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5 Tips for Learning Anatomy: Techniques and Strategies for Success

Whether you want to be a surgeon, radiologist, or medic – a strong anatomy foundation is important. In this article, we explore four strategies for learning anatomy effectively.

1. Terminology

Learning anatomy will initially seem like learning a new language, and indeed, it can be challenging - a massive amount of new terms that can't even be pronounced and so very little time. However, mastering basic anatomical terms is the key to learning and understanding anatomy faster.


So, the very first step one needs to take when diving into anatomy studies is to learn the basics. Try to understand the term by finding its meaning. For example, geni(o) goes for the chin or medial is applied when we speak about a structure that is located closer to the midline of the body - the medial corner of the eye is the one closest to the nose. Prefixes like ‘supra-‘ and ‘infra-‘ mean above and below respectively.


All descriptors of anatomical positions are made in relation to The Anatomical Position, so this is worth learning as a starting point.


You can learn more about regional terminology, body planes, anatomical lines, abdominal segments, and other terminology on the website.

2. Visual Aids

Visual aids are vital in memorising anatomical landmarks, insertions, blood supply, innervation, and function of structures within the human body.


Visual materials include atlases, diagrams, 2D illustrations, 3D materials, or videos. Hands-on experience with 3D anatomical models can provide invaluable insights into the human body and reinforce theoretical knowledge.


Recommended visual aids include:

2. Videos – Osmosis

3. Websites – TeachMeAnatomy


3. Looking at imaging (x-rays, CT, MRI)

In addition to what has already been mentioned, finding radiographic images like X-rays and CT scans and practicing identifying anatomical structures on them can also be beneficial, as this is what you will be doing after you graduate. Your future self will say thank you later. This will also help you develop a deeper and more practical understanding of the structures.


Best resources for learning anatomy via imaging:


4. Mnemonics

Mnemonics are great for memorising associations or long streams of information. Feel free to create your own, but there are many mnemonics that already exist.


For instance, this mnemonic helps to remember the sequence of the twelve cranial nerves: Oh Oh Oh, To Touch And Feel Very Good Velvet, AH:

  • Olfactory nerve (CN I) - first cranial nerve; 

  • Optic nerve (CN II) - second cranial nerve; 

  • Oculomotor nerve (CN III) - third cranial nerve; 

  • Trochlear nerve (CN IV) - fourth cranial nerve;

  • Trigeminal nerve (CN V) - fifth cranial nerve; 

  • Abducens nerve (CN VI) - sixth cranial nerve; 

  • Facial nerve (CN VII) - seventh cranial nerve; 

  • Vestibulocochlear nerve (CN VIII) - eighth cranial nerve; 

  • Glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX) - ninth cranial nerve;

  • Vagus nerve (CN X) - tenth cranial nerve; 

  • Accessory nerve (CN XI) - eleventh cranial nerve;

  • Hypoglossal nerve (CN XII) - twelfth cranial nerve.


5. Active recall

‘Active recall’ is an evidence-based memorisation technique. Put your learning into practice by testing your knowledge through quizzes or flashcards, which are both effective tools that will help identify gaps in your knowledge that require more attention.

You can also practice active recall by studying with friends. Studying with others is not only an excellent way to discuss the structures, share insights and quiz each other, but it can also be fun and bring a lot of joy. Studying together also boosts motivation. And for some, the best way to learn is to teach and explain things to people around them. Teaching others not only reinforces your own knowledge but also exposes you to different perspectives and approaches while learning anatomy.


There are several ways to make group studies happen, including online forums, social media groups, or face-to-face meetups. Participating in discussions, asking questions, and sharing resources can open doors to additional and new insights, supporting you in your learning journey.

Wrapping up

In conclusion, while studying anatomy can be challenging and it takes a lot of effort and dedication, learning anatomy fast becomes achievable with the right techniques and strategies. By understanding the basics, using visual aids, engaging in active learning techniques, and choosing personalized study methods, learning anatomy from a nightmare becomes a dream. And remember, learning anatomy is not just only about memorization, but it is also about comprehension and understanding. When you start to understand things, learning anatomy becomes faster, more fun, and easier. Whether you are a medical student or an anatomy enthusiast, these techniques and strategies described in the blog will set you on the path to success. Learning anatomy has never been easier!



Written by Dr Anna Riekstiņa

Representative from Anatomy Next, Inc.

Declarations: Dr Riekstina is a representative from Anatomy Next, Inc. This article is a modified version of an article already featured on the Anatomy App website (see original article here).



Modified and edited with permission by Dr Justina Tai

Not sponsored - TheStudentMedic declares no affiliation with Anatomy Next Inc and receives no financial benefit from recommending Anatomy.App

TheStudentMedic earns from qualifying purchases through some of our Amazon Associate links at no additional cost to you. We do not get paid by specific companies to promote or advertise any of their items/websites/products. 




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