Exams can be one of the most stressful situations that we find ourselves in. Stress and memory are not good bedfellows. We are more likely to remember what we want when we are stress free and relaxed.
One of the causes of exam stress is the fear that we will forget everything before we have the chance to commit it to paper. This is one situation in which mind maps are ideal. Their use of key words, key ideas and the logical connection of related concepts makes them a perfect aide memoire for exam situations.
They can be used for revision: when revising make an initial mind map of all the information you want to learn and then revise by putting that mind map to one side and attempting to reconstruct it. When you have done this, compare your new mind map to the original to see the areas where you are strong and those areas that require further attention.
In the exam itself, spend the first few minutes doing quick-fire mind maps of the question you intend to answer. This should be a kind of memory dump. This will mean that you have all the information you need to recall on the page in front of you and so your mind will be freed up to concentrate on the questions themselves without the added stress of trying to remember.
One of the reasons for using mind maps is to help with making notes of other peoples work - such as books but also articles, lectures, presentations , TV shows and podcasts. In other words any situation where you are hoping to absorb and understand somebody else’s ideas.
In many cases what you may try to do is to write as many notes as you possibly can to ensure that you don’t miss out anything important. However this approach can be exhausting as you will be writing all the time and you might find yourself so focused on what you are writing that you are not really paying attention or thinking about what is being said.
Not everything in the book or lecture will be of equal weight or importance. There is a great deal of redundancy in our use of language. When making notes, you should try to write down only key words and key concepts. These are the ideas that are absolutely essential to the meaning. Try it with this article. Print it off. Go through it and see how many words you can cross out while still retaining the underlying meaning. Whatever is left should be the key words and key ideas.