Do you have an upcoming anatomy exam and you feel lost? Do you have a lot of syllabus to cover and have no idea where to start or what resources to use? Well then you have come to the right place. In this guide, I will pen down the best way to study for an anatomy exam that will help you maximize your productivity, along with the resources that I personally used in med school.
What is anatomy?
Anatomy is the study of structures of the human body such as bones, muscles, joints, organs, tissues, etc. It is one of the core subjects of medicine. It is essential to have knowledge about the structures of the human body, how they work, their blood supply, nerve supply and connections to each other.
Anatomy can seem daunting at first because there are a lot of names to memorize and a lot of connections to remember. So let us now look at the best way to study for an anatomy exam which makes it less overwhelming and unnerving.
Best way to study for anatomy exam
Study everyday, even on weekdays
You should always go over your notes once you come back from university after a lecture while all of the information is still fresh in your mind. This ensures that the information really settles into your brain.
Attend the labs
Attend the anatomy/histology labs and cadaver dissections. They really help understand everything a lot better. Looking at 2D images on paper is not as helpful when it comes to anatomy. You need to see all the structures such as bones, muscles attachments, vessels etc to be able to understand them. This also helps with spotting in the exam.
Start preparing early
Since we have established that anatomy is quite lengthy, you better start preparing early. It will be incredibly difficult for you to study everything at the eleventh hour. All of the information and knowledge can get mixed up in your head.
Spend your time wisely
Count all the chapters that you need to study and assign a day or two to each of them. You can take more than 2 days for the lengthy ones. When you are in med school, you have to study for 8-11 hours everyday during exams.
Learn the anatomical terms
Before you move forward, you need to be aware of the basic anatomical terms for example dorsal, ventral, proximal etc. They will recur throughout the text. The first chapter in an anatomy textbook is usually dedicated to anatomical terms and the basis of anatomy. If you do not understand the basic terms then there is a slim chance that you will understand anything else in the book.
Resources (Video lectures and Textbook)
You can find lecture videos on the internet. You can also record your professor’s lectures and then re-watch them to refresh your memory.
Download and watch Kaplan’s anatomy video lectures
As for the textbook, there are a number of good anatomy textbooks available. It can be difficult to choose one but take your time and use the one that is easy for you to understand. I personally used Gray’s Anatomy. It is a great book in my opinion. It has all the important details, it is very easy to understand and has a number of diagrams as well. Do not let the size of this book startle you, it is very helpful.
You can use Netter Atlas of Human Anatomy along with this book. It illustrates every structure and every region in detail. You can relate the text in your textbook with the images in the atlas for strengthening up your concepts.
Another book that a lot of students swear by is BD Chaurasia Human Anatomy. It is a good book with all the necessary details, however, it did not work for me. In my case, Gray’s Anatomy was a winner.
Snell’s Clinical Anatomy is also a good book. You can use more than one textbook if you feel that one is not enough for better and clear understanding.
Use synthetic bones or cadaver bones
I swear by this method. You can buy synthetic bones or cadaver bones (bones from corpses, cleaned and processed). They help you memorize and visualize different bone structures, muscle attachments and their landmarks. It also makes it so much easier to ace the spotting station in your exam. This is one of the best ways to study for an anatomy exam.
Use flashcards to help you memorize all the structures, their blood supply, nerve supply and landmarks. This also helps you practice for your viva/OSCE exam.
Mnemonics are an easy and fun way to memorize all the structures, their anatomical layers and basically anything. For example, if you are having trouble remembering which valve belongs to which atrium in the heart, you can just remember “LAB RAT”.
Left Atrium: Bicuspid
Right Atrium: Tricuspid
See how easy that was? You can look up a number of these mnemonics on the internet.
Anatomy and dissection labs are the key to fully understanding what you have been reading in the textbooks. You can also look up anatomy tutorials on YouTube which show you a 3D view of all the regions and structures in detail.
Use a systematic approach
When you are studying anatomy, use a systematic approach. Study one system and then move to another one. For example, study the upper limbs first, then the thorax, then the back/trunk and so on. Take your time with each system and understand it fully before moving on to the next one.
Revise and practice
Last but not the least, practice. As they say “Practice makes a man perfect”. Solve past papers and practice exams to give you a better overview of what to expect during the actual exam.
It is also essential to take a couple of days before your exam to revise all that you have studied to jog up your memory.
I have enlisted the best ways to study for an anatomy exam. Hopefully, they will be enough for you to ace your exam.