hard subjects, anyone cal help me how to drwa mind maps for biology topics very hard they are. many thanks

  23. David February 16, 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    I agree with shahid. I insert a picture/photograph into iPages on my Mac, print it off,then hand draw the map.

  24. shahid February 28, 2010 at 8:38 am #

    Hi David,
    Thanks for the reply. Where is that picture/photograph on ipages which you advised me to print it off. many thanks

  25. Saloni March 18, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    hey how can i mind map for my college law exams. i mean the individual chapters .. i jus cant think of how am i supposed to do it. all the definitions n sections

  26. shmuel April 20, 2010 at 7:30 am #

    hahahahaha how on earth do u get 1/20 in an openbook test? X_X

    (0_0)—-0(X_x) K0

    • Jane May 16, 2010 at 7:56 am #

      By not knowing how to study effectively! Open book tests can be misleading. If you don’t understand the information before the test. don’t expect to learn it in the test/exam. You really need to be able to do the test without the books. The books really just give you a sense of security.

  27. Constable Wiggins April 20, 2010 at 7:30 am #

    *thumbs up*

  28. Stuck August 7, 2010 at 1:13 am #

    I am studying for the CPA exam and when I am approaching a new topic I just get stuck. I don’t know where to begin my mind map, so to speak. For a previous section I took, I mind mapped everything the same way, which not only wasted my time, but didn’t help in the long-run. Any advice? Thanks a bunch and congratulations on your success!

    • Jane August 13, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

      Whenever I feel stuck with my studies that’s when I start mind mapping out the ideas and information…it doesn’t really matter where you start – just start mind mapping!
      When you find yourself getting really bogged down with an idea that you’re mind mapping, you may want to stop and consult a different resource (try to find a book that is written in a simpler style and expresses the same ideas in a way that resonates with you).

      What do you exactly mean by “I mind mapped everything the same way”?

      No doubt about it, mind mapping can take time but in the long run (well, at least in my experience), it gives you a deeper understanding of the ideas/information.

      On the other hand, mind mapping may not be the best strategy for you to use. You may want to experiment with other techniques to prepare for your CPA exam. But I think it’s certainly worth giving it a decent shot.

      All the best,
      Jane

  29. Khat August 8, 2010 at 7:27 pm #

    Hi,
    Can you help me? hehe, what is the best mind mapping for success ?

    • Jane August 13, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

      I used to sit down with my books, read a sentence then mind map it. Read another sentence, then mind map it, etc, etc.

      Sometimes before writing an essay, I’d mind map out the structure. I’d even use mind maps to plan out the things I had to do during the day.

      There are lots of ways to use mind maps but it just depends on what you need to do and accomplish.

  30. Prili September 28, 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    Hi Jane, I was really impressed with your explanation of the mind map. Very easy to digest and easy to follow! Good luck to you and yours, nicknamed as mindmapper true worth. Thanks for share.

  31. Manee September 16, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    Hi Jane,

    That is good example. But I want to know how can I use this idea for development work?

  32. Sarah Kholusi September 23, 2011 at 3:23 am #

    Thanks a lot for the illustration & simplicity in explaining the concept!

  33. annoyed student September 27, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    This is so dumb. This has nothing to do with real life and I would never use this to actually accomplish anything, yet my college professor thinks that I’m paying her to teach me this useless high school crap. Why would I color pictures to study?

    • Jane October 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

      Hi Annoyed Student

      Mind mapping isn’t about colouring in pictures. It’s about learning information at a deep level. Drawing pictures and using different colours helps you to retain information and really understand it.

      Perhaps you should try it out for a few weeks before jumping to the conclusion that it’s “useless high school crap”

      Cheers,
      Jane

  34. Creed2105 December 13, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    Dear Jane,

    I am totally impressed with your mind mapping skills!For your info, I am a final year law student, with the University of London International Programme. I am planning to use your mind mapping strategy in order to see the results for myself. I never really had an effective ways of studying before…What usually I do i memorise stuff and ‘vommit’ everything during the exams…maybe it is best described as the ‘parroting skill’.
    thanks again for the wonderful idea!!I guess the time has come for all the law students to approach a different method of studying!!!!….You might be the one who would have started this ‘revolution’ of mind mapping for legal studies!!
    Thanks again and i will update you with my results soon…
    Take care Jane.

