In school I found mindmaps stupid. I associated them with wasting time and couldn’t imagine them helping me learn. On the other hand, the learning technique has been and is still being touted as an indispensable tool for exam preparation.
So I recently decided to give the mindmap a second chance. For one of my exams at the distance learning university I fully relied on the for me unusual learning method. And what can I say? The result was surprisingly positive, although not suitable for all applications.
Quick overview: What is a mindmap?
Mindmapping is a learning method that was developed by Englishman Tony Buzan back in the 1960s, and has since become an integral part of global learning.
The basic idea is this: For an overarching theme, all the content, ideas, etc., are. not in a long list, but in a Tree structure held. The central topic is in the middle, everything else hangs on branches around it. For example, it can be used to collect ideas, structure exam content or learn vocabulary.
The creation should be as easy as possible creative and flexible Be. Colors, shapes and small pictures can be added at will. In the end, you get a very individual and colorful mind map that fits perfectly to your learning behavior.
The links help to remember the content better. They give the brain a clear structure and are easier to remember than, for example, a long list. The additional images and colors also bring a visual factor into play.
More information on how to create a mindmap can be found in this article or here.
My use case for the mindmap practice test
To put mindmapping to the acid test, I chose one of my current exams (topic: marketing). For exam preparation I had to write a whole series of definitions, explanations, etc., on the mind map. learning by heart; in addition there were some arithmetic problems. In addition, the various topics had to be linked again and again in terms of content.
So, at first sight, a perfect requirement profile for the mind map learning method.
The goals were also clear: To repeat and, above all, memorize all the content I had learned during the semester. That should be feasible, right??
Concrete implementation: Create a mind map
If you want to create a mind map, you basically have two options: classically with pieces of paper and pens or digitally with one of the numerous mind map tools. Unfortunately, I can’t give you a definite recommendation, both methods are a matter of taste.
But let’s have a look at the respective advantages of the two variants. Then you can decide better later:
|The creation is more creative and easier.||There are no space problems, the mindmap can be as big as I want it to be.|
|The manual creation supports the learning.||The branches and contents can be flexibly moved or re-sorted.|
|Colors, shapes and images are easier to use.||The digital version is available everywhere.|
|You get a "tangible Result.||Modern mind map programs offer extensive formatting.|
I decided to use the digital version for my practical test.
First and foremost, I was afraid that I would have space problems on a DIN A4 sheet (which later turned out to be true). Besides, I’m not a very creative person, but I like structure and order. That’s why I really wanted to have the possibility to re-sort my content later on.
But remember: Whether digital or classic is purely a matter of taste. There is no right or wrong here!
My mindmap software: Xmind
Specifically, I used the free mind map program Xmind. In my opinion Xmind offers all important functions and is easy to use. You can use different colors, shapes and structure templates; furthermore, there are some key combinations that make your life even easier.
However, the software is not perfect either: Xmind is quite slow at the start, but fortunately this becomes less so during editing. To save the mindmap, you can create an image file (png format), but for a PDF you would need the paid pro version. Also the use of the formatting is a bit awkward here and there.
So Xmind is solid, simple solution, which is absolutely sufficient for my needs. Who still more formatting, coloring etc. would like, should if necessary. look for another software.
Create a mindmap: Here’s how it works!
Now I had my software and a lot of exam material in front of my nose, which wanted to be converted into mindmaps. The first step was quite clear: I needed the central terms for the middle of my mind maps.
Since my exam dealt with marketing, the classification was also found quickly: the classic four P’s of marketing (product policy, pricing policy, communication policy and distribution policy). In addition, I created a fifth mindmap, on which I collected all potential calculation tasks.
On this basis I looked at my course scripts again and collected the most important topics on the five mindmaps.
The central motto: Just go for it!
I invested little time in colors or shapes, but concentrated fully on the content and structure of the mindmap. This way I was able to create my mindmaps quite quickly. Of course you can already pay attention to colors and draw small pictures while creating the mindmap. As I said: This is pure matter of taste.
As soon as I had a mindmap ready, I looked at everything again and thought about whether the structure really made sense. Then I moved, added or renamed a few terms here and there.
Overall, however, it has shown: The first, intuitive structure was absolutely correct in most cases and perfect for my individual learning and understanding.
Did the creation work well?
Clearly yes! When creating a mindmap, the greatest strength of the learning method becomes apparent: it is simple, intuitive and brings variety in the often monotonous daily learning routine. You could even say: mindmapping is fun!
However, it is also important to note: It costs some time, to put all the content together again and record it in a mindmap. You should not underestimate this. Fortunately, this time is not wasted, but you are studying the content again intensively and building the first links and structures in your head.
A difficulty brings the creation however nevertheless with itself. You always come across the question: How detailed should I transfer the contents into my mind map?? If you go into too much detail, the mind map quickly becomes confusing. If you stay too superficial, important details could get lost because you repeat them too roughly later on.
Unfortunately, I can’t offer you a perfect solution for this problem; it depends too much on the individual case and above all on your objective. If you mainly want to get an overview of the exam contents, the rough version is surely enough. If you want to learn intensively, you have to go into more detail.
I have created a mindmap, and now?
As soon as the mind maps are ready, the learning really starts. Finally, you have to repeat the contents regularly, even with a mind map. At this point mindmaps hardly differ from other learning methods. you look at the contents regularly and try to keep them. Therefore the central question
How well do the mindmaps help to memorize the exam material??
The most important thing in advance: The mind maps helped me a lot. For me, every minute of work was worth it and paid off later in the exam.
Specifically, I noticed the following advantages:
- I had through the mindmaps a better overview about the different topics and contents. This rough structure alone turned out to be very helpful, because I always knew exactly where I was when I was learning. This way I didn’t get "lost" in the very extensive exam material.
- The Connections between the topics became clearer and were more present. Both by just creating the mind map and by learning the branches, I was able to remember the links and content perspectives better.
- As a visual type of learner, I have benefited from being able to Contents in drawn form to have in front of me. Content trees simply stay in your head better than boring lists.
- By creating the mindmap and repeating it afterwards, I had automatically a learning effect, because I had to deal with the topics several times.
In spite of the many advantages the mindmaps also have downsides, which I don’t want to hide from you in any case.
The following things turned out to be annoying and difficult:
- The mind maps are at the end become quite large. This had a very practical disadvantage: I could not de facto look at them in their entirety on my screen. So I had to zoom a lot and move the picture back and forth to really see all the branches. Thereby a part of the clarity was lost again.
- To keep the mindmaps from getting out of hand, here and there I omitted some details. This can be positive, but for me it was more of a problem. In the end, I had to look up the details again in the course documentation.
- To Calculation paths to internalize, mindmaps are not suitable in my opinion. You can get an overview of the most important use cases, but for exam preparation I would always rely on index cards for the formulas and numerous exercises.
Mindmaps are a great learning method
All in all I can absolutely recommend mindmapping as a learning technique. Admittedly, you first have to get used to the procedure and it is not suitable for every use case (e.g., for the use of a computer).B. not for calculation tasks). But for clear and structured learning the learning method is perfect.
How you create the mindmaps is up to you. I have given you a few tips that helped me, but you should find your own way with the details. Just try it out!