Updated: Jan 30
Kathryn and James's top tips for mindmapping like a pro!
Mindmapping is one of the greatest tools in the student’s arsenal of revision strategies, but are you mindmapping in the most effective way?
When writing out mindmaps as part of your revision, there’s always a temptation to splurge out everything you know about one topic onto the paper. However, this isn’t actually an effective way to use the mindmapping strategy — the point of a mindmap is to force you to consolidate, revise, and refine your subject knowledge, allowing you to produce a beautiful and streamlined document that can be easily memorised for quick recall in an exam.
With that in mind, here is Kathryn and James’ ten-point strategy for creating beautiful and (more importantly) useful mindmaps!
How to create effective mindmaps
Find a good working space – Ideally, you want a working space where you won’t be disturbed or distracted. This can be in your house, at the library, or at a public place like a coffee shop (or a hotel lobby, which is where James and Kathryn did all of their A Level revision!). The key is to make sure it’s warm, comfortable, easily accessible, and somewhere you feel energised about working.
Gather your supplies – In your working space gather together everything from your whole term — class notes, essays, assignments, homework, problem sheets, handouts, the little scraps of paper you tucked into your textbooks…everything! You’ll also want to gather some A3 paper, some flashcards, and some pens — ideally, coloured as well as black and blue.
Refine your topics – Go through all that material you just assembled and pick out what you think your strongest topics are. How you do this is up to you — you can choose the topics where you got the best marks, the topics you found most interesting, or the topics you feel most confident about. The key here is to choose one more topic than you need for your exam — so, if your exam has three questions, prepare four topics. This is how many mindmaps you’re going to produce!
Now we can start the mindmap! – The golden rules here are to keep it simple, keep it clean, and keep it clear. The point of a mindmap is that it makes an entire topic instantly visually accessible — so don’t give in to the temptation to overload the page with writing!
Follow the one thought rule – Take the central thought of your topic (in my example overleaf, it’s ‘Supernatural in Shakespeare’) and put it in a bubble in the centre of the page. The one-thought rule means that each new thought or tributary off that main topic then gets a new line — so ‘Supernatural in Shakespeare’ is followed by ‘Magic’, which is followed by ‘The Tempest’. Don’t cram multiple thoughts onto one line!
Follow the one word rule – This is a hard rule to stick to, but it’s vital. Remember, the mindmap isn’t your essay answer itself — it’s a just a visual prompt. The lines don’t need everything you know about the topic — just enough to prompt your memory. Believe in yourself enough to know that the knowledge is there. You’re just finding an easy way to remember it; you’re not trying to convince yourself you know it.
Do what works for you – Use colour, use pictures, make it black and white, make it elegant, make it fun, or just follow the aesthetic of ‘brutal functionality’ — do whatever you know works for you! If you love to use colour to revise, and you find it boosts your memory, make it colourful. If, however, you’re not an artistic kind of person, and you’d rather just write it out in biro, do that!
Whew! Congratulations — that’s half the battle! At this point, you should be feeling pretty good about the topics you’ve prepared for the exam. The next step is to hammer them into your memory — and for this, there is no better tactic than flashcards.
Don’t flashcard the whole mindmap – What you really want to be flashcarding is just the ‘soundbites’ of the mindmap — i.e. just the things you absolutely have to memorise. We’re both from literary backgrounds, so for us it was always text quotations; however, if you’re revising for something like Maths or Science, it might be equations or formulae; if you’re revising for something in the humanities like History, it might be key dates, and if you’re revising for something in the social sciences like Psychology, it might be key case studies.
Test yourself on the flashcards – This is often the most fun part of the whole process, as it’s the part where you can bring in a friend. Swap your flashcards with each other and dedicate some time to testing each other on them. Once you’ve thoroughly tested yourself on the flashcards, and you’re confident you know them inside and out, congratulations — you’re ready for your exam!
Good luck from all of us here at Titanium Tutors — we know exam revision can be stressful, so just remember to breathe and to take your time with all your preparations. And know that we’re rooting for you!
Blog Post Crafted by Kathryn and James:
Kathryn and James worked on our TT Admin Team after joining the company as tutors first. They are massive believers in mind maps!