Learn How to Study for Anatomy and Physiology

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When studying anatomy and physiology one must learn a vast multitude of terms and concepts, much of which is derived from Greek and Latin languages. Although fluency in these languages is not required, mastering the terminology alone will be difficult but rewarding. Many professions such as IT and the Military use a number of three letter acronyms in their conversation. Doctors, and nurses do not, so many of us have heard a number of these terms used with the same “deer in headlights” responses. As you can imagine, learning an entire book of these terms is a daunting task. We need some tips!

Use Flashcards

When it comes to learning terminology and memorizing vocabulary, one of the most effective ways of learning is to use flash cards. This is the same with medical terminology. Creating flashcards when learning the names of bones, blood vessels, (yes they have names) muscles and their attachments can make learning these much easier and more affective. Another tip is to work with a study partner. They can test ones knowledge of the terminology and it will help to point out the location of each object on the other person. For instance, knowing that the clavicle is a small bone that acts like a strut between the scapula and the sternum is a good start, but pointing to its physical location will help to memorize two concepts and serves as a great mnemonic tool.

Breakdown the Terminology

Most words in the field can be broken down into more than one part. Breaking the word down into its parts and learning what each portion means will also help expand your knowledge and understanding of multiple prefixes and definitions. Using the word “epidermis” as an example we can take it into two parts. Epidermis means the outermost layer of skin. Epi means, at or near the top and dermis means skin. This shows us why epidermis is the outer layer of skin.

Section or Divide the Reading into Chunks

When it comes to reading comprehension, it is critical with anatomy and physiology to break the reading into manageable chunks. Not only can the reading material be dry from the entertainment standpoint but it can also be extremely complex. Breaking it into sizable chunks of reading will help to make it more manageable and less daunting. Read the chapter first and then take these chunks and review, underline and question these sections to gain an enhanced understanding of the material.

Create Charts of the Anatomical Components

Start out by listing the muscles or organs on the left hand side of a piece of paper. On the right hand side create different columns for the locations, origins, actions or purpose etc. An example of this would be for the digestive system. On the left hand side of the paper, list the names of the digestive system organs from the mouth to the colon. Then on the right hand side create columns for the order, for instance the stomach may be 3rd in line, the function of the organ and its relative location. Create different charts for the different systems and this will help to learn terminology, function and location.

Final Tips and Guides

As with any class, never cram before an exam. Even if this seems like an effective method the consequences later can be disastrous. Studies show that information learned through cramming is forgotten relatively quickly after tests.

Break study times into 2 or three hour blocks. Marathon study sessions lose effectiveness as the minds ability to comprehend and adjust for long term memory will wane after about 2 hours of study at one time. Always take stretching and fatigue breaks during study sessions to ensure each study session is as effective as possible.

Always take good notes, use outlines and record lectures so that you can go back to these notes for reference.

Learning how to study for anatomy and physiology classes can be a huge help in your academic career, making in easier and more effective and remember, ask questions! The only stupid questions are the ones that aren’t asked.

Good Luck!


Ways to Study Anatomy Effectively, Seattle University Learning Center

College Anatomy and Physiology Study Tips