How to study anatomy for medical school?
Do you want sure strategies to become a better human anatomy student?
Are you tired of learning and forgetting anatomical concepts too easily?
I’ve been there before; being frustrated about my poor anatomy learning methods.
And you know what’s more annoying?
It’s the fact that you usually forget important concepts moments after reading anatomy.
And when it’s time to prove your med school genius? Mr. Thinking faculty (AKA your brain), refuses to cooperate and remember.
But this has to stop. In this medical school guide, we’d be treating the 11 Unbeatable Ways On How to study anatomy for medical school.
Before we start, let’s look at Carly’s story.
Table of contents
- Carly’s Story
- What is Anatomy? How To Study Anatomy For Medical School
- What are the Branches Of Anatomy?
- Why Do You Need To Learn Better Anatomy Studying Techniques
- How is Human Anatomy Studied?
- Why Do Students Perform Poorly In Anatomy?
- 11 Unbeatable Tips On How To Study Anatomy For Medical School
- 1.Study Consistently
- 2. Jump on the boat early enough- How To Study Anatomy For Medical School
- 3. Atlas are for you- Use them!
- 4. Jot, jot, jot
- 5. Mnemonics are your best friend- Best Ways To Learn Anatomy
- 6.Use the Protégé Effect – How To Study Anatomy For Medical School
- 7. Quizzes are helpful Too!
- 8. Use mental pictures – How To Study Anatomy For Medical School
- 9. Draw- Stir up the Artist in You
- 10.Write Important Values in a Different Book
- 11. Revise as much as possible
- Wrapping up on How To Study Anatomy For Medical School
Carly, a first-year medical student at the Harvard medical school, had recently gone to check her grades for the recent anatomy examination.
A D? How can this be? She had spent tons of hours reading the thorax anatomy, even more on the abdomen which seemed to be her favorite. But yet, she wasn’t doing well in her examinations.
She enjoyed reading anatomy of course! The diagrams, illustrations, and concepts were way easy to comprehend (so it felt at that time).
But when it was time for examinations to prove her knowledge? She’d do well in some questions and in others, blank out.
Carly was very frustrated. Come on, she wanted to become an Ophthalmologist, help people and make her parents proud!
Acing her tests and examinations will definitely be a source of joy and a sign of progress in her medical career dreams. But everything wasn’t going as planned.
She had to meet a senior colleague and friend, Jackson, who gave her tips on how to study well in anatomy for medical school.
Jackson gave her sure strategies that helped her become a high-scoring anatomy student with excellent retentive capabilities.
And as soon as Carly implemented those strategies, boom, magic happened!
No more excuse for her brain not to remember. She began to do amazingly well in her anatomy tests and soon ranked among the highest scorers in anatomy in her class!
Carly’s story might be a short one, but there was a clear distinction between her reading anatomy with passion and doing well in her tests.
There were specific strategies she implemented that helped her out, and that’s exactly what you’re going to learn today.
In this guide, you’d be learning the study techniques to incorporate, the best ways to learn anatomy, and proven actions to implement for instant results on this anatomy study tips.
But before that, we’d be taking you through an overview of what anatomy is, the various branches, peculiarities, why you need to study anatomy, and other important concepts related to this guide; how to study anatomy.
If that’s all great, then let’s get to it ASAP!
What is Anatomy? How To Study Anatomy For Medical School
The word “Anatomy” takes its origin from the Greek word Anatome which means dissection. While the origin means cutting up, you should know that this course entails the whole process of studying the human body.
Academically, anatomy is the branch of medicine that focuses on studying the physical structures of the human body as well as the regions.
It deals with how the lungs, heart, liver, and all the different structures in the body are organized; the shape, size, position, relation, blood, and nervous supply, and also clinics importance of the structures in the human body.
Anatomy is a broad concept that involves the study of structures of organisms but in medical school, it focuses on the human body.
What are the Branches Of Anatomy?
Before we move over to learn how to study anatomy for medical school, it’s super important to understand that anatomy is subdivided into two; macroscopic or gross and microscopic anatomy.
And yes, each of these divisions has its unique anatomy study tips which we’d be looking at as you read on.
Gross anatomy focuses on the structure of the body that can be examined using the naked eye. During dissections, you’d be able to see the liver, lungs, heart, and all internal organs, muscles, fascia, and tissues of the body.
What about microscopic Anatomy? It studies the structures of the human body that you cannot view with the naked eye. In this venture, you’d need to carry out microscopic images of tissues.
The goal of this course is to study the different tissues of the body which included the epithelial, connective, muscular and nervous tissues.
