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Accelerated Learning with Mind Maps

Accelerated Learning with MindManager

The following is a guest post by MindManager user, Fernando Montenegro. Fernando is a technologist with a large IT company in Canada. He has been a MindManager user since 2001 and uses it extensively for professional and personal needs. Check out how Fernando maps his way through the ongoing technical certification process for IT professionals:

Technical certification exams are a part of life for many IT and knowledge professionals. These exams may be steps in one’s career plan or may be requirements for specific assignments or business partnerships. Because the field I work in – network security – is quite broad, I keep track of certifications across a variety of areas.

I’d like to share how I use Mind Mapping in general (and MindManager in particular) to help me manage and prepare for my certification exams. This method has worked well for me when preparing for several exams.

Clarify My Goals and Objectives

First, I have my key certification goals – short, mid and long-term – as part of my overall Goals map. This is where I can get the 20-30,000 foot-view of what is going on in my life and how I’m doing working towards the improvement I want, in whatever area. This map acts as a dashboard, with links to other maps as appropriate. From shaving strokes off my golf game to learning a new language, this is where I get to see it all.

From the Goals map I use the linked maps feature to jump to my Certification map. This is where I list in more details the certification itself, what pre-requisites it has, what exams make up that particular certification and how I am progressing towards achieving it. Some of the expert-level certifications I’m working towards have quite extensive requirements. I captured all that in separate maps and use icons to get a visual representation of that area as well as color coding to track my level of familiarity with each subject.

Certification Preparation

Each certification exam will be on its own map. Within that map, I link back to current web page for that exam (to track any changes) and I keep links to study materials. I also have a sub-tree with all the exam objectives that I extracted from the exam’s Web page. There are also links to my study notes map for that exam.

Finally, I keep a study notes map for each exam. This is where I type up notes, keep screenshots, etc… while I study the material. This is where I spent the majority of my time when studying and where I keep track how far along my studies are. Some of the ways I use this map include:

  • breaking down the study material in manageable chunks.
  • creating a mini study-schedule tying chapters to each day I have available.
  • capturing notes as I read a chapter. These can be written notes I make or just a screenshot of complex diagrams.
  • rearranging my notes to better comprehend what I just read.

Examination Process

When the time comes to actually write the exam (as opposed to just study the material), I use my maps extensively in that final push:

  • I make a copy of the exam requirements to a separate sub tree.
  • I color-code my level of knowledge/comfort of each key exam section.
  • For each section where I think additional study is needed, I bring over a copy of my study notes into the same map and keep reviewing them. I leave summaries for any key points I’m having a hard time keeping track of.
  • At the end of this process, I have a mostly “green” map with key reminders for each area of the exam.

If all went well when writing the exam, my next steps are to update the goals and certification maps with new checkmarks 🙂

Wrap Up

Ultimately, I rely heavily on several mind mapping features when studying:

  • The incredible flexibility of easily creating and moving content around.
  • Linking between maps. This gives me multiple levels of visibility as needed.
  • Color Coding. When reviewing the material, I use the traditional Red-Yellow-Green as an indication how familar I am with the material.
  • Icon Markers. From little checkmarks to indicate I’ve achieved something to priority icons for what order to study something or what exam to write.
  • URL links. Linking to exam description pages, blog posts, exam scheduling pages, local PDF files, multimedia files, etc…

Naturally, there are many study methods and people should pick what suits them best. In my case, I can’t imagine studying for anything without the power and flexibility of MindManager maps.

Here’s a MindManager map of my process with tips on how to make it work for you!

Do you use MindManager to study and take notes? Share how it has helped you in the comments below.

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