The Student’s Guide to Mind Mapping

In this article we will talk about mind mapping for students, who, as you will see, can profit tremendously from applying this easy but effective tool in their education. Find out what you can do with mind maps to improve your memory, take more effective notes and enhance the results of your studying efforts!

Why mind maps?

Tony Buzan, the world famous mind map guru, has been propagating the use of mind maps in education for decades. Today, millions of students of all ages mind map, and more and more teachers are encouraging them in doing so. But what is it that makes mind maps so effective? What’s the secret?

Here are three reasons why mind maps are so effective:

  • A mind map’s radiant structure directly corresponds to the way our brain stores and retrieves information.
  • A mind map conveys hierarchy and relationships between topics and enables you to see the “big picture”.
  • A mind map makes use of “memory triggers” (pictures, colors, shapes, specific locations etc.).
Hand-drawn mind map about mind mapping

It is those properties that make mind maps such a great learning tool. And what’s more, they can be created and used by absolutely anyone. Whether you’re a post-graduate student or are just starting out in your academical career, mind maps can help you structure, manage and memorize the knowledge you’re trying to acquire.

  • If you have never mind mapped before, you can check out our free online mind map training to find out how to get started. Those of you who know how to mind map, but not what to use mind mapping for, keep going.

Using Mind Maps in the Classroom

Note: For many of the uses described below, a simple paper mind map can be used. For some others, an online mind mapping solution is needed. You can click here to get some general information about the various mind mapping methods and their benefits and find out what will work best for your needs.

1) Brainstorming and note making

Mind maps are a great, if not the best brainstorming tool there is. By drawing a mind map you kick your brain into action and further your creativity. Drawing a mind map prior to a written exam, an essay or any other creative task will help you retrieve information from your memory and come up with new ideas by association.

If you run out of ideas too early, try drawing in blank nodes. Our brains don’t like unfinished business, and by drawing “unfinished” nodes we can often trick them into looking for creative ways to finish them.

Once you’ve accumulated enough information, you can rearrange your ideas/keywords/topics until you’ve developed the perfect structure.

  • MeisterTip: With online mind mapping software such as MindMeister, you can brainstorm with other people in real-time. Through a chat window in the program you can also talk to each other while simultaneously working on the map, leave comments on individual topics or vote them up or down.

2) Note taking

Most students use some form of linear note taking to capture the information presented to them in class. Mind maps however are a much more effective tool when it comes to note taking. Why?

  • Because most lecturers and teachers don’t present information in a completely linear way. They tend to jump around and belatedly add details to topics previously covered.
  • Because a mind map is quite “Spartan” when it comes to writing and you automatically dispense with unnecessary information, capturing only what is really important.
  • Because every mind map fits on one single page and you can see the relationships, hierarchies and connections between topics at a glance.
  • MeisterTip: With MindMeister, you can create a main map where all the main topics are featured, and then create submaps for all subtopics, automatically linking back and forth between them.

3) Memorization

Mind maps can help you memorize all kinds of information and data, from vocabulary of a second language to complex physical concepts. In his book “The Mind Map Book”, Tony Buzan explains, why mind maps are so great for memorization: “Mind maps utilize all our cortical skills and activate the brain on all levels, making it more alert and skillful at remembering. The attractiveness of mind maps makes the brain want to return to them, and again encourages the probability of spontaneous recall.” (Tony Buzan, “The Mind Map Book”, p. 87)

  • MeisterTip: In MindMeister, you can easily quiz yourself by opening and closing nodes. Simply write all your questions on 1st level nodes, and all the corresponding answers in 2nd level nodes. If you close all second level nodes with ALT + 1, you’re left with only your questions. Now you can go through them one by one and test yourself. Check your answers by opening the respective answer nodes.


4) Revising lessons and exam material

Use a mind map to revise material covered in class. Every time you look at the map, you will memorize its content a little more. Even working on your map (improving it with colors, pictures and the like) will intensify your knowledge of its content. The same applies to material you are trying to study for an exam.

  • MeisterTip: Revising material with MindMeister is easy, even while you’re on the go. Instead of struggling to go through all your text- and notebooks, simply access the map from your tablet or smart phone.

The French Revolution MindMeister mind map

5) Summarizing books, essays and articles

All throughout our academical career, we are confronted with material written by other people, be it a novel, a textbook, a scientific article or an essay. The longer and the more complex the material, the harder it is for us to understand and memorize what we’re reading. Taking notes in the form of a mind map while reading can be a great help to memorize the information we are presented with.

  • Mind maps encourage us to break the information down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
  • They capture the key concepts of a topic.
  • They stimulate our brain.
  • They are perfect for later revisions of the material.

Below you’ll find an article about Albert Einstein, written as a linear text. Next to it you will find a mind map based on the same article. Compare the two formats and decide which one would be easier to revise and memorize:

Mind map vs. linear notes

See also: How to improve reading comprehension with mind maps

6) Group projects

Many students who are otherwise very social and enjoy working in teams dread the moment when their teacher proposes a group project. It is not the workload they fear, but the organization, task management and communication within the group, all of which are vital for any successful project. The key to all of the above is to use mind maps. You can easily brainstorm with your colleagues and get everyone on the same page, structure the workload and assign tasks.

  • MeisterTip: MindMeister enables you to share mind maps and collaborate on them in real-time. Files, notes, pictures and even deadlines can be added directly in the mind map. You can even connect your MindMeister account to the online task management tool MeisterTask, where you can import all tasks from you mind map and collaboratively complete the project.

7) Presentations & reports

Mind maps are a great way to present information while doing a report. A simple but very effective solution is to just project an entire mind map onto a screen and point to whichever topic you are currently talking about. If you really want to impress your audience, you can also start off with an empty space and draw a new mind map from scratch while giving your speech. This seems like a much harder task, but if you prepare for it by drawing your entire mind map three to four times prior to your presentation, chances are you will be able to remember it when the time comes. Don’t forget, a mind map is designed to help you remember!

  • MeisterTip: If your mind map is too big and complex to simply project it onto the screen as a whole, you can use MindMeister’s Presentation Mode to break it down into smaller bits. You can then present them on slides, while still communicating the “bigger picture” and other important properties of your mind map.

8) To-do lists

This is a pretty obvious one, but definitely shouldn’t be underestimated. Use mind maps to create to-do lists that actually help you remember what you need to do. Tasks can be divided into categories like “Current Projects” “Homework” and “Exam preparation” or simply according to subject.

  • MeisterTip: With MindMeister, you can add deadlines to your tasks and link them with your Google or Outlook calendar.

MindMeister Mind Map: My To-Dos

See also: How I got through university with MindMeister

9) Information management

When writing an academical paper, one of the hardest tasks is to sort through the primary and secondary literature. The longer the paper, the more important it is to create a proper structure of your sources and their content before starting to write. Mind maps are the perfect tool for this task. You can collect all your sources in one map, prefabricate a chapter structure and order your sources accordingly. For a complete guide on how to write a paper using mind maps, click here.

  • MeisterTip: With MindMeister, you can also add links to online sources, files and notes to your map.

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