“The soul never thinks without a mental image.”

Aristotle 344 BC

Hi guys! It’s Paul here for a change.

With mock exam results season in full flow or on the very near horizon, the gaps in knowledge are being laid bare. More often than not, these results will be the catalyst for action by students and their teachers alike. A lot of students will have worked very hard for these mocks and still be disappointed. This will beg the question as to whether their revision has been as effective as it could be. Today we are looking at one of the many types of revision, but one that science says should work for the majority of students.

At the ParentGuidetoGCSE headquarters, we’ve been incredibly impressed by the work of Elaine Colliar on mind mapping. She is a protégée of the man who brought us mind maps, Tony Buzan. Type either name into Google (other search engines are available!) and you will be inundated with information on both of them. You’ll also be able to see a selection of mindmaps they have created. Elaine rightfully boasts that the students she works with more often than not get top grades. We have investigated further to provide you with the key facts/rules behind mind maps.

There is a good chance that your teen has created basic mind maps before in lessons. There are also a load of websites out there that allow students to combine their obsession with computers and technology with learning. Popplet.com and mindmapfree.com are my favourites . . BUT . . the experts say (and much like parents, they are ALWAYS right) using a pen and paper is the absolute best way to create a far stronger memory trace than the electronic equivalent. The way mind mapping works is based on sound science. All long term memories are essentially pictures in your head. I struggle to forget the time I had the chance to slot a match winning penalty in the last minute of a school rugby fixture . . . I missed the ball, kicked the ground HARD, pulled my groin badly and ended up being carried off the field. The images (and shame) are seared into my memory. We all have memories, good and bad . . . and all are pictures in our heads.

There is a lot of research around the way the human brain transfers information from short term memory to long term memory. Essentially, the rules of mindmapping for memory are:

  1. Create a mindmap of the topic being revised.
  2. Review it 10 minutes after finishing it.
  3. Review it 24 hours later.
  4. Review after a week.
  5. Review it after a month.
  6. Review it after 3 months.

These steps will allow you to learn, remember, and most importantly, recall the key information. Date the map and then it’ll be clear to you when the review need doing. It’s always best to make a note on a revision diary when each map needs to be revisited.

Looking at some of the mind maps that Elaine has created might make your teen think they can’t be that creative and/or their drawing skills aren’t good enough. So long as the map is graphical (bad pictures will also be remembered!), colourful, and all on one sheet of paper then this opens up the opportunity to use the 6 rules above to commit the topic to the long term memory. Elaine Colliar suggests that being able to draw smiley face, sad face, love heart and a cross are the basic ingredients required.

See the link here to a basic guide to mindmapping. Elaine Colliar does also have an e-book that can be downloaded if you want to explore this further.

The advice on pens is important. A good set of fine tip colour pens will help to build the maps more easily. Each ‘branch’ should be a different colour.

There is a strong possibility that the first map created the way shown in the video will not look great. (There is a cast iron guarantee that they will get better quickly!)

Here are some great examples of mindmaps – check out how much information you can store in one!