It also aims to teach the proper functioning of the cells and tissues of the body. You’d also learn how to take tissue samples in diagnosis, conduct autopsies, forensic research, and many others.
So if you know the normal, you can then learn about the abnormal in Histopathology. Get the gist?
Imagine if you could understand all the processes in which you were developed from a single called embryo? Awesome right? That’s exactly what this field focuses on.
From the two words “embryo” and “logo”, it’s super easy to denote that it’s the medical science that studies the processes involved in the development of a child from a zygote.
For medical students, this course can be a pain on the neck. This is because you’d be required to memorize all the dates on which different developmental processes occur.
For example, it involves learning how many days the corpus luteum of pregnancy last? The day that the fetal period ends, when the module starts, and any of that.
Why Do You Need To Learn Better Anatomy Studying Techniques
1. Ace Medical school Exams
When you learn the techniques on how to study anatomy, acing any medical school examination will be like taking a walk down the park!
You’d be able to commit more knowledge to your memory, remember more, and produce fantastic results in school tests and examinations.
You’d no longer complain that you’re reading but not remembering. Everything will now get easier!
2. Improve skill set
How do you feel when you’re able to point out the exact location, shape, size, structure, blood supply of an organ in the body without looking at them? Awesome right? That’s one of the merits of learning anatomy well.
You’d acquire super important skills that are required from any medical practitioner in the clinic.
3. Become a Good Doctor
Picture this scene… you’re in the clinic and a middle-aged man presents his condition to you complaining of pain in his right shoulder. Without a good knowledge of anatomy, you won’t easily decipher what’s wrong.
Without a good knowledge of anatomy, you won’t be a good doctor. You’d make guesses and won’t be as professional as you need to be.
So, in order to become that special practitioner who knows his onions, you need to learn how to study anatomy in medical school.
And yes, It’s not only important for doctors but for other healthcare professionals like Nurses, Physiotherapists, biological scientists, or any medical-related field!
How is Human Anatomy Studied?
The Gross anatomy of the human body can be studied under different types: systems or by regions. The most popular which is studying anatomy by regions highlights all the difficult regions of the human body;
- Head and neck
- Upper limb
- Pelvis and perineum
- Lower limb
Lots of textbooks and authors study anatomy following this pattern. Examples are the; Grays anatomy for students, Keith Moore anatomy, Snell’s clinical anatomy, etc.
However, also note that anatomy can also be studied under the different systems of the human body via;
- Respiratory system
- Circulatory system
- Digestive system
- Nervous system
- Endocrine system
- Reproductive system
- Urinary system
- Skeletal system
- Muscular system
And in each system, the related organs, nerves, arteries, and veins, are studied. For example, studying the respiratory system will include learning about the larynx, trachea, lungs, pleura, and other structures that aid breathing and respiration.
Now you’ve known all that, let’s get to the focus of this guide; how to study anatomy for medical school.
But before that, let’s look at the mistakes many medical students make during reading the human anatomy.
Why Do Students Perform Poorly In Anatomy?
1. Late reading
Anatomy test in three days’ time? And that’s when you’re just picking up your BRS series to start learning? That’s absolutely wrong!
Sure, one can crash-read anatomy and do well in the test, but this doesn’t happen all the time. Reading late is one mistake you should avoid if you want to do well in anatomy.
2. Reading only one time or two
Your brain is like a magnetic store of information, yes, but when you don’t feed it with a particular thing consistently, it’s going to disappoint you!
One of the frauds of learning anatomy is that understanding the concepts in a particular time doesn’t really equal knowledge.
I mean you can still forget everything in a few days. So, here’s another mistake they make; reading the concepts just one time or two.
3. Not Jotting
Grays anatomy for students, Keith Moore, and other anatomy textbooks are very large books. Reading them can be enjoyable, but when it comes to revision? That’s where one would face challenges.
Another mistake most medical students make is reading these large texts and even class materials without jotting.
11 Unbeatable Tips On How To Study Anatomy For Medical School
Learning a new skill is hard, so don’t nag about reading and forgetting anatomy. Instead, take more time to read your texts and materials, consistently.
You can set up a timetable, slot in a few hours to study anatomy every day. Or it could be once in two or three days.
For some students, reading a topic four times will make it stick, while for others, reading it for two does the trick.
Whatever you do, do not read anatomy concepts just one or two times. Instead, try to read like three times or more- this is one of the best ways to learn anatomy.
That way, it will stick more, and you’ll be able to reproduce the knowledge even during examinations!
2. Jump on the boat early enough- How To Study Anatomy For Medical School
We’ve been there; panic reading before examinations because of the tons of work to cover in a short time.