  35. Steve January 18, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    Hi, I’m 15 and in 3 months I have my O’Levels which are exams for all my subjects, I have 11 subjects. From Form 3 my marks have been decreasing and I haven’t studied seriously since then, now I’m in Form 5 and these O’levels are what determine my future, but somehow I can’t get my mind to work, I’m constantly wasting time; on Facebook, listening to music and staring at the wall. My question is, does this method of study work with 11 different subjects? Such as: Computer Studies, Geography, Physics, Maths etc. I’d appreciate it a lot if you’d help me here, Thanks :)

    • Jane January 19, 2012 at 8:38 am #

      Hi,

      Yes, mind mapping can help a lot with all of those subjects, even maths (I have hundreds of mind maps on statistics that I created when I studied psychology).
      All that being said, I wouldn’t use a mind map to do things such as solve mathematical equations. Lined paper will do the job for that!

      Another strategy I always used once I had completed mind maps is flash cards. This helped me to practice getting the information out of my head quickly (after all, this is what you’ll need to do for your exams).

      If you want to maximise your ability to effectively remember what you study, I strongly recommend you get rid of any distractions whilst you study. Lock yourself out of Facebook (use Self Control or Freedom apps). Multitasking just messes with your memory and will leave you feeling frustrated.

      Hope this helps. Let me know how you go!

      Jane

  36. Dicky March 4, 2012 at 3:03 am #

    Jane
    I will give it a try… I am impressed with your explanation. Thanks for helping all the desperate students Any tips on time management with distance learning please?
    Thanks
    Dicky

  37. Cody March 9, 2012 at 4:17 am #

    How often do you reread your mind maps? Do you reread it once or a certain amounts of days before (and how many times) an upcoming test? Thank you in advance if you respond, and thanks for posting and article as such.

    • Jane March 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

      Hi Cody

      There are no hard and fast rules to how you revise with mind maps. I usually would take a few minutes to re-read my mind maps daily for several days before an exam. But I don’t just look at the mind maps, I use other techniques to retain and recall the information. The two main techniques I use are flash cards (created from my finished mind maps) and a technique where I flip over the finished mind map (so you can’t see it) and try and draw out as much of the content as I can remember. I also create overarching mind maps of all the ideas of a subject on a big A3 sheet of paper to help get a big picture view of a subject. I find this makes a huge difference.

      It’s simply a matter of experimenting and seeing what combination of strategies works best for you.

      All the best,

      Jane

  38. providance May 1, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    Hey Jane:
    I’m a psychology student and I’m struggling to finish studying because I spend hours writing notes which I eventually don’t finish revising,my lecture said I should try mind mapping but I didn’t know where to start till I read your article although its given me an idea I’m still not sure as to how to begin

  39. John May 23, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    Wow this is a great tip for students,, i like it,, very very thanks for it.

  40. Guru January 19, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    Is it possible to make mind maps for subjects like corporate law? Are there some examples I can have?

    • Jane January 20, 2013 at 6:19 am #

      Hi Guru

      Thanks for your question.

      Yes it certainly is possible to make mind maps for corporate law. In fact, I mind mapped out my whole corporate law course as it was the only way I could get my head around the content.

      I will have to dig out my old mind maps (it was years ago that I studied corporate law) but will post some corporate law mind maps for you shortly.

      Cheers,

      Jane Genovese

  41. yumna March 10, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    i like this way to explain things…

  42. study habits for middle school students March 21, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    Thanks for finally writing about >How to Mind Map for Study
    Success | Learning Fundamentals <Loved it!

  43. Jeanett January 11, 2014 at 10:19 pm #

    I almost never leave a response, but i did some searching and wound up here How to Mind
    Map for Study Success | Learning Fundamentals.
    And I actually do have a couple of questions for you if it’s allright.
    Could it be just me or does it look like a few of the comments
    appear like they are left by brain dead visitors? :-P And, if
    you are writing at additional places, I would like to follow anything fresh you have to post.
    Would you list of the complete urls of your public sites like your twitter
    feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

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