Studying anatomy can sometimes be overwhelming. There’s endless amounts to learn and it can often feel like a different language. These tips for studying anatomy will help you to be successful in your classes.
These are my top tips for studying anatomy.
1) Have a good foundation
My first tip for learning anatomy is to have a solid foundation. Before you start learning any specifics, start with the very basics. Anatomy follows certain rules, and naming conventions that you can fall back on when you are struggling to remember something. Most anatomy textbooks will have a section at the beginning that will go through anatomical position, planes and directional terms. I would also recommend going through common terms used for structures especially when learning skeletal anatomy. (eg. know what things like fossa and foramen mean).
2) Draw It Out
I truly believe that drawing is one of the best ways to learn anatomy. By drawing the structures out you have to spend more time with them than just looking through diagrams. It will also help you to understand the 3D structure and the relationships between structures.
I don’t think you need to be an artist to draw stuff either. If you have a tablet like an iPad it’s really easy to trace over images, which still get you thinking about the shapes and structure. You can also draw things you a little more diagrammatically.
For things like vessels and nerves it’s often helpful to draw it out as a schematic rather than realistic illustration so you can learn the pathways and branching patterns more easily.
3) Use flashcards for revision only
I use ANKI for a lot of my learning. Some classes I don’t actually make any notes for, only ANKI cards. In my opinion anatomy is a lot easier if you take the time to learn and understand it and then use flashcards to memorize the details. For example you can make a flashcards for the origins and insertions for different muscles but unless you’ve done some work the words won’t actually mean much and it will be harder to remember in the long run.
4) Use Different Resources
Using different resources is helpful when you are doing any kind of learning because they will present things in different ways. For anatomy you will get different diagrams, illustrations, and explanations.
Sometimes one resource will add in an extra detail that will help you to better understand something. Or another will break things down nice and simply.
5) Download Complete Anatomy
I’m obsessed with Complete Anatomy. If you have never heard of it before Complete Anatomy is a platform that provides you with interactive 3D anatomical models. If you are a visual learner complete anatomy is essential. I really like being able to look at a structure from all angles not just a couple set ones in diagrams. I also makes it so much easier to be able to identify stuff when you move to real specimens.
There is a lot you can actually do with complete anatomy and sometimes I just like to play around with the model screen. But, If I am learning something specific I also really like their atlas screen which will Isolate the relevant structures and add in labels.
Complete anatomy is a paid program but your school may have a institutional subscription so check with them before you buy it on your own.
6) Watch Osmosis Videos
Osmosis is another paid resource. For the most part I really try to stay away from paid resource because I don’t think you should have to pay for anything else on top of tuition to be successful. However, I will say that osmosis is worth the money in my opinion. For anatomy they have really great videos that break everything down into manageable chunks. They do have quite a few YouTube videos so if you don’t want to commit to a membership I would definitely check those out first.
7) Review with Logans Illustrated Human Anatomy Site
Logan’s illustrated human anatomy is a textbook that has cadaveric images. I’ve never used the textbook itself but they have a free website which has some images as well as mini quizzes where you can drag and drop labels onto a cadaveric image.
It’s a good resource for revision, and to get some practice recognizing structures from a real specimen that isn’t a colour coded illustration.
Find the website here.
8)Get Summaries from TeachMe Anatomy
I am a big fan of all the TeachMe sites but anatomy is probably my most used. They give a really great single page summary for all the major anatomical structures you need to know. They also often include the clinical relevance at the end of the page.
Each page also has a mini quiz with 3 questions on the main points.
Find TeachMe Anatomy here.
If you want to know more about the TeachMe sites check out my post on my favourite resources for medical school.
9) Use Mnemonics
In medicine it seems like there is a mnemonic for everything (the ABCs seem to be used a lot.. ). Mnemonics are a good memory tool but for the most part I only use them for anatomy when there’s lots of structures I need to remember.
A couple things to keep in mind when using mnemonics.
- Make it unique – don’t use the same mnemonic for multiple things or it will get confusing
- If its a phrase, have it make some kind of sense
- The weirder (or dirtier) the better. It will stick in your brain better.
Some of the mnemonics I use for anatomy are:
To remember the carpal bones:
Some Lovers Try Positions That They Can’t Handle – Scaphoid, Lunate, Pisiform, Triquetrum, Trapezium, Trapazoid, Capitate, Hamate (Proximal and Distal Row from lateral to medial)
To remember the layers of the abdominal wall:
Sex Can Sometimes End Interestingly Take the Fucking Pill Please – Skin, Camper’s fascia, Scarpa’s fascia, External oblique, Internal oblique, Transverse abdominis, transverse Fascia , extraPeritoneal tissue, Peritoneum
I hope this helps your anatomy learning! If you have any questions or any tips of your own let me know down in the comments!