How to Learn Anatomy in Medical School with Anki7 min read
What anatomy do I need to know for my school’s exams? What anatomy do I need to know for Step 1? In this post, I’ll take you through two Anki decks that have helped me understand anatomy in medical school, perform well on anatomy practicals, and prepare for Step 1.
Disclaimer: this is not a replacement for the Cadaver Lab! If your school has a physical cadaver lab use it as much as you can. Actually handling and seeing the dissected human body is an amazing opportunity and a gift. I’m missing it dearly during this pandemic (the post was written on 11/6/2020).
My priority for Step 1 would be AnKing > 100 Concepts >>>>>> Michigan
My priority for your in-house exams would be Michigan >> 100 concepts > AnKing
Michigan Deck + Questions
This is going to be your “school-specific” beast. The Michigan Anki deck is huge but has fantastic pictures and image occlusions. This is as close as it will look to what you see in the Anatomy lab.
So how do you study for your exams using this deck? All medical schools should give you a structure list you need to know, for example, this is the first 1/4th of the list from the University of Michigan on Back and Spinal cord. Just the first 1/4th…
So what I would do the day before I go into the anatomy lab, or, in dire times, two/three days before my practical exam, is search through the Michigan deck for these structures, unsuspend those cards, and learn them.
The only painful thing here is the search bar won’t work as this deck is tagged broadly to groups. Don’t try searching the bones or muscles as they won’t show up. You need to go to the sidebar, where each section is tagged, and search through it.
Whenever you find a relevant structure, unsuspend that card.
The next thing I highly recommend is the University of Michigan anatomy questions. If you do all of these questions and understand them, it will be very hard for you to do poorly on your school’s anatomy exam (or it should be).
Finally, once you take your exam, re-suspend these cards. They are low-yield for Step 1.
Bottom Line: Study the structures you need to know for your school from the University of Michigan Anki deck. Then do the Michigan questions for those anatomy sections for your school’s practical anatomy exams.
In regards to anatomy, however, the AnKing still is great. Just go through your lectures and third-party content and unsuspend as you normally do and the AnKing’s anatomy will pop-up throughout.
As a double-check I usually scroll through the Zanki subdeck I am currently on (go to deck browser and not tag browser, “AnKing” -> “Zanki Step Decks” -> Specific Deck). I do this to make sure I am not missing any relevant content at the end of very week. If I did anatomy that week my perusing will include looking for anatomy cards. I would sort by date created before you look.
However, I found AnKing severely lacking when it comes to my school’s practical anatomy exams and some Step 1 anatomy information.
You will not do well on your school’s practical exam if you just use the AnKing. You need to supplement it with other resources like the Michigan anatomy deck.
Bottom Line: After learning some section of Anatomy at your school, scroll through that Zanki subdeck, by date created, and unsuspend any anatomy relevant cards.
100 Concepts Anatomy
Whatever the AnKing missed in regards to Step 1-relevant anatomy the 100 concepts anatomy deck fills in. This is a small deck with only 300 cards.
How I would use it is after we learned something in an anatomy lecture or the anatomy lab I would scroll through this deck until I found the relevant content and unsuspend and learn those cards. Sort by date created as they are created in a logical order.
Yes, there might be the occasional overlap with the AnKing deck. You don’t need to worry about it though, this is only 300 cards, it will make a negligible difference in your daily card count. If you really think you are seeing content redundantly just use the search function and suspend the card if there is overlap.
Bottom Line: After learning anatomy go to the 100 Concepts deck and unsuspend the relevant information. Don’t worry about the overlap with the AnKing deck.
So how would I use all of this together? In an ideal world, before the cadaver lab, I would learn all of the structures from the Michigan Anki deck and learn all the rest of the information about these structures from AnKing and the 100 Concepts deck. Then, come exam time, I have been reviewing continuously with the Anki algorithm anyway so I know this information.
Medical school is not the ideal world. I do not have time to go through and memorize the structures during the regular week, I just couldn’t do it. What I ended up doing, that worked, was to learn the AnKing information and 100 Concepts cards’ information during regular school weeks. Then, cram the Michigan Anatomy Anki information the day or two before the exam. I know this goes against everything Anki is meant for but I only need this information, for now, for this one specific practical exam. The AnKing and 100 concepts information I will need for Step 1.
Then, after I take the practical exam, I resuspend the Michigan cards. The information is too low-yield to add to my daily card count.
The University of Michigan Anki deck will help you crush your in-house anatomy practical exams, but after the practical re-suspend those cards.
In regards to clinically-oriented questions, the AnKing should be able to hold you over along with the Michigan practice questions.
Finally, for Step1, the 100 Concepts deck will fill the few anatomy blanks AnKing has.
Bottom Bottom Line: Learn the AnKing information and 100 Concepts cards’ information during regular school weeks. Then, cram the Michigan Anatomy Anki information the day or two before the exam. Use the physical cadaver as much as you can if you have access to one.