Anatomy can be any medical student’s nightmare. You get your first glimpse of anatomy during the first year of medical school, to some anatomy might appear intriguing and to some anatomy might be the most complex part of the first year. Even if you get hold of anatomy during your lectures, it is hard to recollect it as the syllabus piles up. By the end of the semester, there is a loaded block of anatomy which appears like a giant monster, which is hard to defeat.
After getting through the first year, I again went back to revise anatomy in the following years, it was no surprise that my memory was blurry now. Even after going through all the exams and getting decent scores, I always wanted to decode how to master anatomy. So, I decided to get over the fear and dive in.
Here’s how I figured out anatomy:
1. Knowing the baseline
The first thing before preparing for any exam is to know where you stand. I did not want to under or overestimate myself, so, I tested myself with some random anatomy questions. I was in deep water, in some questions I could not even guess which body system the question was targeting. Therefore, I decided to start from the basics. (some free anatomy quiz – Quiz Form, Kenhub, Free anatomy quiz)
2. Giving a timeline
Although I decided to start from basics, I gave myself a timeline. There are 2 reasons for that:
- I did not want to research anatomy.
- There were other things in my list which also required dedicated time.
So, I gave myself one month to complete anatomy
The resource you pick depends on the exam you are preparing. When I started preparation, my first year was over so I didn’t have to appear for any theory exams or any anatomy quiz to have a broad knowledge. The most beneficial resource for me was something that can teach me the concepts and give the high yield stuff. I was sure by now that BD Chaurasia is not going to do the job. After some research, I picked up Marrow.
The reason why I used Marrow:
- With my experience with so many exams, I know that I am a visual learner.
- Marrow offers a great question bank for practice (remember active recall during revision!)
- Marrow simulates the entrance exams efficiently. (I was not targeting any exam but I still did not want to deviate)
The right approach towards the material is the MOST important. I will break it down in simple steps.
- Planning – I made a rough plan about the order in which I will approach each section and the time I will dedicate to each topic. Roughly, I decided to go with – embryology – upper limb – lower limb – head and neck – abdomen – thorax, in that order. And in between when I got exhausted with one topic, I took a small section like histology for a change. The order depends on what you find difficult and the weightage of each part.
- Watching the videos – I watched the video in subsections and took a break after each subsection. What I did in this break is the next point.
- Making flashcards – After finishing one topic in the video, I created flashcards on Anki concerning that particular topic. My flashcards are mostly in a question format or fill in the blank form so that it will force my brain to think the answer. Also, I googled all the diagrams that were referred to during the lecture to create image occlusion flashcards on Anki.
- Reviewing flashcards – you guessed it right, the whole purpose of flashcards is to review them daily. Without skipping a single day, I reviewed the flashcards for a month.
- Solving Q bank – I made sure to do some questions every day. Although, because of my other commitments, I was not religiously doing the modules. However, I was scoring above the average in most of the modules which indicated I was on the right path.
Two things that I want to point out at the end of this section:
- I started the preparation by making notes during the lectures that did not serve me well. I was putting in time but not getting much in return just by reviewing the notes. Moreover, most of my attention diverted from understanding the concepts to making the notes.
- By the end of the month, I was not able to complete all the topics. I was expecting this might happen, so I kept the lesser asked sections like general anatomy for the end. I still kept my promise and ended my preparation at the end of one month.
At the end of 1 month, I had completed only 50% of the anatomy modules, which was not impressive. But I did not have any exam coming up soon so the anxiety was less. (Gentle reminder, anxiety is a common reason why students underperform during their exams)
I decided to take a grand test then. You might think, why I chose the Grand test and not the subject wise test? The answer is the same; I don’t see myself giving any “anatomy specific” exam any time soon. Most of the exams include multiple-choice questions that cover various specialities and anatomy comprise only a portion of questions in these assessments.
Here’s the score reveal.
DISCLAIMER – I only prepared anatomy. I was not familiar with the other subjects at that time, so don’t judge me.
6. Flashcards and the second self-assessment
You leave it, you forget it. As I had completed the majority of the material, the next month I picked up another subject to study. This month, I just had to review the flashcards to keep anatomy fresh in my memory. After the end of the month, I again took a self-assessment, given below is the result. Can you guess which new subject I was studying this month?
For the next month, I studied another dreadful subject (biochemistry) with a similar approach. (you can see the difference in my biochemistry scores in the given images). Also, my anatomy scores were consistent after the end of 2 months which proves it was not a fluke.
I hope this helps you grow and conquer anatomy.