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Tips and Tricks for Studying Anatomy and Physiology

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Elizabethtown chapter.

Throughout your college career, there will be at least one class that makes you want to simply curl up in a ball and cry. For most of those going into the medical field, your program will require you to take (or suffer through) Anatomy and Physiology. As an Occupational Therapy student myself, I am required to take 2 semesters of A&P in conjunction with the lab. 


I survived one lab quiz so far and am now on the journey of preparing for my first lab exam. When I was told that we are expected to memorize the origin, insertion, innervation, and action of about 30 muscles, I was floored. To my dismay, that was not the only part. Another large component of the exam is knowing all of the directional and regional terms, bone markings, and the structures of all of the vertebrae as well as additional information. 


It has officially hit me in the face that the entirety of the lab part of anatomy and physiology is pure memorization. These tasks are extremely daunting. On my journey so far, I have found many useful strategies to help myself master this information.


To everyone else out there struggling, I understand how you are feeling. So, here are some ideas about how to enhance your studies! 



A mnemonic is a memory tool that involves coming up with a word or phrase that matches the first letter to the first letter of the information that you are trying to store and recall. For example, I remember that the 3 muscles of the erector spinae complex are iliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis by using the mnemonic “I Love Spaghetti”. This phase is the perfect device for me to be able to jog my memory and remember the important information. 


Self Testing

My end goal in every study endeavor is to be able to recall the information with ease. The best way I have enabled myself to be able to do that is by forcing myself to recall it. After and during my studying, I continuously test myself to see if I retained the information or if I need to go back and drill it deeper into my mind. 



Quizlet is a free website that allows students to make virtual flashcards and quiz yourself on the material that you input. You can download the app on your phone and take your flashcards with you. This allows you to easily study wherever you are. 



I love using whiteboards. There is something very satisfying about being able to use colorful dry erase markers. I find it much more engaging than simply writing in my notebook. It also allows for a change in scenery. I like going to either the lobby of my dorm building or finding a nice quiet library room and then jotting away on the whiteboard. It just puts me in the perfect mood to get to the grind and ingrain that knowledge right into my head. 


Story Telling 

I adore using storytelling to help myself remember otherwise arbitrary information. For example, I remember that the innervation of the Illiocostalis muscles is spinal nerves C8-L1 by making up a story that a man became ill (iliocostalis) because I see (c) that he ate (8) lava (L) one (1) time. It also just makes studying a little more fun when you’re creative. 


Ask for Help 

If you do not understand something, I highly recommend reaching out. Your professor will be there for you to answer your questions or make information clearer. Another amazing resource that most colleges offer is some type of tutoring service. At my school, it is led by my peers who have taken the class before and done well. Their jobs are to help current students in the class by explaining difficult concepts and answering these questions. I got a tutor when I took Biology my first year of college and I got one this semester for A&P because I knew for a fact that I was going to need the extra help to truly understand the material. Personally, I find having a tutor to be life-saving. 


Other tips I would empathize is to manage your time well, work on it every day, and take breaks. 


Even if you aren’t taking A&P, you might find these methods useful for any of your classes. 


Alexandria Hoffman

Elizabethtown '22

I'm a Sophmore Occupational Therapy student who only cares about coffee and possums
Mary Kirby

Elizabethtown '21

Hi! I’m Mary!