10 Study Skills for Succeeding

in Anatomy & Physiology ( A & P)



Paul Krieger

©Paul Krieger, 2005




1)    Know your LEARNING STYLE(S)

Go to the following website:  www.vark-learn.com. 

     Click on “questionnaire”, then answer the 13 questions on the survey.  After doing this, you will be classified as a specific type of learner and given study tips that will best help you.

• The website will give you valuable active learning techniques (depending on your learning style) such as:

                  * Use flashcards (more about this later)

                  * Practice turning visuals back into words

                  * Practice turning words into a simple visual diagram

                  * Record lectures on a cassette recorder and listen to

them later

                  * Read your summarized notes to yourself or another person

                  * Predict some possible test questions and write them out

                  * Read your notes (silently) again and again


2)    Get ORGANIZED!

• 3-ring binders work well for keeping related materials together.  Get one for lecture and one for lab.

Organize your schedule with either an electronic organizer of a Franklin planner type book.

Block your study time into your weekly schedule and make a commitment to not let other appointments interfere with it. 

• Good organizational habits are an excellent preparation for the documentation and record keeping you will need to do later as a medical professional.



• Study first, play later.  Make study time a priority in your schedule. 

• Block out regular times in your schedule to study.

• Wisely choose a quiet study area like the library rather than the cafeteria.

• Make studying part of your daily routine by always going to the same place at the same time.  After doing this for a few weeks, it will become a habit and you will do it almost automatically!



CRAMMING leads to failure.  You are guaranteed to never understand anything and always be frustrated, so don’t do it. 

Nothing determines success greater than “time on task”.  Constant repetition is the key to better learning.  If you are busy working and going to school, your challenge is to become an expert time manager.   

• Skimming your notes will not be sufficient for succeeding in most science courses.     





Studying multiple times in short bursts is far better than cramming and leads to greater retention of the material. 

We all waste lots of time doing nothing during our day.  For example, consider the time wasted standing in line.  Instead of waiting, pull out your flashcards to review terms.  That is turning this “down time” into valuable study time.  Do you have an hour break between classes?  Go to the library and study during that time. 

• Come to class early to review the previous day’s material.


5)    Consider forming a STUDY GROUP

• Keep the group small - 3 or 4 students at most - or it will turn into a social club. 

• Major benefit #1:  Finding out what you already know and what you do not know.

• Major benefit #2:  Explaining a concept to another person is a good way to process key concepts and make them your own.

• Major benefit #3:  By working with another person you can keep each other motivated. 


6)    Get TUTORING help in the Biology Learning Center (BLC)

• Always go to your lecture/lab instructor first to clarify anything you do not understand. 

• Then, go to the BLC for extra help (located in room106 SCIE).  It offers free, drop-in peer tutoring for all biology students enrolled at GRCC.  It is also a good place to study or review educational materials (models, slides, handouts) from your lab.  You can also work on computers and the internet.


7)    Use FLASHCARDS to reinforce key terms and ideas

• Learning anatomy is like learning another language.  All the terms are based in Latin so taking a Medical Terminology course before A & P is very beneficial.

• Become familiar with Latin prefixes and suffixes as they will help you intelligently guess the meaning of new terms.

• Purchase some blank 3” x 5” cards from the store and creatively make your own flashcards.  They might have a term on one side and the definition on the other.  Another idea would be to have a picture of something on one side and the key anatomical features or ways to identify it on the reverse side.

• Good flashcards allow for better mastery of the material through constant reinforcement.     


8)    Study the TEXTBOOK and SUPPLEMENTS effectively.

• You have an excellent textbook and many good ancillary materials available to you.  If used properly, they can help you succeed.

• Do NOT try to memorize all the material in the textbook.  This is a very ineffective way to study.

• When starting a new chapter, first get an overview of the key topics by skimming through all the headings.  Next, begin looking at the graphics and the key ideas they convey.  Next, read the introductory and closing sentences for each major section in the chapter.  Then and only then, begin to read in detail.

• Do not get frustrated if you don’t understand everything the first time through (you are not expected to!)

• Reading a science textbook is not like reading a novel.  Reading a concept or key idea multiple times is often necessary to grasp complex concepts. 



9)    Take better NOTES

Taking good notes in lecture and lab is critical to success but it is a skill that only comes with lots of practice.

Bad note-taking (the two extremes):

                  -  trying to write down every word the teacher says

              -  going for long periods without writing down anything

Good note taking is:

- listening, summarizing, and putting things in your own words.

- using your own short-hand with abbreviations for things.

- leaving space in the margin to summarize the main points later.

- detailed and specific.



10) MOTIVATE yourself!

• It’s a simple fact:  you need lots of motivation to be a good student.

A bad attitude is a barrier to learning.  Check your attitude before walking into class.  Learn to value learning for learning’s sake.  If nothing else, more information makes you a much better conversationalist at social gatherings!   

• Nothing that comes easily in life is very worthwhile.  You will get out of your education exactly what you put into it.  So, what are you willing to put into it? 

• Get support from friends, family members, and significant others.  Have them help you study or support you in other ways like helping out more around the house, cooking meals, taking care of the kids, or freeing you from family chores.

• Develop a reward system for yourself.  After a good study session, take a short break, talk to a friend, listen to some music, or enjoy a cup of coffee.

• Find a study buddy and have a fun competition to see who gets the higher score.  Perhaps the one with the higher grade at the end of the semester takes the other out to dinner at a nice restaurant.

• Make your study relevant (even if the teacher doesn’t).  Are either you, a friend or a family member suffering from a medical disorder?  Make it your personal mission to understand this disease in greater depth.

• Medical professionals should know MORE than the minimum.  Do you want to be a real professional or a student who just barely passed the required courses?

• Remind yourself that understanding how the human body works is probably the most vital thing that any medical professional needs to know.  Most everything else in your program will be an application of this knowledge.  This should motivate you to MASTER the material rather than to just pass the course.