Anatomy Survival Guide: 10 Tips to Ace Anatomy

Hey readers! This week I am bringing you my 10 tips to ace Clinical Anatomy. For those of you attending MGH IHP this summer, you will be taking this class. I’m not going to lie, it is tough! Even though I had taken anatomy & physiology with lab as a prerequisite for OT school, Clinical Anatomy was still a huge challenge for me. So to help first year OT students prepare for the hard work they will face this summer (or fall for those who start in the fall), I have compiled 10 tips that helped me ace anatomy and will hopefully help you earn the grade you want as well. Good luck!

Me before lab at Harvard Medical School!

Tip #1: Study, Study, Study

Anatomy will mostly likely take up the majority of your time, so be sure to stay on top of studying. Studying more frequently will be more helpful than cramming right before the exam or lab practical. Labs are a great way to reinforce what you learn in lecture, so embrace it and take advantage of the experience! (I was nervous to touch the cadavers at first, but I got used to it eventually!)

Tip #2: Draw It Out

Drawing muscles, bones and organs was SUPER helpful for me. The more I drew a body part, the better I remembered it. I also found it helpful to download pictures of muscles onto my iPad and color them in, which you can do with paper and colored pencils as well.

Tip #3: Find a Study Spot

My study spot last summer was the public library in my town. I have a hard time focusing at home, so if you are the same way I definitely recommend finding a spot where you can be productive. I often went there for 5 hour periods to get a large chunk of studying or work done. Other ideas are private study rooms at the IHP or at Harvard Medical School (where our lab is held), IHP’s library, the Boston Public Library, coffee shops, or with a group of other students (if you will actually focus!).

Tip #4: Use Open Lab Hours

I didn’t go to too many open lab hours last summer, but I did make sure that I went before each lab practical. This was super helpful for me to review body parts on the actual cadavers that I would be tested on. It is very different to study from a textbook versus a real body!

Tip #5: Use Your TAs

I’m not sure who the TAs will be this year, but our TAs last year were super helpful (and I’m sure they will be this year as well!). Don’t hesitate to ask them questions during lab and open lab. They went through the same thing last year, they will be grading assignments, and they will be helping to set up the practical, so they are an awesome resource!

Tip #6: Make Flash Cards

I know flash cards aren’t everyone’s favorite way to study, but I find that in a course like anatomy where it is mostly memorization they are very helpful. By the end of the semester, I had a huge stack of flash cards. If these work for you, this is definitely the class to use them!

Tip #7: Teach Someone Else

This study technique is helpful because for me saying it out loud or explaining how something works helps me remember it better. You can do this in study groups or you can teach your family and friends outside of school. Sorry, mom!

Tip #8: Prioritize

This one is not fun, especially during the summer. It can be hard at times to turn down a trip to the beach or lunch with a friend, but if you have an exam the following week and you are nowhere near ready…you know what you need to do. Even though anatomy took up a lot of my time last summer, I still had a fun summer, traveled (during school break as well as a few weekend trips during the semester), and had a part-time job. You just need to know yourself and manage your time well!

Tip #9: Buy Scrubs

I preferred to wear scrubs during anatomy lab, but some people wore other clothes that they didn’t care about too much. You run the risk of getting a little dirty during lab, and your clothes will probably smell bad afterwards. I got a pair of teal scrubs (to match the MGH IHP dress code) that I would be able to use later for fieldwork if needed. For the purposes of lab, any color will work!

Tip #10: Cover The Scent

I wasn’t very sensitive to the smell of the cadaver lab, but some people were. For those of you who are sensitive to the smell of formaldehyde, I recommend rubbing an essential oil below your nose before lab to help cover the scent. Try an alerting scent such as peppermint, eucalyptus or grapefruit.

I hope some of these techniques help you to make it through anatomy! Good luck, I know you will do great!

Myself and some of my classmates after our last day of lab!

Disclaimer: Implementing any or all of these tips are not automatically going to earn you an A. Work hard and do what works for you, and hopefully you will earn the grade you want!

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