We all learn in different ways; some people act out Shakespeare plays to learn quotes, some people re-write song lyrics to include the stages of photosynthesis, and some have to recite protein structure facts to their dog.
Visual learners are people who retain information most effectively in the form of images – that could be diagrams, infographics, drawings or photographs. Contrary to common misconception, being a visual learner doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with being a creative or artistic person, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you don’t have the ‘right sort of brain’ for studying the sciences.
Here at Save My Exams, we strongly believe in the power of strong visuals to aid one’s understanding of complex scientific concepts. That’s why all of our new Revision Notes are accompanied by hundreds of bespoke, labelled, full-colour images and diagrams.
Even if you wouldn’t class yourself as a particularly visual learner, this blog post is going to show you exactly how you can use our graphics, diagrams and infographics to take your A Level Biology to the next level. Who knows, it might even inspire you to create some visual revision resources of your own!
Start in the shallow end
If you’re new to the practices of visual learning, it’s important that you gradually ease into them! Your brain is an incredibly adaptive machine, but you’ll need to take small steps when you first try the new techniques, so that your brain is able to begin the rewiring process which results in establishing habits.
For this reason, we recommend that you start practicing visual learning techniques as early as possible – you do not want to leave this to the last minute, as your brain won’t be able to effectively process and retain the images without prior training.
As much as we love image-based learning, it’s not practical or time-efficient to use this method for every single sub-topic of every single topic on your syllabus. Instead, look through the topic list and choose the five which you struggle with the most.
These are the topics which you should turn to visual methods to revise, as you already know that your current methods are not working. Mastering these topics visually will allow you to raise your grades the most in the shortest time frame.
If you feel like you’re on a roll after you’ve applied your visual learning techniques to these topics, keep on going with the next five challenging topics on your syllabus! But be wary of overloading your brain with too much imagery – you’re not a digital camera.
Remember you don’t need a photographic memory to revise visually
There’s no conclusive evidence that the ‘photographic memory’ phenomenon (the ability to take an instant mental ‘snapshot’) actually exists, and most people who swear by visual learning methods do not claim to have the photographic memory trait.
You can teach yourself and practice to become a highly skilled visual learner!
Use this strategy
Okay, now to the really crucial part: how exactly do you master this ‘visual learning’? Well, once you’ve chosen your topic, you need to find (or create) a top-quality visual representation of it. In our opinion, you won’t find anything more effective, clear or up-to-date as the Save My Exams A Level and GCSE illustrations. Keep an eye out too, as more are on their way.
The next step is to save or bookmark the image (or print, or create your own version) so that you can look at it regularly in the early stages of committing it to memory.
Next comes the real mental effort – you need to exercise your brain’s visual cortex.
- Working in a clockwise direction from the left top corner, examine the image closely and carefully
- Check your understanding – do you know the theory behind the image?
- If you don’t, refer to the corresponding revision notes – it will be very difficult to remember the information if you don’t understand it in the first place
- Once you’re ready, take a blank sheet of paper and try to recreate the image (without the original or your notes in sight)
- Then check how you did against the reference image, referring to your notes if needed to correct any blanks or errors
- Repeat the process until you can recreate the image with no errors
Don’t stop there!
Numerous studies have proven that in order to truly cement new knowledge, we need to review it regularly over a period of days, and then semi-regularly over a period of weeks. If you keep this up, the information will stay lodged in your memory until exam day with no need for further review.
This means that you need to go back to your image every day for three days after you first learn it, carrying out the ‘draw-check-correct’ process. Then you can cut this down to twice a week for the next three weeks (increase the frequency if you notice your error rate creeping up). This might sound onerous, but you just need to add a 15 minute extra slot in your daily revision schedule.
You should now feel armed with all the necessary knowledge and confidence to start your visual learning journey. If you liked the images featured in this blog post, you’ll find hundreds more in our new AQA A Level Biology Revision Notes. Good luck – and don’t forget to let us know how you get on!