A&P was probably the class I spent the most time on prior to entering nursing school…maybe overall. Though it’s “just a prerequisite,” this is the knowledge I draw on every single day and, in my opinion, is THE most important class to prepare you for success in nursing school (and on the job)!

But, and I’ll be honest here, it is a beast of a class. You will need to perfect your memorization skills for the anatomy portion (not very fun), and get really good at understanding conceptual information for the physiology portion (super fun). This dual approach may be foreign to you if most of your classes to this point have relied on memorizing things for the exams…but here’s a handy little list of tips that should help you ace this overwhelming, difficult and fascinating class!

1) Read (at least skim) the chapter before going to class. If nothing else, look at the pictures, the headers and any text boxes that highlight specific information. It’s highlighted or turned into a picture for a reason!

2) Take your OWN notes. Even if the professor provides notes…take your OWN. If you are a heavily-skewed auditory learner, then see if you can record the lecture for later use. Some people need to just listen during class without taking notes because that is how they learn…but you will be taking notes at some point, so you’ll want to record the lecture for later.

3) As soon as you can, rewrite or type your notes. Supplement your notes with your professor’s notes and your book. Anything you don’t fully understand then GOOGLE is your friend. You do NOT want to be studying for the exam off the notes you scribbled down frantically in class. For starters, they won’t make sense, and secondly…they won’t make sense 🙂

4) When writing up your notes, write them in your own words. Try to paraphrase and use language like you were trying to explain this stuff to your best friend.

5) Utilize additional resources. My Marieb and Martini books came with online goodies such as art labeling, crossword puzzles, flashcards and quizzes. THEY HELP!

6) To practice for lab exams I did two different things (aside from staying in lab until the end of the period every single time) and they both require an atlas or printed diagrams. With my atlas, I put little post-it tabbies over the names. I then numbered each tab. Then I made an answer key and repeatedly quizzed myself until I could get them all right. Another method is to white out the names on your diagram and put it in a sheet protector. Now you can label and relabel using a dry-erase marker. The tabbies method was heavily utilized when learning the bones…holy moly. Just learning the names of the bones would have been fun enough, but you get to learn the names of PARTS of bones…your sulci will spin, I promise you.

7) Re-organize information. Sometimes it helps to think of things from a different angle. For example, rather than just memorizing the muscles individually…reorganize them into all the muscles that attach at the os coax, or all the muscles that medially rotate the leg, for example. I have an example of that here: All Muscles. Now that I think back…learning the muscles was even more awful than learning the bones. Sure, just learning the muscle names would have been a piece of cake, but you’ll have to learn the name of the muscle, where it originates, where it inserts and what action it does…for EVERY SINGLE MUSCLE in the body. Good times. Not really. It was pretty awful. Sorry, but I promised I’d never lie to you.

8) Every week or at the end of every unit, go back through your notes and try to condense them down. Do this again until you can get ALL the key concepts onto ONE piece of paper. I used a sketch pad that measured 11×17…draw pictures, make lists…whatever you need to do to trigger access to the information. I learned this method from a book called “What Smart Students Know”…by condensing the information down over and over, you solidify key concepts. LOVED this method and still use it today.

9) Talk Talk Talk. Yes, anatomy is pure memorization, but physiology is all about understanding. Sometimes the best way to understand is to talk it out. If you have no one to listen to you, talk to your cat or talk to yourself. Talk through the concepts from beginning to end. I would meet my bestest study budy ever at a Panera restaurant and we’d park in a booth for 8 or 9 hours…we’d often be there for all three meals of the day (and copious amounts of coffee). We’d take turns talking through the concepts…this was incredibly helpful, and we kept each other motivated during these marathon study sessions.

10) Draw! Organize processes into concept maps and practice drawing them out as you talk yourself through them. When it comes time to recall the information, you have a picture in your head!

11) Have fun! (the most important part!)


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