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a group of students uses various technology to study

Study effectively with Mind Set: mental preparation warm up exercise for the mind

Posted on: August 25, 2021

In this blog Ginny Stacey and Sally Fowler explore the Mind Set technique and explain how mental preparation can help dyslexic students (and all students) study better.

Get ready to study; get into the right Mind Set.
It is the equivalent of warm up exercises before playing a sport.
Here's Why It Helps, How It Helps and How To Do It.

Mind Set is one of many techniques that is vital for dyslexic/ SpLD† students to use and good practice for everyone.
†SpLD – specific learning difficulty

Why It Helps

Mind set, or mental set (Russell, 1979), is a process whereby you switch on your mind for the coming task, such as listening to a lecture, going to a meeting or reading a train timetable.


an orange lightbulb

Insight: Analogy for Mind Set

Imagine going into a dark cottage, in the country, on a moonless night with the light switch the other side of the room: you will bump into furniture and anything else, you may fall over, you will move slowly and carefully across the room feeling for the light switch when you get to the other side. But if you switch on a torch, you can walk confidently over to the light switch. This analogy shows the difference between starting a new task with your mind switched off and with it switched on.


How It Helps

In mind set, you are using about 5 minutes to energise your mind in thinking about the new task.  By deliberately thinking about it, you stimulate the neural networks that need to be closely involved in the process; and you prepare the brain-mind for the task; thus mental hooks are alert, waiting to catch your new thinking (Russell, 1979).  Many dyslexic/ SpLDs have the experience that information ‘comes in one ear and out the other’, with little impact on the way.  Mind set enables you to capture the information.


Story: Mind Set Before Lectures

One student found mind set useful on many occasions, especially just before lectures. One day he got the title of a lecture wrong and so applied mind set to the wrong part of his syllabus; but he said he was still able to follow the lecture and take notes because he was thinking about chemistry and not the next meal.


How To Use It

Mind set can be used before any task: research, lectures, meetings, organising a family trip,  exams ...


forward facing arrow

Tip: Using Mind Set

Mind set can be done by any method that gets you actively thinking about the task, or subject, that you are about to engage with:

  • brainstorm: get down on paper everything you know about it, or dictate to a recording device
  • make a mind map
  • create a drawing or diagram that contains what you know or are interested in
  • recap the last meeting, lecture, event or whatever is closest to the task in hand
  • look up technical, or jargon, words used; get correct pronunciation.

Explore some useful questions:

  • Why am I involved with this event/ studying this subject?
  • What ideas are being discussed?
  • What does anyone think is important?
  • What is the scheme of the event/ framework of the subject?

Mind set extras for reading a book: pick up key ideas by looking at: contents, glossary, index, preface, covers, chapter headings, summaries, tables, pictures, diagrams.


The process energises those neural networks that are already connected with the topic she is about to work with. 

  • These networks are then available to provide links for new information or repetition of a previous session. 
  • The CAPACITY OF WORKING MEMORY is increased by more information being stored in the individual chunks.
  • The firing together that leads to neurons wiring together has a better chance of happening.

Further Comments

These techniques come from a series of books:
Living Confidently with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs)
Companion website:

Mind set: mental preparation
Why It Helps: Finding Your Voice with Dyslexia and other SpLDs, p 152
How It Helps: Finding Your Voice with Dyslexia and other SpLDs, p 152-153
How To Use It: Finding Your Voice with Dyslexia and other SpLDs, p 153-154 and Gaining Knowledge and Skills with Dyslexia and other SpLDs, p 158


Russell, Peter, 1979, The Brain Book: Know Your Own Mind and How to Use It, Routledge, London
Stacey, Ginny, 2021, Finding Your Voice with Dyslexia and other SpLDs, 2nd ed. Routledge, London
Stacey, Ginny, 2021, Gaining Knowledge and Skills with Dyslexia and other SpLDs,  Routledge, London