How to Study Anatomy in a Medical College: A Complete Guide

Studying Anatomy in Medical College in a Medical College: A Complete Guide

In this post I will discuss with you how to study anatomy in a medical college.

Anatomy is one of the most feared subject by 1st year medical college. I remember one of my Anatomy Professor said that even she would fail if the professional exam of whole anatomy is to be taken at the moment. The reason was that there is a lot to cover in anatomy. It’s not tough but just a lot of stuff.

But this is not enough, when I went to surgery postings in 2nd year, there the anatomy required for surgery was actually the least touched portion in 1st year. 

what is clinical anatomy?

When I was in 1st year every anatomy book had this clinical correlation section or the blue boxes where anatomy of some diagnosis was given.

But this is not the whole picture. I understood more when I actually attended the surgery posting in my college and did MCQs during lockdown.

Let me start with the conclusion – so basically when you see a patient, you should be able to see the anatomy with your naked eyes or with instruments/technology.

let me give you few examples – 

So you must have studied the anatomy of heart, I am sure you cannot pass your exams without studying it. When you were studying it, in the clinical correlation section there must be something about anatomical defects of the heart. Let’s take the example of Atrial septal defect – ASD

Atrial septal defect-en
Manco Capac, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

So How will you see this anatomical defect in patient?

Well the most accurate way is to open the heart and look for the defect. But there can be few side effects like death of the patient and few lawsuits. So How should you find this anatomical defect in your patient.

Well the answer to this is – Check for the particular murmur. there will be a systolic murmur heard at the upper left sternal border.


Similarly if there is patent ductus arteriosus – you will hear a machine like murmur 

Another example – So we all study the anatomy of kidney in detail. It’s size relations and all. We even study about the kidney stones.

Imagine a patient presents with back pain and from the history you suspect kidney stone.

How will you confirm this?

Here we will use the technology of X-ray. Now If I show you an abdominal X-ray, you won’t be able to see the kidney as it is a soft part so you have to visualize it through knowledge of anatomy and then you can see where the stone is and based on the location you can tell about it’s size.

Kidney stones abdominal X-ray
Bill Rhodes from Asheville, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to choose your book?

Before telling about what books to buy you should know that anatomy is a learning subject rather than understanding so it is preferred to select the book that your teachers are following to teach you. That way it would be easy to review everything after the lecture is over or while preparing for exams.

So there are 3 books that you must buy –

  1. A theory book 
  2. An Atlas 
  3. A Dissector

along with these you have to buy a book for embryology as well as a book for histology.  Here is a separate section where I have mentioned all the books for anatomy and you can see reviews of each book. – Anatomy

How do you learn Anatomy?

Learning anatomy is how you are going to spend most of the time in 1st year. So what is the best way to learn it?

There are lots of tips you can get from various people but I will give you only 2 tips that actually worked for me.

  1. Draw Diagrams

So this is the oldest technique to learn anatomy and the best way even today. But It requires time.

Here is an example – How would you learn the brachial plexus? Obviously by drawing line drawings rather than artistic ones


Brachial Plexus Logical Schematic
Chris Talbot, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a bit hard to do it with all the diagrams and it requires time.

Let me tell you an alternative way of learning anatomy – If you have less time then you can use a coloring book for anatomy. Here is one I suggest –

This book will take you to your childhood days of using those coloring books.

              2. Correlate with embryology

This is one of those underrated techniques that are way too good but difficult to use.

In our body many structures are originated at some place and then their final destination is somewhere else. So they have to travel and that makes our body look and function like it does. 

For example 

 Descent of testes – Testes are originated in abdomen but they travel through the body wall making 2 rings and ligaments and a lot more things you will read anatomy. Understanding this will help you understand how to examine it in a patient (Ring occlusion test for hernia that you will study in Surgery).

Common Sites of Lower Abdominal Hernias
Dennis M. DePace, PhD, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to utilize Dissections?

Dissections is the best part of your anatomy curriculum. Initially all the students are very much interested in doing dissections but as the 1st year progress, most of the students loose interest and only few are doing dissections. 

If you study anatomy thoroughly and then you jump to dissection, that will be a memorable experience and memories that help you excel in exams is a boon.

So how to approach to dissection?

First of all buy a dissector – Cunningham’s is best

Read the manual before doing dissections.

It is explained in the books about how to make incisions and what structures will you encounter. Read them and correlate with the anatomy you learned in the classroom.

When you start doing dissection first start with the surface anatomy then according to dissector make incisions and see the structures.

The visual memory you will make here will be with you till the last day of your career.

I also made a video describing this stuff on my Youtube channel – You can watch that too.

18 thoughts on “How to Study Anatomy in a Medical College: A Complete Guide”

    1. Some tips mentioned are very apt but as a First year student one should try finding what’s best for him/her by trying out the different options in shortest span of time possible.

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