Advanced Medical School Note Taking with Mind Maps

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In Accelerated Learning for Medical School, we discussed the main points of how to make Mind Maps, as well as other mnemonic devices. But we didn’t go into too much detail about how exactly to implement them in your study routine. Here are some of the ways I have tried to utilize Advanced Medical School Notetaking with Mind Maps. But first, let me delve into my original note taking strategy a bit.

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In retrospect, this is how I view my notes. I was very proud of them at the time. They were (somewhat) organized, handwritten, color coded, and chunked by certain features. I also found benefit in setting up my notes in two columns per page instead of one. This way, when I would mix some information up due to its relative proximity on a page, I could remember if it was on the left-hand side or right.

As the notes got more complex, this feature failed to provide much benefit. I also found that I was constantly adding to the past note section, having to cram new words into less and less space. Eventually, it became so cluttered that I needed a magnifying glass to read it. The tiny scratch marks were somehow legible, but a mess.

What would have been better would be a mind map. I can go into more detail as my studies progress, while still having room to expand nearly endlessly.

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Check your local library on anything from Tony Buzan and you will get the gist. You could simplify them to concept maps with color coded sections and visual aids. These graphically complex, yet easy to create, note-forms are very memorable in my experience, but still require rehersal.

You begin like a concept map, with the main topic in the enter and in the largest  text. You would also want to add some color and images to this, which is not seen in concept mapping. Then, each branch is color coded and often themed for more associated memory.

As you branch out, each following tier is smaller in size, yet retains the basic color scheme. You would also add an image to each new branch, and keep it 1-2 words. You can see some of the rules by the master discussing his software, iMindMap.

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Depending on your speed in writing these out, or using software, you may wish to try creating a Mind Map during your class instead of boring notes. This will depend on your skill, the subject, and possibly the accent or speed of your instructors speech. You could always give it a try for a day or two, and revert back to another method if needed.

If you don’t feel comfortable writing/creating a Mind Map during class, than you can always convert your study notes after. Though I didn’t learn this technique until well after basic sciences, I have since utilized it for notes of textbooks, audiobooks, and the like.

I may begin with taking notes on my phone or screenshots of certain salient points of a text. I keep the notes do a minimum of verbiage as well, so it’s easy to convert later on. From there, all you need is a large sheet of paper and some markers.

I don’t really have a particular recommendation on markers or paper type as my art skills are still pretty poor. So I purchased cheaper materials. It wasn’t going to turn out to be a work of art anyway! But there are plenty of art blogs and online reviews for more direction.

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An inevitable aspect of medical school will be group projects and presentations. Though they are aimed at preparing you for…actually, I never did understand their purpose. Anyway, these assignments can be quite stressful. You may want to write an outline or bubble chart to organize your thoughts. Why not a Mind Map?

You will have to decide if the extra time needed to draw out a Mind Map is the best method for that particular assignment. If you don’t mind forgetting the information right after, than I wouldn’t recommend this method. But if it is an interesting topic, or one you may wish to add on to and use later, it’s a good choice.

It’s quite likely you will need some type of graduate paper, the medical equivalent of a dissertation. Though not NEARLY as intense, you may need to juggle information from 20-40 papers on a variety of subjects. This is the perfect tool to organize this information in a memorable way. You won’t be able to recite a long outline, but a Mind Map you may.

The best part of this design is that it is endless. Similar to our use of the zoom feature in our Prezi Microbiology videos, you can add more complexity endlessly.

If one branch has gone to the end of the page, just grab a new sheet. Use the last main point before the sheet end as the center of the new page. Now you have a full 360 degrees you can use to add to this topic as well.

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Your first few may be a bit slow to get off the ground, especially with adding images to each branch. I’ll admit, I sometimes ignore this rule due to my less than adequate drawing abilities. But I’ll still use it for more difficult topics, or if an object is just perfect for that branch.

The main thing is to have fun while doing it. I think this counts as study break time as arts and crafts soothe me, even if the end product looks like my dog already chewed it. Having a few Mind Maps posted on your wall is not only a great way to add some color to the landscape, but makes for an easy review session as well! Much better than when I used to post 4×6 notecards on my walls. I started not walking by those walls…

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” seems to have been a common theme in politics of late. Well, the saying, not the actual follow through. And I feel the same way when it comes to any of the accelerated learning techniques discussed in this and other posts. Do what works FOR YOU, and don’t worry about making mistakes. A Growth Mindset is about learning from your mistakes, and even welcoming them!

If you care to, please feel free to share your Mind Maps with the community via Facebook or the forum. You can also tag us on Twitter.

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