Mind mapping

Of all of the different learning styles, the visual learning style is the best suited to traditional exam revision methods, such as mind mapping. Visual learners will respond well to these colourful summaries of the content. This is not to say that auditory learners and kinaesthetic learners shouldn’t use mind maps; they can actually be pretty effective for you too.

A bad mind map is useless and ineffective. It’s important to know how to develop them properly, or they’ll just be a waste of time and paper.

Here are some tips to help you learn how to mind map so that you don’t waste time or paper.

Firstly, gather your tools. You will need:

  • Sheets of plain paper (A3 if you can get it, otherwise A4 will do)
  • Black marker
  • Black pen
  • Different colour pens OR highlighters OR pencil crayons
  • Sticky notes

The most important thing to remember about mind mapping is that it is a way to see the main ideas/components of a section at a glance, and how those ideas are connected.

Start by reading through the section you want to summarise, and making a note of the main ideas.


Draw your mind map with these ideas in mind.

Now, read through the section again. For each of the main ideas, you should identify related ideas.

Using a black pen, jot these down on your mind map.

Now, set aside your textbook or notes and focus on what you know or remember about the content. Using different colours, make notes for yourself, write examples that illustrate the point, draw doodles that help to explain things and connect different ideas. You can also use sticky notes to add more examples or to test yourself.


Your mind map is now complete! If you are a visual learner, you can simply use your mind maps as visual reminders of the content. If you are an auditory learner or a kinaesthetic learner, use your mind map to explain the content to a friend or helpful parent or sibling.


Where to find music for studying

The word ‘auditory’ relates to the sense of hearing. We know that people have different learning styles and that people with an auditory learning style learn best through hearing. This means that you’re able to absorb information by listening to it – this works great in a classroom environment where your teacher is explaining the content.

The downside to being an auditory learner is that silence can be distracting! It is almost impossible for an auditory learner to absorb information by sitting in a silent room and reading notes.

Have a look at this blog post with study tips for auditory learners, including starting a study club and studying somewhere where you’re able to make a bit of noise.

If neither of those are options for you, then consider studying with music. Because you’re an auditory learner, you’re bound to be distracted by lyrics and complicated musical compositions so it’s important to find the right music to study to. Think background noise, rather than the main act at a concert.

With a good library of studying music, you can pop your headphones on in a quiet library or room and make it easier to focus. You could even experiment with reserving certain playlists for specific subjects: the familiar music might jog your memory the next time you pick up where you left off.

Here are some tips for choosing the right music to study to (as well as where to look):

  • Choose instrumental music, rather than music that contains vocals.
  • The music should verge on boring. In other words, if you would be unable to listen to the musical piece when you’re not studying, then it’s probably a good bet.
  • That said, you shouldn’t hate the music. Don’t choose something that is completely off-putting – it should make you feel relaxed, not on edge.
  • Classical music by maestros like Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart and Tchaikovsky are a good place to start. If you can’t bear these compositions and want something instrumental but modern, then try musical scores from movies by composers like Hans Zimmer and Thomas Newman.
  • Don’t play it too loud. The music should fade into the background, rather than dominate your thoughts.
  • If you find music distracting then try nature sounds such as the sound of the ocean, whale and dolphin calls, etc. The idea is for the music or the sound to provide white noise so that you aren’t distracted by silence. These nature sounds (often used for meditation) can be very calming and non-intrusive.

Try searching for ‘Study Music’, ‘Meditation Music’, ‘Meditation Sounds’, etc. on Apple Music or YouTube. If you’d prefer music scores, try Hans Zimmer, Thomas Newman, Danny Elfman, Howard Shore and Alexandre Desplat. These are the most famous movie score composers but there are plenty more. Find a few that you like and enjoy!

You’re well on your way to understanding your own unique learning style. Keep experimenting until you find what works for you and there’s no doubt that you’ll ace your exams!

Setting up a study timetable

When it comes to time management, there are three types of people:

  1. The procrastinator:

This person underestimates how much time they’ll need to study and so believes that they have plenty of time left. They’re usually cramming late into the night before the exam, and sometimes even just before the exam.

  1. The overachiever

This person does nothing but study. There’s no time for fun or relaxation. By the time the exams roll around, this person is so frazzled that it’s a miracle they can hold a pen, never mind answer questions with it.

  1. The disorganised

This poor soul tries their best but is so disorganised that they’re always underprepared. They’ll spend hours revising a section, only to discover that it’s not even examinable!

Recognise any of these types? They all have one thing in common: None of them know how to set up a study timetable.

A good study timetable will ensure that you are organised, prepared and even relaxed by the time you write your exam. Learning how to manage your time effectively is an important study skill and life skill.

  1. Choose your format

You may want to use an online calendar (for example Google Calendar) to do your planning, or you may prefer a good old-fashioned diary. You could also download and print this study timetable. Add colour and stickers and put it somewhere you can see it daily (like the fridge).

  1. Get your exam timetable

Your exam timetable should include details of the exam, for example the paper that you will be writing (i.e. English Paper 1 or Life Sciences Paper 2), the time of the exam and the venue. Fill in this information on your study timetable (include all of the specifics).

  1. Write down what you need to know

For every exam that you will be writing, jot down the sections that you will need to study. Remember to do this for every exam and not necessarily every subject. You will write more than one exam for some subjects and it’s important to know what each exam will be testing.

  1. Work backwards and plan your study sessions

This part will take a bit of time. In two or three-hour blocks, work backwards from each exam and write down the sections that you will need to study. Try not to do more than two or three study sessions per day. Also try not to plan to study a section the day before the exam. Rather block off some time to do some revision for that exam the day before. This will help you feel calmer and more in control.

  1. Now add the fun stuff

Now try to schedule in some recreational and relaxation activities. Start with family outings, birthdays, church gatherings, etc. and then add at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Try to do something fun once a week, like see a movie with friends. Don’t try to do too much, as this will only make you feel more stressed.

Once you’re happy with your study timetable, and you’ve checked that it isn’t too demanding (or too relaxed!), make it as colourful or attractive as you like, put it somewhere you can see it and look at it every morning. If it’s electronic, set reminders and alarms so that you don’t forget to look at your to-do list for the day. Things may change and need shifting around sometimes but you should be disciplined enough to stick to your plan as much as possible.

Draw a line through every successful day so that you can see how far you’ve come. Before you know it, the exams will be over and you’ll have aced them!