How to Accelerate Your Learning: Using Advanced Mind Mapping Techniques

Note: This is a guest post by Adam Sincinski of The Study Matrix blog. To assist you with understanding the concepts, techniques and strategies outlined within this article, please download the free Study Matrix 101 pdf and utilize it as a visual reference tool to help guide you through this process.

  • Do you ever find yourself becoming easily overwhelmed with trying to remember and manage large amounts of information?
  • Do you struggle to remember key concepts and pieces of information that are critical to your academic, business and career success?
  • Do you ever envy those who just seem to remember and recall information with the greatest amount of ease and without any effort?
  • Have you ever wondered about your potential to develop a photographic memory?
  • Have you ever considered that Mind Mapping might actually be the solution you have been searching for all this time?

The concept of Mind Mapping has been floating around the education sector for quite some time now. First popularized by Tony Buzan several decades ago, it has since grown in stature mainly within academic circles. Originally utilized as a means of making sense of large fragments of information, it has since been adapted and applied into many industries and fields of endeavor.

This article will provide you with a quick introduction to an advanced process of Mind Mapping that will help you accelerate your learning ability by improving and enhancing your photographic memory and recall of information. The instructions and guidelines presented here will essentially take you through the step-by-step process of creation and learning that goes into a concept known as a Study Matrix.

What is a Study Matrix?

A Study Matrix is essentially a combination of 3 key mapping techniques that have been utilized throughout the academic and business world in a variety of ways to manage and make sense of processes and large fragments of information. These 3 techniques include:

  • Mind Mapping – is a diagram with a central topic or image that branches out from its middle into related concepts and ideas that break the topic down into its smaller parts. It is essentially used to structure, classify, visualize, and generate ideas for organization, problem solving, decision making and for study purposes.
  • Concept Mapping – is a diagram that shows the interlocking relationships between a variety of different concepts and ideas utilizing intersecting arrows and labels.
  • Flowcharting – is essentially a schematic representation of a process.

What are the Benefits of Learning from a Study Matrix?

The Study Matrix technique of accelerated learning is very organic in nature and naturally mimics our brain’s capacity to think, remember and recall information. By teaching yourself how to design your own Study Matrix’s will provide you with the ability to create vivid learning aids that will dramatically improve your methods and strategies of managing large fragments of information.

Here is a look at some other benefits you will derive from taking the time to effectively incorporate this technique into your daily information management habits:

  • It summarizes the most important information clearly and concisely making it easy to reference and learn from.
  • It summarizes only the most critical, important and relevant facts that are applicable to the topic under study.
  • It naturally helps to create links and associations within the brain to related concepts and ideas that are necessary and required to master the subject you are learning.
  • It can accelerate your speed of learning, thusly reducing the amount of time you spend on your studies.
  • It can accelerate your recall of information during examinations by up to 500%.
  • It encourages ease of learning and the creative flow of new ideas and insights.
  • It makes learning more fun and entertaining.
  • It encourages the development of photographic memory and recall of key concepts and ideas presented within the Study Matrix.
  • It improves focus, concentration and encourages us to learn information in manageable chunks.

Next, we will begin breaking down each of the parts that go into the formation of a Study Matrix. Every component that will be discussed is an essential piece of the Study Matrix that is critical to the entire structure – just as much as a kidney is essential to the balance and health of a body.

Pathways – The Branches that Interlock the Disconnected Parts

Pathways are the organic-like lines and arrows that interlock and connect all the different segments of a Study Matrix. Their purpose is to link concepts, words, phrases and ideas in an associative manner that improves memory and recall of information. They are organic in nature (smooth branch like structures) because this naturally mimics the brain’s neurological tendencies and processes of thinking. They are also purposefully “unbroken” in their design, thusly allowing your eyes to glide smoothly from one piece of information to another as you read the Study Matrix.

A Study Matrix utilizes 3 alternating pathway structures for different purposes:

  • Lines – Connect words and phrases within a hierarchical tree branch, synaptic, and organic-like structure. This essentially means that as you move out from the central image of the Study Matrix, that the pathways naturally become thinner.
  • Arrows – Help to identify the directional flow of a pathway.
  • Colors – At times different colors are utilized to represent seemingly unrelated crisscrossing pathways. These colors can either signify a change in direction, change in time, in place, or an alternative intersecting idea. To simplify things, when reading a Study Matrix it is important to follow along with the pathway color you are reading until you reach an ending.

Colors – The Memory Enhancing Separation Tool

Colors are an important and critical component of a Study Matrix helping to boost memory, recall and ease of learning. They are effectively used for a number of key purposes:

  • To distinguish segments, topics and specific events that take place among fragments of information presented within the Study Matrix.
  • Because they help distinguish key pieces of information, they effectively provide greater clarity, thusly opening up the channels to accelerated learning.
  • At times they are used as a means of changing the time or place of key interlinking fragments of information within a Study Matrix.
  • Finally, they can also represent different perspectives or points of view to further help distinguish the variety of information presented within a Study Matrix.

