Anatomy and Physiology can be an intimidating class, so I’m going to give you some simple anatomy study tips that will help you pass with high grades.
Anatomy Study Tips
Study Tip #1: Master the First Few Chapters
You’ll want to master the first few chapters for three reasons:
First, anatomy builds on itself, so it is crucial that you understand the foundational concepts covered in those first few chapters, such as…
- Anatomical Position and Directional terms. You’ll see those used in subsequent chapters. For example, the bones of your fingers or toes will be named distal, middle, or proximal. If you know your directional terms, you’ll never get those bones confused on an exam.
- Knowing Prefixes and Suffixes will also help you tremendously, as most structures will have a suffix or prefix that will tip you off to its location. For example, epi means “above” or “over.” The suffix “oid” means “looks like” or “resembles.”
- Basic regional terms and body planes are also helpful. I have videos on most of those topics and will be adding more in the future.
The second reason you want to study hard for the first few chapters is that most undergraduate anatomy courses will have a comprehensive final. Therefore, you want to start the semester strong and build your scores up in case you get behind later in the semester and find yourself in a bind when you have to study for the finals in all of your other classes.
The third reason you want to study hard for the first few chapters is that you don’t know what’s going to be covered on the first exam. Once you take that first exam, you’re going to know whether your exams will come from mostly from the books, PowerPoints, lectures, etc. Once you have that knowledge, it will easier for you to study for subsequent exams. Therefore, study hard for the first few chapters and that first exam.
(Be sure to keep your notes organized and label each set for the exam, too, so you’ll have them to study for that final exam).
Study Tip #2: Use Online Videos to Supplement Textbook Reading
It can get tedious reading page after page of dry material from your anatomy textbook. When you get tired of reading, switch your study method so that you can continue to absorb material without becoming mentally fatigued. Pick a topic or two out of the chapter you’re studying, and find some videos on YouTube that cover that topic. Not only will you hear the material from a different perspective, but it’s usually easier to watch a video than it is to read.
Jot down a few notes as you watch the video, and then compare that with your textbook when you’re done.
Study Tip #3: Use Mnemonics for the Tough Stuff
You will easily understand some concepts in anatomy class, such as basic concepts or definitions. For those, I’d recommend using rote memorization, in which you’ll repeat or rewrite the topic over and over until it sticks.
But for the difficult topics, search for a mnemonic online. I always try to add these to my videos when possible. For example, in the video I made on hand bones, I gave you a method to remember the order and names of the bones. A good mnemonic can help you easily remember even the most complex or dry material.
Study Tip #4: Break Down Words
When you come across complicated words, break them down. This is where knowing those prefixes and suffixes will help. For example, for the nine abdominal regions, you have the hypochondriac region (left and right). Hypo means below, and “chondriac” refers to the cartilage of the ribs. So when you put it together, and you’ll remember that the hypochondriac region is that abdominal region below the rib cartilage.
Most things in anatomy are named after their shape, their location, the muscle attachment, or something similar. There is often a reason that a structure is named the way it is named, and looking that up (or breaking down the words) can help you retain that knowledge in your mind.
Study Tip #5: Practice Anatomy Quizzes
This relates back to the point I made earlier about switching study methods when you become fatigued. By practicing quizzes, you’ll not only be preparing your mind to think critically about what you’ve learned, but you’ll also be getting in valuable study time.
I always create a free quiz with my newer lectures, so if you take those right after watching the video, it will help you lock that information into your brain. Some study guides have quiz banks too, and if you tend to struggle in classes like anatomy, it might be a good idea to buy the official study guide that goes with the textbook you’re using so that you can practice additional questions and review key chapter concepts.
Study Tip #6: Redraw Diagrams
A quick and easy way to study for structures is to place a blank sheet of paper over your textbook and trace it (or print a picture from the internet). Try to label the image from scratch. Do this until you’ve got it d own, and say the name of each structure aloud as you do it, as that will help you remember.
Study Tip #7: Apply the Feynman Technique to Anatomy
Richard Feynman was a famous physicist. He devised a method to help him learn material. Here’s how you can use The Feynman Technique in anatomy:
- Read and study the chapter, and then flip to the chapter summary. Write down the main concepts covered in the chapter on a piece of paper, leaving space so that you can explain what you’ve learned in your own terms.
- Try to write an explanation for each concept in the blank space. Pretend as if you’re teaching the material to an imaginary friend. Say it aloud as you write it down, too, as that will help you retain it in your mind.
- When you struggle to explain one of the concepts, go back and study that concept until you can explain it.
- Review the material again and simplify it if possible.
Anatomy Can Be Intimidating
Many students stress out over all of the encyclopedic content that they’ll have to learn. However, you have to take it one day at a time, chapter by chapter. While it may seem overwhelming, there is a method to the madness. Once you learn basic terms, you’ll see them repeated in other structures, and things will begin to click.
Furthermore, anatomy is one of those classes that you can actually apply to the real world. We all have a body, and you’re learning about that body. If you’re a healthcare major, you’ll definitely use some of this material on the job. So try to think positively about the material you’re learning.
Finally, some people fear that they will forget everything they learn in anatomy. In truth, most doctors or nurses working in the profession probably won’t remember the attachment points for all the muscles or the names of all the parts of the bones. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s normal to forget things.
When you work on the job, you’ll learn the things you need to learn for your specialty. You can always go back and refresh the parts that are relevant to what you’re doing.