Kenhub: The Best Tools for Learning Anatomy (and when to use them!)
Learning and mastering any type of knowledge inevitably requires a lot of time, patience and devotion - irrespective of what it is you are trying to learn. Anatomy, however, is a particularly good example of this. The sheer volume of material you’ll need to learn as a medical student can seem downright overwhelming.
As a result, you might be feeling confused and lost, unsure of where to begin or even what tools you should be using to get the most out of your studies. The requirement to learn such a massive amount of information in record time can drown anyone. Luckily, there are a multitude of tools available to lend you a helping hand. Read on to discover our top picks!
Before we get into the best tools for learning anatomy, know this: if you want to effectively learn and retain anatomy knowledge for a long period of time, you can’t just learn it once and call it a day. Optimal consolidation and retention of knowledge can only be achieved through the method of active recall, or spaced repetition. This method involves learning a piece of information, and continuing to visit that information at regular intervals.
If you don’t remember what you learned when you come to test yourself, you either didn’t learn it well enough in the first place, or you left too much time in-between the initial learning and subsequent testing. The last thing you want is to be faced with the latter in your exam. This is why spaced repetition is so crucial to successful learning. The more you use the brain to test yourself about how well you know a piece of information, the more consolidated it becomes.
With that in mind, here are some of the best tools for learning anatomy as effectively and efficiently as possible. You’ll also discover the best time during your learning journey to use each of these tools. Let’s jump in!
Let’s start with the obvious. Of course, every medical student needs an anatomy atlas. It’s a medical students’ bread and butter. You’re not going to be lucky enough to be in the dissection hall every day, so a high quality colour atlas covering every inch of the human anatomy is an essential study resource. From this, you’ll learn to identify the location and appearance of anatomical structures, as well as their functions. Why is this important? Well, there’s a 100% chance that you’ll need to identify anatomical structures in your anatomy exam - not to mention in clinical practice - so you’d best be prepared!
The question is, where can you find a good anatomy atlas?
You can use Kenhub on your desktop, tablet and mobile
Traditionally, anatomy atlases were only available in physical book form. Now, however, there are several high quality anatomy atlases available online - some of them for free. One example is the one from the leading online anatomy learning platform, Kenhub. Their colour HD anatomy atlas contains thousands of beautifully detailed gross anatomical illustrations of the human body, with accompanying muscle facts for the relevant illustrations. They also have histological, cross sectional and radiological anatomy (CT, MRI and X-ray) images.
Of course, if you’d rather go the traditional paper route, Gray’s Anatomy, Frank Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy, or Moore’s Clinically Oriented Anatomy are also highly respected paper anatomy atlases.
Videos and Quizzes
If you hate wading through piles of textbooks, it may be worth considering learning with a more engaging medium, such as videos. You can find a wealth of educational anatomy and physiology videos online now, so you’re certainly not strapped for choice. Some popular anatomy and physiology resources online include Armando Hasudungan and Dr Najeeb on YouTube.
Both of these tutors break down a subject step by step, illustrating concepts with easy to follow and understand diagrams. As free study resources, you can’t go far wrong with these. However, the videos from these tutors are predominantly focused around physiology and pathology, as opposed to pure anatomy.
If you’re looking for anatomy and histology videos, consider those from Kenhub. Their anatomy videos are the perfect length for a short, focused study session, averaging around 30 minutes long per video. They cover everything you need to know about an anatomy topic, from location, to function, to clinical abnormalities. As a bonus, you can even speed them up or slow them down to match your note taking or the time you have available to study.
Again, if ploughing through the never-ending pages of an anatomy textbook are your worst nightmare, then quizzes may just be the dream anatomy study tool you’ve been looking for. Not only can they be used to test your knowledge after you’ve learned a topic, they can also teach you a topic from scratch. The quizzes at Kenhub are hugely popular for both of these functions, owing to the expansive range of quiz types customisable to all levels.
For beginners, the identification quizzes, available in four levels of difficulty, are perfect for learning to link the name, appearance, location and spelling of a structure. The question bank quizzes are a fantastic resource for anatomy exam preparation, as they are full to the brim with exam-style clinical anatomy questions written by qualified doctors and anatomy experts. If you’re feeling confident about your knowledge on a particular bodily region, these are the perfect way to start applying it.
Give Kenhub quizzes a go on your ipad, mobile or desktop
If it’s muscles that you’re looking to master, then look no further than the muscle fact quizzes. These will teach you everything you need to know about muscles, their functions, insertions, origins and innervations.
The custom and revision quizzes at Kenhub are the icing on the cake. The custom quizzes allow you to mix and match body regions, structure types, origins, insertions, innervations and functions to create a quiz personalised to your specific learning requirements. Revision quizzes keep a track of your progress on the aforementioned quizzes, noting down anything you got wrong and need to spend some extra time on. It’s just like your fairy godmother!
You’ve probably already heard about mind maps. As the name implies, mind maps are essentially a map reflecting the information present inside your brain for a particular topic. Imagine them like a city, where the most important idea (the city centre) is located in the middle, and the major branches (main roads) radiate away from the centre into connected ideas (neighborhoods). Smaller branches yet (side roads) are linked out from the major branches, creating a web of interconnected ideas and information. Doodles, sketches and symbols can be placed along the branches to aid understanding or to symbolise a greater idea, similar to the buildings, monuments and tourist attractions of a city.
Simplified example mind map layout
Mind maps are effective because they are closely related to the way the brain stores information. If we think about the lungs, we’ll likely imagine their location in the thorax, and their connection to surrounding structures like the bronchi, bronchioles and alveoli. We’ll think of their function, which is to allow us to breathe, and rid and protect our bodies from toxins. When creating your own mind map, be sure to keep the following ideas and features in mind:
Branch out from the center in decreasing order of importance
Use colour to link categories
Incorporate images, pictures or sketches
Use key words only, to prevent the map from becoming overwhelming
Mind maps are best used in the middle of learning a new topic. You can use them to jot down the information you’ve learned so far, and gauge how well you’re already able to connect related ideas together.
You’ve probably also heard of flashcards before. They’re a hugely popular study tool for anatomy students, and with good reason.
Flashcards allow you to take in large volumes of information, fast. What makes them effective is that they work on the aforementioned principle of spaced repetition, which as you now know, is crucial for long-term retention of anatomy concepts.
Usually, flashcards are presented as an image on one side of a card, with the name of the image and the related theory, functions or relevant information on the other side. Most major anatomy atlases now have a corresponding set of anatomy flashcards available for purchase. However, you can also make them yourself.
Here are some golden rules to help you create your own clear and useful flashcards:
Aim for simplicity – try to stick to one question or one fact/answer per card
Connect the content of different cards
Consider the use of “Why?” questions
Keep lists to five items or less
Consider using media to enhance your cards
Flashcards are best used towards the end of your study session, as a preparation aid for exams, or as a technique for maintaining your knowledge quickly and with ease. If you’d rather purchase ready made flashcards to save time, Netter’s Anatomy Flashcards or the Kenhub flashcard eBooks are both popular choices.
So, there you have it: the best tools for learning anatomy. None of these are particularly unique, but for good reason... they work! Anatomy is a complicated enough subject as it is, so there’s really no need to reinvent the study wheel. Whatever you’re studying for, give these tools a try. You may just find that they completely change the game for you. Good luck!