How to Study Anatomy
2019 – 2020 Scholarship Entry – Test Preparation Essay
Test Preparation Inc. Scholarship
Anatomy and physiology! These are probably some of the most complex materials out there. Let’s face it – it can be difficult and sometimes “it just sucks to learn this stuff”. However, there are lots of ways to make your biology study life more entertaining and a lot less painful. As a fourth year Kinesiology major, I’ve had lots of experience studying for anatomy and physiology tests. Here are some of the most unique and fun ways I’ve found to improve my studying - and they are also ways to keep me motivated and interested in the material.
A quick note: Before you read this article, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by anatomy – that’s okay! You can do it! Feeling stressed about new material is normal. In fact, the stress will keep you from falling behind – it’s good pressure. Take a deep breath and seriously tell yourself that you can do it. I find the number one thing that holds me back when I study is thinking that I can’t do it. These tips, however, are not meant to replace studying, just to aid in your current study habits.
Buy the Dang Colouring Book
If you like colouring and find it relaxing, you’re in luck! Amazon sells an amazing anatomy colouring book. Buy some beautiful pencil crayons, make yourself a coffee or tea, turn on Netflix, and colour! I can spend anywhere from 1-2 hours in the evening, 3-4 times a week doing this. I find this is a great way to not only decrease stress but to learn a little bit as you go. I don’t force myself to “hard core” study the material, just to absorb it. I find doing this helps keep the topic(s) and/or diagrams fresh in my mind. If you know there’s an important diagram that you’ll eventually need to know, you can photocopy it and set it aside for another time when some more serious studying can take place. Here’s the link to help get you started:
Post it – Just Not to Instagram
When you find something interesting in the textbook or learn something new in class, write the fact down and stick it to your bathroom/bedroom mirror. I find this is a great way to force myself to read things. After a couple days – whatever the post-it says slowly becomes committed to memory. Once I feel I’ve got it memorized, I change the note. I cycle between post-it colours so I don’t overlook a new note, as well as posting different pictures of anatomy related diagrams that I might need to know. The other thing you can do is write on your mirror with erasable white board markers. Both are great options for memorizing things while you get ready in the morning.
Find Your Inner Bob Ross
Even if you’re a horrible artist, draw what you’re learning. Diagrams and pictures are an important part of learning anatomy and physiology and they will often show up on tests. For example, if you’re learning the diagram of the heart:
- Draw it – even if you trace it from the textbook
- Colour it in – this is fun, and different colours can help you learn
- Label it – neatly!
- Incorporate other important facts such as: the flow of blood, or veins and arteries similarities and differences – things you need to know
- Repeat this process as many times as required for it to stick
I usually post my drawings up on my mirror or cork-board – it might not be the prettiest diagram but it’s helpful for memorization purposes.
Make it Fun!
After you’ve spent some time drawing lots of beautiful diagrams, collect them all and make a flash card game out of them. Ask a few of your anatomy buddies to come over, get some pizza and soda, and make a game out of it! This can be not only an awesome time with your friends, but a great way to study, and teach each other. Remember that if you can explain the concept to someone else, you’re (1) helping yourself to learn and reinforcing what you already know and; (2) helping your friends to succeed in their learning. How to Enjoy what you are doing
Now, not everyday can be a study day. However, there are days where I need to study but don’t feel like it. When this happens, I pop out to the store and grab my favourite candy – often Smarties, Mike & Ikes, or M&M’s. Before settling into my comfy study spot, I place the bowl of candy out of arms reach (usually across the room). Once I’m settled, I start studying. After I’ve learned a concept or memorized something important, I get up and reward myself with a piece of candy. I find that doing this not only increases my motivation to study, but also promotes walking around so I don’t endlessly sit for hours on end. It can be a great way to reward your behaviour and keep your spirits up, especially when you don’t feel like studying.
Caution: Not recommended for people who either seriously love candy and/or have little self-control – you must be disciplined to use this technique.
Doing the Bone Dance
This means that since you’re studying the body, use your own as a guide to help you study. Let’s say for example, I have an upcoming test where I know I will have to label a diagram of the bones in the hand. While studying this, I would look at my own hand, touch it, feel for the bones, know where they are, and use it as a guide to help me remember where each bone is located. I might create labels and stick them directly to my hand while studying; I’ve even gone so far as to use washable marker and write labels directly on my hand. The reason I suggest you do this is because if you get stuck during the test, you can always look at yourself to remember things. You obviously can’t walk into the test with all the answers written on your hand, however, it can be helpful for you to have a good visual while studying beforehand – “before-hand” – see what I did there?
Say Hello to My Little Friend (Called Essential Anatomy 3)
If you’re like me and wish all the technology showcased in Grey’s Anatomy episodes was real and available to you, then you’re going to want this app. Essential Anatomy is an amazing 3D touch-based app that can help you virtually conceptualize all anatomy. This app will show all the systems and allow you to choose what you see – from all of the muscles to just the deeper ones – from just the veins to all the veins and add the arteries too; this app needs to become your new best friend. There’s also a quiz option so you can challenge yourself. I find this most useful when the textbook doesn’t give a comprehensive picture and I need to know exactly what I’m looking at.
Cost (on Google Play): $14.99
Always Review What Can’t Get Through
I find the hardest part about studying is forcing myself to review topics that just won’t stick. Sometimes after you’ve studied all the material and you’ve reviewed all that you can, you find yourself forgetting that one fact or diagram that you know will be on the test. When this happens to me, it’s usually because I don’t fully understand what I’m studying. In this case, I will either speak to a friend who I know can effectively teach me, or I’ll talk to my prof to gain clarity. Leave yourself lots of time to do this; your friends might be fine, but profs are not happy if you come to them the day before the test with lots of questions. As hard as it might be, study the material you realize that you don’t know / have a hard time remembering / are bound to forget – guaranteed it’ll be on the test!
These study aids are some of the best ways that I’ve found to keep myself interested in the material and always learning throughout my day. I suggest you give a couple of them a try and see if any of them help you! Thanks for reading, and have fun learning your anatomy!