You wouldn’t just know how it happened. At the start of the session, life felt good and you overestimated the time to cover the syllabus.
Before you know, boom, it’s the remaining two weeks to exam and there are 11 topics to read in gross, 6 in Histology, and 4 in embryology.
And trust me, it’s not something you’d want to experience.
How do you avoid this? Start preparations early enough! Don’t wait till it’s a few weeks to examine before you start reading.
Anatomy is broad.
There are over 206 bones in the body, 600 muscles, and lots of fascias, tissue, and essential organs you’d need to learn.
Sure, you may not learn every teeny tiny detail in anatomy, but to be able to cover your outlines, go over them plenty of times, and perform amazingly well in tests, you need to jump on your reading table as early as possible.
This also isn’t a smooth ride. There’s this thought of procrastinating till it’s die minute which tempts everyone. But if you can exercise the Self discipline over this, and actually study early, you’ve conquered!
3. Atlas are for you- Use them!
I get baffled when some medical students say they prefer studying anatomy without an atlas as it makes them have a mental picture. This is quite astonishing and shouldn’t be an encouraged practice for medical students.
The truth is; you can’t remember all the concepts in anatomy logically. To be able to do them perfectly, you need to memorize the picture of the body dissections and have a mental picture of them.
With this method, you’d easily know the position of the organs, bony structures, ligaments, nerves, and arteries in the body!
Also read: Best Anatomy atlas for medical school
4. Jot, jot, jot
Don’t be lazy. There’s nothing more satisfying than reading anatomical concepts in your own words. If you want to do well in your anatomy tests, you need to acquire good note writing skills.
This technique is one of the best ways to learn anatomy and is the secret behind the act of reading several times before the examination.
Truth is, anatomy textbooks are large with a lot of hyper information which aren’t necessary at this point.
So if jotting the important concepts in your words, will help in multiple revisions, thereby saving time, and giving you more retentive capacities!
5. Mnemonics are your best friend- Best Ways To Learn Anatomy
Would you love to memorize the whole organs, muscles, blood, nervous, lymphatic and nervous supply in the body?
What a question? Who wouldn’t?
One way to achieve this goal is by keeping a good record of mnemonics!
In medical school as a whole, mnemonics are your best friends. They serve as a unique coding system which you use to store lots of information in your brain even in the long term!
Check this out;
For the 6 branches of the Axillary artery which are the Superior thoracic, lateral thoracic, Thoracoacromial, Subscapular, Anterior and posterior circumflex humeral arteries.
The mnemonic is: Send Letter To Sarah After Party
- Send- Superior thoracic artery
- Letter- Lateral thoracic artery
- To- Thoracoacromial artery
- Sarah- Subscapular artery
- After- Anterior circumflex humeral artery
- Party- Posterior circumflex humeral artery
That may look like a lot of information to remember without messing things up. But with the friendly mnemonic, everything will be a breeze!
What’s more exciting is that you don’t have to follow someone else’s mnemonic, you can customize one that you can easily remember.
For example, the above mnemonic can also be rehearsed as: Send The Lord To Say A Prayer.
So what do you do? Use mnemonics regularly.
If there’s any load of information that is Easy to forget, make research of the popular Mnemonics, or create one yourself! That way, you will get more knowledge in, and prevent a blurry memory during examinations!
Also read: Brachial plexus mnemonics to learn anatomy like a pro!
6.Use the Protégé Effect – How To Study Anatomy For Medical School
The Protégé technique is a psychological effect based on the belief that pretending or preparing to lecture others on what you want to know, is an influential way to learn. And, you should try this method too!
Do you have a circle of friends in medical school that you often hang around with? Then you’re fit for the Protégé technique! If not, go make some friends 🙂
Make a decision to discuss Anatomy Concepts among your peers. Appoint certain topics to be discussed, and also a leader who’d handle a certain topic.
With this technique on how to study anatomy, you’d be able to commit more knowledge in the form of spoken words, into your memory!
What’s more exciting is that you get accountable partners who motivate you and keep you up to par.
7. Quizzes are helpful Too!
Medical school quizzes are like training grounds for athletes.
They help to prepare you before the actual fight (examination or tests). And if you employ this habit regularly? You’d get good grades in anatomy!
You can make use of past questions from previous academic sets, or you could do anatomy quizzes on different websites and applications.
What if you fail? That’s even the best part! When you solve a particular med school quiz, and fail some questions, it gives you a perfect picture of what you need to concentrate on.
