Student life

Study Tip: How to Study Anatomy

Studying basic medical sciences requires active, not passive, study methods. You’re receiving a firehose of information every day. In order to commit everything to memory, I had the most success when I put pen to paper. This was especially important when studying anatomy.

For anatomy there are a lot of different ways to study actively. One way is to draw structures yourself. You can do this using a dry erase board, or plain white printer paper.

One thing that I find useful is getting a piece of printer paper and tracing an outline of the skeleton or the particular structure that I am studying. I then make several copies of that outline and use that to add details as I study. The first couple of times that I draw the details I have to reference my textbook. Then I start to quiz myself and try to draw things without looking at the book. This helps me find areas of weakness that I then study or review further.

Another method is to subscribe to anatomy programs. One of my favorites has been I found that repetition is so important to me in remembering anatomical structures, but I wasn’t getting enough repetition by drawing things myself, because it takes so much time. I made good use of my time using the online reference tools and taking particular quizzes over and over again. What’s great about this website is it also identifies your areas of weakness and compiles those into a specific exam that is tailored to you.

Most medical programs have a written and a practical component. The methods of drawing and re-drawing origins and insertions, arterial and nerve branches, and bone landmarks were most useful for me in the gross lab practical exams. When it came to the written component, however, there is vital clinical knowledge that cannot be ascertained through hours of staring at Netter’s atlas. My approach was, within 24 hours of the anatomy lecture, digesting the powerpoint slides into a comprehensive 1 page summary. The page was organized in a way that made most sense to me. I found it useful to hand write the notes, but typing them would also be beneficial if that works better for you.

No matter what study method you invest in, always ask yourself if you are actively or passively studying. Passive studying is just like reading, and much of the information swims around in your head and eventually drains out. Active studying means you’re somehow reorganizing the data, thinking critically, and asking yourself questions.

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