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How to Get an ‘A’ in Anatomy and Physiology


An undergraduate course in human anatomy and physiology is required for entrance into many health-related schools. If you intend to go into nursing, for example, you will probably need to take this course and do well in it. If you are applying to a competitive program, you’ll need to get the best grade that you can in anatomy and physiology. So what do you need to do to get the very best grade? What does it take to get an “A?”

This is a good question to ask yourself before you register for the class. Anatomy and physiology (A&P) is not an easy class–but it’s not impossible. It is really just an exercise in memorization, but on a scale much greater than you have probably encountered before. You will need to memorize, and memorize, and then memorize some more. Even the best students can stumble over such a mountain of memorization. It’s helpful, then, to have a plan of action in place before you begin the class. It’s helpful to know what to expect, and then approach the problem in a systematic way.

You’ll need to develop a set of skills before you begin. The most important skill is memorization. You should develop your own set of tools which will enable you to memorize as efficiently as possible. Next, you’ll want to review your method of note-taking. If you have never really been serious about developing a good way to take notes, now is the time to get on-line and do some research in order to determine the best method for you. Personally, I use an outline format to take notes (using a pen) during lecture– and then type out the notes later using MS Word. It’s easy to let Word automatically create the outline format. This is a good way to review the lecture as well giving me a chance to correct any errors I made in the notes I took during class.

You should also consider improving your ability to draw. To be able to create a good, simple sketch is a skill that anyone can learn, and if you can’t draw at all you should do some research on-line or at the library, and study the basics of drawing so that a) you won’t be intimidated when you’re asked to draw in class, and b) you will be able to use your own drawings as study aids.

One thing that will help you tremendously in getting that “A” is to go in and talk to your instructor as soon as possible after the start of the semester. Just walk in during office hours and introduce yourself and tell your instructor why you are taking the course and that you want to do well. Then ask him or her for some advice on how to do that. This is a conversation that every instructor expects to have (but seldom encounters). If you show real enthusiasm for the subject and ask the instructor for advice, then you will begin to build a relationship with your instructor, and that relationship will pay dividends.

Ultimately, your grade will depend on how you do on the exams, and this will depend on how well you learn the material. It’s a good idea to get help in this. Make connections with other students in your class. If you’re not interested in joining a study group, you should (at least) prepare for the possibility of missing a class and ending up without the all-important notes for that lecture. In this situation, you’ll need to copy the notes from someone else. If you have offered to help other students (especially in the lab–especially if you offer to draw a sketch for your “art challenged” lab partners) then you will already have friends who can supply those lecture notes that you missed.

Finally, do not underestimate the importance of test-taking skills and techniques. Very often, the difference between an “A” student and a “B” student is not what they know–it’s how well they take the test.

By Jeanette Brae

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