For example, after reading the inguinal canal, you look for quizzes like this to test yourself;
8. Use mental pictures – How To Study Anatomy For Medical School
I admit; using mental pictures may be one of the most difficult techniques on the best ways to learn anatomy.
If you work hard enough to do it consistently, it’ll pay off much more than you expect in your tests and also when you become a doctor!
How do you do this? It involves you taking out time to study your anatomy atlas.
Let’s say you’re reading the anatomy of the lungs, you’d need to stare at that particular page for sometime and memorize it.
After you’ve memorized the image, that is by looking at it, you’d then close your book and try to visualize what you just learnt with your mental mind, and that’s it!
This technique helps you to commit to memory, certain structures including their relations, shape and orientation in the human anatomy.
You’d find out that cramming will be a thing of the past as you can now reason questions out and solve them as best as you can.
9. Draw- Stir up the Artist in You
In some anatomical topics, you’d need to memorize surface markings, and structures on the organs and parts of the body. And in this case, drawing them is an excellent way to visualize and commit them to memory.
And yes, you can also develop your artist talent in you. For some topics, get a drawing book, and actually sketch and label them. Remember, what you create, sticks in your memory more than looking at someone else’s.
10.Write Important Values in a Different Book
Managing chunks of information in medical school is a skill successful medical students employ.
As always, there’s the very important things to know, and also, the not-so important stuff.
In anatomy, values like size of organs, length, dimensions, fluid volume, capacities and angles are very important in medical school.
But how do you memorize them when there’s tons of things to read? Perfect question!
You need to get a little jotter where you write every nitty gritty size, dimension of structures, and important values while reading anatomy.
For example, as you’re reading embryology, get a jotter to note all the important dates of developmental importance.
And that’s not all, there’s more to do; which is to memorize them frequently. You can also create a big flash card of values and post them on your room walls where they torment you to learn them everyday you wake! Wise, isn’t it?
11. Revise as much as possible
If you’ve follow all tips till now, you should have the following;
- A jotter of concepts in your words
- A book of values
- Some sketches of anatomical structures
To give your hardwork a successful finish, revise as much as possible before the examination.
Remember you’ve done all the work. Your colleagues might still be reading but you’re not thanks to early preparations!
But go over your jotter as many things as you can! There’s no limit to how many times you should learn anatomy. Ensure you go all in, and make them stick!
Wrapping up on How To Study Anatomy For Medical School
Reading anatomy doesn’t correlate with a good academic performance. While you may enjoy the former, it doesn’t necessarily mean the later will be possible.
Do you want to stop poor retentive memory and skyrocket your brilliance in anatomy for medical school?
Then follow these anatomy study tips;
- Study consistently
- Jump on the boat early enough
- Atlases are you- use them
- Jot, jot, jot
- Mnemonics are your best friend
- Engage in discussions
- Quizzes are helpful too
- Use mental pictures
- Write important values in a different book
- Revise as much as possible
You also can be like Carly and skyrocket your knowledge and Performance in anatomy, even if you’ve been doing poorly.
But, that’s all going to happen, if you follow the tips provided in this how to study anatomy for medical school guide!
What do you think about these 11 Tips on How to study anatomy for medical school? Which one’s your favorite?
Hi, Emmanuel! Mnemonics are my favorites! It’s easy to form and remember. I remember using a mnemonic to learn the contents of the cubital fossa and since then, I’ve still have every information up there.
I’ve learnt some new techniques to study anatomy for medical school and I hope to engage in helpful discussions soon. Thanks for this guide.
Hi Carly, mnemonics are wayyy too good and perfect for studying. Do you know they help one to keep information in, even as years run by? And should i tell you the amazing part? It’s that you can be creative about your mnemonics and turn them into songs or rhymes! That’s genius level at its peak and one is sure not to forget a piece of information after doing all that!
Nice insight you’ve got here, Emmanuel! I love mnemonics as well but would love to try out the Protégé effect; sounds nice. Hopefully, my creed will be serious enough so I can teach them anatomy and vice versa 😁.
Absolutely! Mnemonics seem to be taking the lead. And yes, enlighten your creed about the importance of group discussions; take charge and assign topics to people who are interested. That way, you’d learn how to do well at the Protégé effect. Keep on pushing, Smith 👏
I love discussions. You know, it’s a form of active reading and recall because what you hear immediately transforms into knowledge. Nice tips shared out here, Emmanuel. I’ve learnt new techniques to read anatomy. Thanks😊
A very insightful guide. Thanks. Now I’d try a better way to study anatomy!
This article was extremely helpful! Alothough, I’m only a junior in high school I have a few questions. First, is there anyway to prepare myself mentally for this challenging road to becoming a doctor?