Studying Anatomy and Physiology 101: The Tips, Tricks & Whys of It

 Anatomy and physiology are fascinating, but they are by no means mandatory in high-school or college. However, if you’re thinking of joining the pharmaceutical or medical career tracks, you’d be best advised to sign up. Here’s a brief guide to introduce you to studying anatomy and physiology, as well as some basic tips and tricks for dealing with the actual coursework.

diagram of human skull

Human skull anatomy

Why take anatomy and physiology

The aims

There are plenty of reasons for which one could choose to take a real-life or online anatomy and physiology course. By and large, the coursework will teach you everything about the organs and systems of the body, as well as about how they function. The aim of taking a biology and physiology course is to learn about the major systems of the human body and understand how they work toward performing the roles assigned to them. Bear in mind that neither the organs, nor the systems that make up the human body are independent – they all function inter-connectedly, either through direct or through indirect links. Another important aspectto acknowledge, while sailing through the content of the course material, is that anatomy and physiology students ought to have a firm grasp of all the main types of cells, tissues, and organs: you need to be able to tell them apart, accurately name them, and understand how they work.

The practical reasons

If you’re thinking of applying for med school, don’t think you should just skip it, because you’re going to take it in college anyway. Medical school anatomy and physiology classes entail advanced study material and applications, so it’s good to have at least a rough idea of what’s to come. Otherwise, you’re just going to spend the first months of college, trying to make up for lost time – when some basic online training could help you go into med school that much more prepared. Of course, since the only requisite of applying for med-school is to have an undergraduate degree, anatomy and physiology classes are not mandatory – but they can definitely save you a lot of trouble later on. Here are some reasons to at least take an online anatomy and physiology course as a pre-med student:

  • Learning how to study. Both anatomy and physiology require a great memory. It might be too late for you to hone that skill, once you’re caught up in the fast-paced, study-intensive environment of medical school.
  • A better college transcript. As you may already know, the school board at your medical school of choice will be looking at the transcript of your Bachelor studies. They’re probably going to like what they see that much better, if they notice you’ve already taken some anatomy and physiology courses before enrolling. And, yes, even online training can bring you college credits.
  • Coming prepared. Since both the subject of anatomy and that of physiology are vast, it’s only normal to like some parts of them better than others. The problem is that no one’s going to cut you slack for this in med school. By taking physiology and anatomy courses before med school you’ll be aware of your strong suits and your weaker points and know what to focus on.
  • Terminology. Both subjects entail a good grip over the requisite language – and, as all specialized jargons, the terminology involved in these fields is complex. With some preliminary coursework already completed before med school, it will be easier for you to keep up with your professors and the seemingly foreign language they speak in class.
medical students researching

Anatomy students

Aside from the scenario in which you’re pre-med, there are plenty of other reasons to take anatomy and physiology courses. Pre-nursing school students are also strongly recommended to attend. To boot, these courses can perfectly complement other coursework you take toward earning a professional certificate in the medical field.

Study tips for anatomy and physiology

Start with anatomy

Provided you don’t run into any scheduling conflicts, it’s a good idea to know the parts of the body first, before you get around to learning what they do. You need to know where everything is located and how it all connects, before understanding how it all works. While it’s not impossible, it’s a bit counterintuitive to take physiology before anatomy.

Hone your memory

There are 206 bones and more than 600 muscles in the human body. You’re going to have to learn all their names, locations, aspects, and functional processes. This is going to take a heavy toll on your memory, as you may well imagine, so invest time into familiarizing yourself with the terminology. Both sciences make use of particular prefixes and suffixes, which are very useful in communication, as are the anatomical directional terms and body planes.

Use toys!

Not actual toys, of course, but anatomy study aids. It may seem puerile at first, but those coloring books with anatomical structures can help hammer the look and location of various structures into your brain. There are plenty of options available on the market, as is the case with flash, study, and review cards. You’re also going to need a good quality anatomy atlas, like Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy – bear in mind that such a complementary text can represent quite an investment.

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