Pictures – The Strategic Associative Tool that Builds Photographic Memory

Pictures are great memory building tools because they are much easier to remember than words alone. In fact, if you take a moment to close your eyes and think about what you did yesterday, you will quickly realize that all your thoughts actually come through an interlocking associative collection of picture fragments that lay down the foundations of memory. Through a similar means within a Study Matrix, pictures make interlocking associative connections with words, ideas and concepts helping to boost the memory and recall of information we are learning.

  • Pictures make powerful and lasting associations with the issues, themes, phrases, symbols, and words scattered throughout a Study Matrix.
  • Pictures assist with improving the memorization and recall of key concepts and pieces of information.
  • Pictures naturally stimulate the visual learning process making learning fun, entertaining and enjoyable.

Pictures are connected and associated with words in 5 common ways:

  • Pictures can literally “word-for-word” represent the words they are associated with.
  • Pictures can metaphorically represent the words they are linked to.
  • Pictures can symbolically represent the words they are linked to.
  • Pictures can sound-like the words and phrases they are connected with.
  • In other instances, pictures can simply replace words altogether.

Symbols – Expanding Our Awareness and Understanding

Symbols play an important part in helping you to pinpoint key concepts and ideas presented within your Study Matrix. They are essentially a tool that will help you to expand your understanding and awareness about the information you are learning.

  • Symbols will help you segment critical facts and pieces of information making them discernible to the naked eye.
  • Symbols will organize and categorize your information into easy and manageable learning chunks.
  • Symbols will support the key insights, themes, issues and ideas within your Study Matrix, thusly making them easier to remember and recall.
  • Symbols can also be utilized to highlight the relevance and importance of certain pieces of information.

The type of symbols that can be utilized within a Study Matrix depends on the structure of your information and the purpose of your learning. To get you started, here are some common symbols that can be utilized within a Study Matrix to help identify key concepts and ideas in quick succession (please refer to the Study Matrix 101 diagram for a visual overview of these symbols):

  • NO Assumptions – This symbol can alert you to key words or phrases within your Study Matrix that can be easily misunderstood or misconstrued in some way.
  • Major Themes – This symbol can be utilized to quickly identify major themes and issues that are relevant and important to your understanding about the topic you are learning.
  • Key Points / Ideas – This symbol can draw your attention to key ideas that are most important to remember. These ideas may in some way build upon the foundations of other concepts within your Study Matrix.
  • Seek More Information – A Study Matrix represents only key concepts and ideas about a specific topic or subject. However, at times there will be important pieces of information that you may like to expand upon throughout the learning process. In such cases, simply create a symbol that you can utilize to pinpoint areas within your Study Matrix where further research is required.
  • Study Questions – This symbol is utilized to identify key questions that help you expand on certain concepts and ideas within your Study Matrix.
  • Stop & Reflect – This symbol is used to highlight important concepts or ideas that require some thought and reflection.
  • Setting or Location – This symbol is utilized to identify a key setting or location that you would like to highlight within your Study Matrix.
  • Time or Period – This symbol is utilized to identify key dates or periods that are important to remember.

Once inserted into the Study Matrix, these symbols will help you to immediately recognize key pieces of information that are essential to your learning of the material you are studying.

Content Pieces – Representing the Foundational Structure of Your Learning

The Content Pieces of the Study Matrix are the distinguishing elements that help to improve the readability of the information you are learning. You will notice in the Study Matrix 101 diagram that different Content Pieces effectively represent alternative distinguishing concepts and ideas within the Study Matrix.

As such, they each have their own unique look and style in order to assist the human eye in breaking through the clutter of not being able to distinguish between different fragments and pieces of information. Hence, when you are creating your Study Matrix it is critical that you take the time to distinguish specific Content Pieces from all others. This will help you to better recognize them throughout the learning process.

Another critical component of the Study Matrix extends from the Connector Words that smooth the transition between the Content Pieces. The primary purpose of the Connector Words is to improve comprehension and understanding of the material.

Pure Mind Maps do not utilize Connector Words, making it difficult for other people reading your mind maps to comprehend the information you represented in a consistent fashion. However, by utilizing Connector Words you essentially open the doors of comprehension and understanding that make your Study Matrix’s easier to remember and recall.

Other Bits – Bringing Everything Full Circle

In order to further enhance the readability of a Study Matrix, it is important to incorporate a few more essential components into your design:

  • Font Differentiation – The size and style of the font utilized within a Study Matrix differentiates the relative importance of key concepts and ideas. As a general rule, the further the Study Matrix pathways extend out from the center of the Matrix, the smaller the font becomes. This thusly helps improve readability.
  • Hierarchical Structure of Pathways & Pieces – In a similar fashion, the pathways and pieces are also effectively miniaturized the further the Study Matrix expands from its central location.
  • Numerical Sequences – Numbers are utilized in order to highlight numerical sequences of events or pieces of information that are important in helping us expand our understanding of the topic we are learning.
  • Pathway Stoppers – These are RED Dots that represent punctuation “full stops” along the Study Matrix pathways. Whenever you come across one of these, just take a breath and continue reading a new sentence.

