Need to Learn Anatomy Fast? 5 Tips to Pass Your Anatomy ExamJun 08, 2021
Are you worried that you've left things too late?
In an ideal world you would have prepared well in advance for your anatomy exam. You would be feeling confident and would be calmly striding into the examination room with a smile on your face – but how often has that happened to you?
You might be the sort of student who has left it too late and is desperately trying to cram things in at the last minute. Or you may have started revising anatomy early, but no matter how much time you spend on it, it just does not seem to stay in your head.
Whichever group you may find yourself in, there is no question that learning anatomy fast would be a massive bonus. If you are worried about your upcoming anatomy exam, try these 5 tips which you can apply to any subject to help you get through.
Learning anatomy quickly and retaining all the facts to pass your exam is the holy grail for any medical student trying to get through medical school.
Sadly, there is no magic wand, but there are some simple things you can do.
You want to make sure that the time you spend learning anatomy is efficient so that you minimise your effort and maximise your knowledge. To make sure you do not waste unnecessary time in your exam preparation, try these 5 simple tips
Tip 1 - Find out EXACTLY what the TOPIC is
This seems obvious, but you would be surprised how often medical students over-estimate what they need to know. Find out what the topic is and get an idea of how much detail you need to learn.
For example, if you are going to be tested on the anatomy of the forearm, be specific.
Is it the flexor compartment of the forearm or the extensor compartment of the forearm? Are you going to be tested on the muscles of the forearm? Or the bones of the forearm? Or the nerves of the forearm?
Don’t assume that you have to know everything about everything.
If time is short – you just need to pass – period.
Tip 2 – Find out HOW you are going to be tested…and practice specifically for that exam
The type of exam is so important for how you prepare for an exam.
If it is a viva or an oral examination, you must practice how to speak anatomy out loud. There is no point spending time reading and re-reading the minute details of a muscle insertion. Instead, your time is better spent with a friend and talking the words out loud to each other.
If it is a multiple-choice question paper, get hold of past multiple choice anatomy tests and practice them. The more you practice, you will spot patterns for how these questions are set. If you do not know the answer straightaway, you will quickly develop ways to eliminate answers so that you are left with a choice of 2 instead of a choice of 5.
If it is an essay writing paper, write a series of bullet points that will help you remember the key points you want to write about as memory joggers. You will not need all the fine details to pass an essay exam, but you will need to cover a breadth of knowledge in broader terms. Each fact you write will get you points.
TIP 3 – Get the Key Facts
If time is short – don’t be overambitious and try to learn all the details about everything. This will get you frustrated and anxious. Just focus on the main points. Learning a little bit about each structure is better than learning every little detail about just one structure. That is a gamble as it might not even come up in the test.
For example, if the topic is the muscles of the arm, it would be better for you to know that there are 3 muscles in the anterior compartment of the arm – biceps brachii, brachialis and coracobrachialis which are all supplied by the musculocutaneous nerve. And that there is just one muscle, the triceps in the posterior compartment of the arm, supplied by the radial nerve. Rather than knowing every single detail of the biceps brachii muscle alone.
TIP 4 – Pictures, Pictures, Pictures
I cannot shout about this tip loud enough to emphasise how much time this will save you!
Use pictures in your learning. Your brain processes and remembers images so much quicker than words. If you are running out of time, look at the pictures in your anatomy textbook and try to create a mental map of the picture.
Use anatomy flash cards or for me the total game-changer was using 3D anatomy graphics. For the anatomy of the forearm – start with the bones and then add each muscle on one-by-one and spin the images around slowly. Look at where each muscle starts and finishes. Think about what that muscle does, and it will help you remember its name. Flexor digitorum superficialis flexes the fingers at the proximal interphalangeal joints so it must attach on the middle phalanx in each finger. As you add the muscle act out its movement. Now you are attaching a physical action to the picture and the name of the muscle. This is ‘gold’ as a memory jogger in the exam.
TIP 5 – Watch a tutorial by an expert
You will learn much quicker by watching a world-leading expert in the field than you ever will by reading books on your own.
Professor Vishy Mahadevan is a perfect example of this. Try reading any topic in a book and I guarantee you that you will grasp the topic in a fraction of the time by listening to Prof Vishy. Not only does he highlight the important bits, but he does it in a way that makes you enjoy watching him, so you do not realise just how much you are learning. The other bonus of Prof Vishy’s videos are that all the images you need are included with each topic so that you create your mental picture map as you go.
The words he uses and the enthusiasm and emphasis by which he expresses anatomical terms will leave an impression on you that you will take with you into your exam room.
I certainly remember being in an exam and his voice suddenly popping into my head guiding me to the right answer. If you are a Star Wars fan, then it’s a bit like Obi-Wan Kenobi’s voice in the head of Luke Skywalker telling him to ‘Use the Force Luke’.
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At the end of the day there is only so much you can do. If you do not feel you have done enough, do not beat yourself up about it as this will affect your exam performance. Try to stay calm, focussed and get a good nights sleep before the exam. You will be surprised at how much you will have picked up by using these 5 tips. I would love to hear any other tips that you may have to share and even better let me know how you get on in your exam!
Good Luck and Stay Funky
Dr Susan xx