How to Study for Anatomy: Get the Grade

Updated on July 4, 2013

Getting the Grade: It's Possible

“Ah, the joy of Anatomy and Physiology,” said no one ever, except that overly ambitious nerd across the room who actually seemed excited to learn about thousands of bones and muscles. How could anyone actually enjoy such a tedious, complex, mind-boggling subject? Those were my exact thoughts when I signed up for my first Anatomy and Physiology class. I was very nervous about taking the class since I knew it had a reputation for being extremely difficult. I also really needed a good grade.

To make a long story short, I was nervous, but I made it through. With some time, hard work, and creativity, I was able to do better than I ever expected. Anatomy and Physiology is definitely not a piece of cake, but I ended up getting the good grade that I really needed (for me, it was an A). And you can too! (Also, I may have possibly changed my mind and come to the conclusion that Anatomy and Physiology is actually very interesting.)

Whether you think Anatomy and Physiology is amazing, or you dread every second of sitting through another class, it is definitely possible to get that grade.

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What You Need to Know Beforehand

1. Don’t put it off - It is understandable how overwhelming it can be when given such a large amount of vocabulary, definitions, and concepts in such a small time period. However, this is the reason it is so important to review the material consistently up until exam day. Cramming 30 pages of definitions into your poor brain until 4:30 in the morning on exam night is not the best study choice (I speak from past experience). Plan on reviewing around 15 minutes a day until the week before the exam.

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How to Start Studying

2. Reread - Reread your notes several times after each class, paying special attention to the definitions you struggle with.

3. Write it out- Write the difficult definitions on a separate sheet of paper. Physically writing out (or typing out) information can help you remember it much better.

4. Make flashcards – Making flashcards online or on index cards can be very helpful since they prompt you to recall the information instead of only rereading and rewriting material that you think you know. This is key. After you have learned the material, recalling the information without assistance is one of the most important steps. After you can do this, you are well on your way. (Another simple concept related to flashcards is just writing the definition out on a piece of blank paper without looking at your notes.

Flashcard Website: http://quizlet.com

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Start Studying With Creativity

5. Think creatively and critically – This is what really gives you an extra edge when studying. After reading each concept or definition, think about how it relates to another topic you learned and think about potential test questions. This will get easier as you learn more about your teacher or professor’s testing style. Making connections to other material and thinking outside the box will help you remember the material. It will also help you apply the material you have learned to potential tricky questions on the exam. Not all exams are just recognizing memorized definitions with multiple-choice questions. Sometimes you need to be able to apply a concept to a real-life situation, for example. It may not be something that you want to do, but this step will really give you a deeper understanding of the material, and you will be much more prepared for the exam. Also, not many other students take this step, so you will have the upper hand!

6. Use your personal study method – Each person learns and remembers material in a way that is unique to them. There are visual learners, auditory learners, tactile learners, a combination of multiple types, and the list goes on. Try different options, and study in the way that best helps you. There are several free online quizzes you can take to find out which type you favor, but they are not necessary.

Learning Style Quiz: http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles.shtml

7. Visual aids – Sometimes using color can really help you remember information. Color-coding using utensils such as hi-liters, and multi-colored pens and pencils can be a big help. Pictures are also very helpful. Look up pictures online to refer to, and draw your own (no matter how lousy of an artist you think you are).

8. Use YouTube – YouTube can be a big help since it provides both auditory and visual information. Just try to double check to make sure the information they are giving you is accurate. The YouTube channel called AnatomyZone was a huge help to me.

AnatomyZone YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheAnatomyZone?feature=watch

9. Use Online Resources – Free, online resources can be a big help when studying. Examples are the BioDigital Human website (a free 3D model of the body), and the Gray’s Anatomy app (for devices such as mac, iPhone, iPod).

BioDigital Human Website: https://www.biodigitalhuman.com/home/

10. Use a book – Sometimes it can be useful to get another book in addition to your class textbook, especially if you will be referring to it in future classes. An example of a book is a Human Atlas, which includes thousands of detailed pictures of the body. I personally recommend the Netter edition. Additionally, buying a book online, or buying the kindle version of a book can be much cheaper.

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What to do when the Test is Approaching!

11. Study more intensely – When the time is growing nearer to the exam date, begin studying more intensely at about a week in advance to allow for enough time. Focus on what you struggle with the most, but don’t completely abandon the other information. Go over the information you are already confident with a few times to make sure it stays fresh in your brain.

12. Take breaks – Take breaks and go outside of the room you are studying, if possible. A change of scenery can help give your brain a break. Try to eat at a snack at least once to give you energy.

13. Repeat – Another important steps is to keep repeating information you struggle with, using the methods from the steps above. Reading over something once in one day will not help. You need to study the concepts and definitions over and over again in one sitting and over multiple days until you are able to recall them. (Yes, this may take a while. But that is why it is so important to start studying early. This way you will be able to pace yourself and learn all of the material in time to ace your exam!)

14. Don’t get discouraged – Don’t allow yourself to get intimidated or overly discouraged. If you look at everything you have to learn as a huge, insurmountable task, it will be easy to feel discouraged and hopeless. Take it one step at a time, and you will not be overwhelmed. You can’t master a new instrument or sport in one day. The same goes for studying for this exam. Realize that it takes time, and that you will get there. Once you have learned the information, you can be confident that you will do great on your exam!

Basic Anatomy Terminology

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Cynthia Newton 

        7 months ago

        I also found www.smartanatomy.org and www.innerbody.com very helpful! Thanks for all the great info!

      • profile image

        Shirley 

        14 months ago

        thank you for this great information. it was super helpful.

      • profile image

        irina 

        16 months ago

        Thank you! i hope i will pass my next exam after reading your method

      • profile image

        Kay 

        2 years ago

        Thanks. It's really resourceful.

      • profile image

        clay 

        4 years ago

        thanks pal. im taking a paramedic course so i need all the help i can get

      • profile image

        Nina 

        4 years ago

        Thank you for this. :)

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