Study Matrix Accelerated Learning Study Plan

The following points present you with a quick strategy that will help you to develop a photographic memory of the Study Matrix you are learning from. Feel free to adjust this strategy any way you wish in order to fit your ideal learning style and preferences.

Day 1

  • Peruse the Study Matrix identifying key symbols, headings, colors, pictures, words, patterns and other landmarks.
  • Focus on the Study Matrix’s organic structure, the sequences of numbers and the white space surrounding the information. Your goal is to effectively create a mental snapshot of the entire Study Matrix.
  • Divide the Study Matrix into efficient learning chunks based on color.
  • Begin reading the Study Matrix one color chunk at a time from the central image moving outwards – all the while chunking the information into even smaller bits and pieces (progress in a clockwise direction). As you are processing this information be sure to utilize the pictures and symbols to help improve your memory and recall.
  • As you read gently guide your eyes over the dark pathway lines and arrows, much like following directions along a street map.
  • Follow the 3R+T Process of learning by firstly Reading the color chunk aloud as you create mental pictures of the material. Secondly, close your eyes and Recall the color chunk from memory. Thirdly, return to the Study Matrix color chunk and Review your memory and recall of this information by reading through it once again. Finally, Test yourself by physically sketching that color chunk of the Study Matrix onto a piece of paper. Continue moving through the 3R+T Process until you complete all the color chunks successfully.
  • Next, take yourself through the 3R+T process (Reading, Recalling, Reviewing, and Testing) for the Study Matrix as a whole. This will help to assimilate the entire Study Matrix into your long-term memory.

Day 2

  • Reverse the 3R+T Process and move through the color chunks of the Study Matrix in an anti-clockwise direction on the second day of learning.

Day 3

  • Peruse the Study Matrix as a whole and sketch it out on paper for a third time. If you are unable to remember some parts, than go back to these segments of the Study Matrix, review them and sketch in the relevant details accordingly.

Day 4 to 7

  • Finalize your understanding of the material by testing yourself with a set of questions – you personally prepared in advance – related to the content you are learning presented within the Study Matrix. Before answering these questions be sure to quickly overview the Study Matrix as a whole paying particular attention to bits and pieces that were difficult to remember during Day 3.

This 7 Day accelerated learning study plan should help you to build almost 100% recall of the information you are learning. Test this process by utilizing the Study Matrix 101 download as an experimental tool. In conclusion, please set challenging yet doable time limits for each step of this process. The better you are at sticking with these time frames, the more efficient your learning will become.

How do I go about creating such a Study Matrix?

You effectively have 2 options. You can either draw them out on paper or you can utilize a Mind Mapping software package. Here is a list of recommended Mind Mapping software tools:

  • Tony Buzan’s iMindMap – Free 7 Day Free Trial – the most graphically pleasant software package.
  • 3D Topicscape – Free 30 Day Trial – 3D mind mapping software package.
  • NovaMind – Free 30 Day Trial – ideal for brainstorming and creating large mind maps.
  • FreeMind – great Free flexible mind mapping package.

Feel free to visit the List of Mind Mapping Software Wikipedia page for further information and suggestions.

If you are interested in learning more about Mind Mapping than visit some of the following helpful resources

  • Mappio Mind Maps – A website showcasing a large variety of Mind Maps.
  • Topicscape Mind Maps – A website showcasing almost 1,000 Mind Maps.
  • Mind Map Search – A website with the largest collection of Mind Mapping resources and links.

Adam Sincinski is active over at the The Study Matrix blog. If you haven’t done so already, please feel free to download the full pdf version of Study Matrix 101 here.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • really great post especially for student preparing for exams…

  • Whoo! I love mindmapping, but this is something else, I am going to give it a shot, I figured if I answered yes to all five questions, then I need to investigate further. Thanks


  • Henrik and Adam,

    Thanks for the detailed post and uber mind map! I think it may take some time to digest ;)

    It’s been a while since I’ve been to this blog, and ironically I stumbled across my favorite topic… mind mapping.
    I’ve been using mind maps to help with studying and recall for a few years now. I started off using a method, which I would later learn is a pretty similar to Buzan’s MMOST (Mind Map Organic Study Technique).

    It seems like the process is somewhat similar. I really do like the idea of expanding to include concept mapping and flowcharting.
    Thanks again, and both of your blogs are now at the top of my RSS list ;)

  • Mind mapping is a great concept. I particularly like that it enables you to re-arrange the topics in your map at will, until it perfectly represents your ideas. And the multitude of different things you can do with it, business, education, personal etc.

  • Thank you for your comments. I appreciate the kind words and feedback. My hope is that the article helps those who aren’t familiar with Mind Mapping to see its true potential to Accelerate Learning.

  • Leif Wikfeldt
    Is it possible to get printer-friendly pages of your blog?
    This is a thing I often miss in blogs.
    Just stumbled upon your blog. Looks very interesting. I interested in GTD, mindmapping and speed reading among other things.