Belfast Telegraph

Home News Education

Preparing for exams using Mindmapping techniques

By Tim Fulford

This guide is intended to help with your revision, and your examination technique, so that you can make the most of what you know, understand and can do.

It does not offer a way round the problem of lack of effort in the past, but can help you make the best use of the time you have left!

Not many people enjoy exams but you can make life easier for yourself by following some of these suggestions.

Plan Revision

  • Do not pretend that everything can be done in a rush the night before each exam.
  • Work out how long you have got to revise before the exams, and plan how to use your time.


  • Make sure you know what will be examined in each subject, and the way in which the questions are asked. Have a look at the syllabus for this year’s exams and past examination papers.
  • Make sure you know what you will need for each exam both what is provided for you, and what you must provide yourself.
  • Make sure you know where and when your exams are to be held.
  • Make sure you know the rules for each exam. Never be tempted to break them!
  • Make sure you are comfortable before going into an exam – go to the toilet, wear comfortable clothes if your school allows this.

In the examination room

  • Read the instructions very carefully – do the right number of questions from the right sections, and answer compulsory questions.
  • Plan your time in the exam – if you only attempt half the questions needed your best possible mark is 50% however good the answers!
  • Make sure you know how many marks each question carries – don’t spend too long on anyone question. Use the number of marks as a guide.
  • Read questions very carefully BEFORE you start writing anything – not halfway through your answer. The examiners allow time for you to read the paper when they plan the exam so don’t think that you are wasting time.
  • Answer the questions set, not the ones you hoped for. However good your work, you will get NO marks if you don’t answer the examiners’ questions.
  • Make sure your answers are carefully presented – write clearly and label diagrams, for example, if this helps your answer.
  • Let the supervisor know if anything is disturbing you – other people tapping nervously with a pencil, noise outside the exam room, or even the supervisor’s squeaky shoes.

After an examination

  • Don’t worry about the one you’ve just taken; you can’t do anything about it now! Concentrate instead on the next one.
  • Tell your school straightaway about illness or other circumstances which might have affected your performance.

Do not panic

  • Exams are NOT designed to catch you out.
  • Being calm and thoughtful in the exam will help you get the most from your preparation.

Note taking in lessons/lectures and from written texts

Traditional note taking is not usually taught in a formal way at school. As a school inspector and teacher over the course of a year I used to see many hundreds of different sets of notes created by pupils of all abilities.

More often than not the notes are traditional written notes in a prose or list format. Much of the information that has been recorded by the ‘note taker’ is not very useful. Look back a set of your own notes and try and identify how useful the notes are.

I and many others have found that MindMapping is an excellent diagrammatic way of organizing key ideas or concepts from lesson notes, texts or meetings.

Simply take the essential elements from linear material (textbooks, your lesson notes or the agenda) to generate your MindMap. In this way, you can capture all the information on one page or screen, enabling you to see the interconnections of ideas. What’s more, MindMaps encourage you to utilise the power of images and colour to add emphasis and association to your notes. Using graphics in this way enhances the memory’s storing and recalling capabilities. They even look exciting!

Tips for summarizing a lesson, lecture or meeting for revision purposes.

1. Start by entering the subject matter in the middle of the map with a central idea. This should always include a coloured image. Our brain remembers images in great details this will aid recall

2. Create the main branches from this subject/agenda item, each labeled with a key topic or theme that was covered in the lesson/meeting. Remember to use single keywords in keeping with MindMapping principles (where possible). Each branch should be a different colour.

3. Next draw connecting branches to the main branches and label these with sub-topics. Each branch should be continous and the key word should be written slightly above the branch.

4. Add coloured images to help make the MindMap more visually memorable for revision. Our brain recalls images much easier than text or prose.

5. While it is necessary to be brief in order to create an effective MindMap, you may wish to include more comprehensive notes at early stages of study. Some MindMapping software i.e. iMindMap allows you to add notes to your branches or link them to external files such as Word documents or spreadsheets which you can open up when needed. After you have studied this information, you will only need the keywords of your MindMap to bring it back to memory.

Tips for making notes from a textbook or course material

1. Textbooks are usually neatly structured into chapters, topic headings and sub headings which can provide an easy framework for creating your MindMap branches.

2. Build your Mind Map as you progress through the study text. Every time you read an idea that strikes you as important or interesting, just add it to your MindMap in the appropriate place. You can also add your own thoughts and ideas as they arise while you are reading.

3. Add detail such as images, shapes, highlights and colors to help you organize the material better and commit it to memory.

4. When you have finished reading, you will have generated a single Mind Map which summarizes everything of interest from the text. The act of creating the Mind Map will have greatly increased the volume of information that you absorbed from the text.

5. If you created your Map with MindMapping software you can review the topic at any time by referring back to your MindMap. It is easy to make any changes or restructure your map without the hassle of recreating all of your work.

6. You don’t need pages and pages of notes for effective study!

Mindmapping is a skill which we can all learn and use. It can be used for all forms of planning, organising, creative thinking, learning and recall. The inventor of Tony Buzan has spent many years training hundreds of thousands of people from all nations how to use this amazing technique to enhance their learning, business and personal lives.

Tim Fulford is an independent education consultant and licensed trainer with Think Buzan specialising in Mindmapping for Education and Business. Tim’s extensive background in teaching and education gives him valuable skills and insights into how people are taught, learn and think. Current projects include working with one of the largest academy providers in England to ensure that all stages of the examination processes are effective for the students. Tim offers a range of services which support teaching and learning both to organisations and individuals.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph