How to Study Anatomy

Hands down, anatomy is one of the toughest pre-reqs for nursing!  Learning anatomy is all about memorization and with bones, organ systems, veins, arteries, nerves, and muscles, there are easily hundreds of terms and structures you will be expected to learn.  But you can do it!  The best way to study for this course is to use multiple resources in order to commit what you’re learning to memory both faster and easier.  Read on to find out which study methods you can begin implementing right away to pass your anatomy course with flying colors!

Are you overwhelmed with anatomy? Click through to find out which study methods you can begin implementing right away to pass your anatomy course with flying colors!


Live in the Lab

Because there is so much that you are responsible for learning, students are usually allowed to visit the lab during “open lab” or “extended study” hours to get some time with the cadavers and models on their own.  Take advantage of this time!  Find the open hours that fit into your schedule and commit to going at those times each week.  The lab will be packed right before upcoming practicals/finals, and you don’t want to make that the only time that you try to study, because it will be a disaster!  When Kendra and I took anatomy, there was a clear difference between the students who spent more time in the lab compared to those who only went before test day.  Spending more time in the lab is even helpful for your lecture portion of the course because you’ll have those visual and hands-on experiences to guide you through the content that you’re learning.

Check Out Your Local Resources

Make sure that you are aware of what resources your school has to help its’ students.  I was halfway through my nursing program before I realized that there was an anatomy program loaded onto all of the computers in the medical library on campus.  No one had mentioned that this resource even existed!  Always check and double check your school’s library for resources like computer programs, human atlases, or study guides that would be helpful to you as you’re studying anatomy.

Create Your Own Models/Replicas

It is highly likely that you’ll have to build at least one model as an assignment, but why stop there?  If there is a topic that you’re having difficulty mastering, why not get crafty and design your own model to study from at home?  Taking the time to build your own cell, heart, kidney, brain, etc is a fantastic way to learn all the structures you’ve got to have down before your next exam.  Power tip:  Build your model loosely out of a substance like Play-Dough so you can easily take it apart and put it back together again until you’ve mastered that structure.  And don’t forget to show off your awesome work!  Have a parent, sibling, or friend admire your art and explain to them the structure as a whole and its varying parts.  Teaching your model to someone else will only further solidify that information into your memory!

Grab Your Crayons

You’ll need to make sure you’ve got your favorite coloring tools handy for our next study tip, which is to get an anatomy coloring book!  Coloring the parts that you’re learning is not only a fun way to study (hey, it beats reading that textbook again, right?), it’s also great if you are a visual learner.  Power tip:  Color code the similar structures to memorize them even more easily!  Students also like the coloring books because sometimes the diagrams are a lot clearer and easier to understand than the images in your textbook or lab book.  You can purchase an anatomy coloring book from major bookstores like Barnes and Noble, and Amazon also has a ton to choose from!

Make Online Flashcards

Because your success in anatomy is dependent upon how well you can memorize, flashcards are ideal study tools to use throughout your course.  Your flashcards should be very brief descriptions/functions (if you’ll also be responsible for some physiology) of the structures that you need to know.  In addition, if there is something that is unique to a particular structure, you definitely want to commit that to memory too (ex: The femur is the longest bone in the body).  Those unique facts are very easy to derive exam questions from!

So why do we recommend that you make your flashcards online?  The online cards are a much more efficient use of your time!  With a website like Quizlet, you can turn those online flashcards into tests/quizzes and even games from information that you’ve entered once.  You have the choice to study just like you would traditional flashcards, and then you can test yourself later to see how well you’ve mastered the material.  You can make “sets” of flashcards for each chapter that you cover, so it’s not like you’re scrolling through hundreds of flashcards to find what you need.  You can organize the cards to your liking.  You also have the option to study on your laptop/tablet, or on your phone.  So you can study while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or whenever you have some down time.  I’m pretty sure that we owe the A’s we earned in anatomy to 1) living in the lab and 2) using Quizlet, so I promise you won’t regret trying it out!

Those are our five easy ways that you can effectively study for your anatomy course.  Anatomy is a tough class, but it can be mastered!  Which methods are you exciting about trying out?  What other ways are you studying?  Let us know in the comments below!