Discover how to successfully complete Pre-Med Anatomy while staying sane. This science course is the ultimate test of mind, body, and spirit. Based on the completion of my anatomy block last year, I’ve compiled a list of what to do, and what not to do, to succeed on your way to becoming a first year medical student.
Remember that Med School is the Light at the End of the Tunnel
- Don’t get overwhelmed – It’s normal to be shocked by the sheer amount of material that you’re expected to memorize by the end of the semester. It is also pretty freaky to operate on a dead body for the first time, the second time, and maybe a few more times after that. Remember that every medical practitioner working today felt similarly and they got through it! If the pace of the class is too quick for you to absorb the important information, try studying the material in short bursts, one topic at a time. If the shock of working with real corpses is weighing on you, speak with your school’s mental health professional – that’s what they’re trained for. This may seem like the breaking point, but remember, you made it through many other hardships just to get here. What’s one more?
- Don’t compare yourself to your classmates – Sometimes it can feel like you’re in a class filled with top-tier students and you’re the odd one out. The other pre-meds are speaking about the class subjects with ease and don’t seem to be struggling at all. You have to remember that they are going through the same class that you are. On the outside they may act cool and calm, but they’re probably just as worried as you are. Just stay in your lane, and focus on what you need to do. If you put the effort in for anatomy, you’ll surely succeed.
- Don’t give up – Just because the standard ways to do well in anatomy aren’t working doesn’t mean that you can’t find your own ways that work for you. If you aren’t remembering information from lectures, try watching the recordings. If flashcards aren’t helping you remember key terms, try studying the concepts. If lab days are burning you out, try going in every other day with a clear mind. To learn anything effectively, you need to know what works for you. If the traditional way to learn something isn’t working for you, try something else. There’s no need to give up.
How to Make the Internal Workings of Anatomy Work for You
- Actively learn – Your retention rate will be much higher the more engaged you are while you’re learning. It takes more effort to take notes and ask questions when you get confused, but it’s well worth it when you end up acing your next test. You’ll remember more from lectures if you take notes and ask questions when you don’t understand a concept. You’ll memorize diagrams much more quickly if you draw them out by hand. You’ll remember terms from flashcards much more clearly if you say them out loud while you study. Actively learning an hour a day is more effective than passively learning for four.
- Focus on the important concepts – You can try to memorize the entire textbook if you want, but you’ll burn yourself out and you’ll probably forget most of the information the next week. Instead, study the core concepts more and then go over the subsections and terms so that they make more sense. If you see a specific term on an exam, you now know the core concept it’s associated with so it will be easier for you to define.
- Use practice quizzes – The questions on these sheets will be very similar to the ones on your actual exams. They are a great way to test how well you know the material and if you’re able to put it on paper. Take as many as you can, starting early on, so you can build up the knowledge by studying and test yourself intermittently with the quizzes.
- Use Flashcards – Find the most important concepts and key terms and throw them onto flashcards. If you have the time to write them by hand, you should since the act of writing them will help you remember what’s on them. If you don’t, digital flashcards are still helpful. You can pull these out and study during your commute or while you’re walking on a treadmill. Using these in a time-effective way and you’ll be surprised by what you’ve memorized in just a few weeks!
- Use lab time effectively – Go into lab even when you don’t have a scheduled dissection. On an off day, go into lab to practice what you’ve been doing in your scheduled labs. Go over where everything is on the body that you’ll need to memorize. Also, make sure that you prepare for your scheduled labs. The evening before you have to go in, quiz yourself on the material you’ll be doing. Print out a list of body structures and make flashcards for the names of different locations. If you prepare well for each lab you have scheduled and make sure to brush up during off days, you’ll be more than prepared for your exam.
- Stay healthy – You need to have a good school/life balance to succeed. Make sure to get eight hours of sleep every night, do regular exercise every weekday, eat a balanced diet, and take breaks from studying. It may seem like your only path to success is to be studying every hour that you’re not in class, but taking mental health breaks to do something relaxing is much more helpful than wearing yourself out studying. Find out what schedule works best for you, but remember that if you’re constantly feeling bad, you need to spend more time on yourself. One hour of studying while you’re feeling good is worth three when you’re barely functioning.
Good luck out there, future med students. You’ll be an MS1 before you know it!