Human anatomy courses present a systemic approach to the study of the human body. Many courses will begin with the introduction of anatomical terminology and an overview of the cellular processes and tissue classifications. Students learn about the gross and microscopic anatomy of the following systems: nervous system, musculoskeletal system, circulatory system, respiratory system, digestive system, integumentary system, urinary system, reproductive system, immune system, lymphatic system and the endocrine system. Human anatomy courses will generally offer a laboratory component that parallels and reinforces concepts through the use of anatomical models, histological slides, skeletal materials and cadaver demonstrations.
1. Study early and frequently
When learning a new subject it is important to keep up with the course material and develop a habit of reviewing your coursework on a daily basis. Repetition is an important factor that will contribute to your overall success, study new and previous material to improve your understanding of the subject matter.
2. Understand your optimal learning style
Are you a visual, auditory or tactile learner. Determine what method works the best for you and develop your study habits based on your preferred learning style.
3. Budget your time
The human body is a complex structure comprised of the nervous system, musculoskeletal system, circulatory system, respiratory system, digestive system, integumentary system, urinary system, reproductive system, immune system, lymphatic system and the endocrine system. When learning about such a complex structure like the human body it is important to manage your time by setting priorities and planning study sessions. A general rule of thumb is to allocate 90 – 120 minutes for outside study for every 60 minutes spent in the classroom. Similar to establishing a good exercise routine, you will want to establish a study routine throughout the week dedicated to learning the material. Shorter, more frequent study sessions will improve your retention of the material and avoid burnout.
The human brain has about 100,000,000,000 neurons. (100 billion)
4. Create a suitable study space
Creating a good study environment allows you to maximize your learning efficiency. When combined with effective time management, good reading and note taking skills, developing effective test taking strategies, a good study space serves as impetus for productive effort. Depending on your optimal learning style, you will want to recognize which environmental distractions are most likely to interfere with your concentration.
5. Formulate a reading strategy
Memory is formed by associations, so if you want help remembering things, create associations for yourself.
Developing a sound reading strategy is crucial to successfully learning the material. Before class make sure to scan the chapter by looking at the headings, terms and figures so that you are aware of the topics and terms that will be discussed during the lecture. Following the lecture, review the chapter and us the the notes taken in class as a guide. Take breaks between reading sections and review the information before moving on to the next session. Make a list of what you need to read and budget out the material in an easy to manage manner, this will prevent you from cramming too much information into one study session. Set goals that are realistic and attainable. Try to follow the SQ3R reading method – Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Recite.
6. Take detailed notes
The SQ3R reading method can be incorporated into your note taking system. The Cornell Note-Taking System will help improve your note taking and overall study skills. When taking notes during the lecture, record only the essentials or telegraphic sentences. Formulate questions based on the lecture material immediately after class, this will improve retention of the material and also provides study questions for upcoming exams. Recite the answers to your questions in your own words and then reflect on the material. Once you have completed this process, spend ten minutes every week reviewing your previous notes to improve retention and prepare you for exams.
7. Study actively
Active study techniques are important for many reasons, especially when it comes to learning about human anatomy. Learning any complicated subject takes time. Understanding human anatomy involves a number of pre-requisites and drawing from information gained from previous courses. The human brain learns by hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting and detecting motion or kinetic energy. When studying human anatomy you will listen to your professor lecturing, you will read your course material, you will feel the anatomical models, and record the information from lectures, labs and reading. There are a number of active study tips including mnemonics, study cards, memorization that can help you increase material retention. Repetition is essential to learning a complicated subject like human anatomy.
8. Develop effective test taking strategies
Developing effective test strategies is much easier when you have established a sound study routine. When dealing with course material that you are familiar with rather than material you are just learning will improve your overall retention and lead to better performance in exams. Many of the strategies previously discussed will prove to be beneficial leading up to your exam.
9. Use all resources available to you
It is important to properly manage your resources just as you manage your time. Use all the class time available, don’t leave early. Utilize open lab periods to expand and test your knowledge. By taking good notes and asking good questions you will be able to work with your instructors on any issues you may have, hopefully long before the exam. If your school has anatomical models in the classroom, lab or library make sure to take advantage of those resources to help you master the material, 90% of what you remember is based on what you do. Create a study group of fellow students to review the material and develop study questions based on important topics.
Learning human anatomy is difficult and it will take a considerable amount of time and dedication. As mentioned earlier you should expect to invest 10-12 hours per week studying anatomy outside of class, including weeks after breaks. Human anatomy courses are largely based on memorization, both visual (cadavers, 3D anatomical models, anatomical charts) and definitions. There is also a critical thinking component where you will need to be able to identify a part of the anatomy based upon clues. As stated before, repetition and developing sound study techniques will provide you the framework for success in learning human anatomy.