Author: Aishwarya Ghonge
I am putting together this post to serve as a compass for the bewildered first years, who after pestering their seniors for study tips have stumbled onto Google because apparently Google Baba is omniscient.
I will be writing this post in two parts; the first part will focus solely on the last minute exam preparation and tips on writing the kind of answers which will please reasonable examiners. The second part will focus on tips which will help you to maximize conceptual input from your study throughout the working year. I will be writing a separate post for practical exam preparation.
Exam Preparation for Anatomy
Personally speaking, this was the only subject I had a tough time with during my first year. I cannot boast of great visualizing skills or of being able to construct seamless memory maps inside my head which is why this subject which needs skills in both of these departments, seriously troubled me. I had developed what you could term as “Anatomy Phobia”. This subject could seem intimidating to many at first; what with its extensive vocabulary which sounds like a ridiculously complex version of Hebrew and the whole library of numerous bones and muscles and nerves and vessels. WHOA.
But like any pet,
- a) It will tame
- b) It will warm up to you.
With every subsequent exam, you will become more comfortable with anatomy. So right now, before I dish out some exam-time hacks to you, I want you to become relaxed (in case you are anatomy-phobic too) and have complete faith that in time of real need, anatomy won’t be your traitor. If you are anatomy-philic, you do not belong to my creed. I disown you.
Analyze yourself. Are you a Da vinci or a Wordsworth? Now, I’m not crazy so I know you’re neither but what I mean here is: are you a more visual sort of a person (you cannot stand reading a plain book without pictures) or are you the one who loves everything verbose and has a special affinity towards imagination, remembering and linking abstract concepts in your head? If you are the first kind, you should prepare for an anatomy examination by practicing diagrams. For you guys, anatomy is much less of an ordeal and more of a breeze if you exact your skills and use them to s (the last one). You could just read a text, close your eyes and view it in form of a diagram and then replicate it on paper. The more you practice sketching the diagrams, the better you’ll remember them. The teachers do not necessarily look for handsome diagrams; they look for neat, well-labeled diagrams. If you can imprint the diagrams in your memory by practicing them, you can save your time on mugging up the answers. You can simply draw the diagram with its labels and derive the answer from the diagram (Course of a nerve, relations of an organ, parts of organ etc) If you are a type two person like I am, you’ll still need to practice diagrams but since you probably hate direct mugging, you can create your own stories. Remember the diagram like you’d remember a story. Create characters, create humor (dirty humor helps better, trust me!), and probably think of nerves as rivers, of organs as people. This will probably cost you more time but this technique definitely helped me. I also used to try to connect different concepts in physiology (my favorite subject) to anatomy. I used to connect the functions of organs with their unique structures to try and see how their particular structures aided their specific functions. Linking of concepts helped me study for both the subjects in a better manner. I used to love studying the clinical aspect of anatomy. It helped me hate the poor subject lesser and see how my knowledge of anatomy was furthering me in my quest for becoming a knowledgeable doctor. Also, it’s easier for a type two person to understand the etymology of Hebrew sounding words in anatomy. I am a sucker for language, so I made it a point to study etymology of new terms before studying about them and this practice helped me later on to break down the terms to their roots and understand them without looking up their etymology on Google. Understanding Etymology especially is very useful while studying the clinical aspect of anatomy. Also, use mnemonics to remember those aspects which are essential to remember and are tough to memorize by the methods mentioned above. So to summarize tip1: a) Practice diagrams b) Link concepts and build stories to aid long term memory c) Understand etymology d) Use mnemonics
General Format for anatomy answers:-
4) Specifications (Size, shape, color)
5) Parts and their relationships (anterior, posterior, superior, inferior, medial, lateral, superficial, deep)
7) Nerve Supply
10) Clinical anatomy
Out of these, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10 are necessary to write along with diagrams and will win you brownie points from the examiner. Write the rest only if asked to do so in the given question. Keep your points short and specific so that the answer is easy to read and appears neat. Anatomy papers are usually lengthy, so don’t waste time in underlining the points or such. If at all you are falling short on time, you can skip writing the points in some places and draw quick diagrams and label them. Diagrams help you to show the examiner that you actually understand anatomy and can especially help you when you are facing a time crisis.
Do not waste time trying to sketch handsome diagrams. Draw quick, neat diagrams and label them to maximum possible extent with arrows. When you practice diagrams, practice quick diagrams. Draw them inside a box (about 15cm/15cm height/breadth). Use hb pencils and smooth color pencils to draw your diagrams and keep a good quality eraser and scale handy. Do not use color pens/sketch pens to draw your diagrams. Use yellow/orange color for nerves, red for arteries, blue for veins, green for bile, tendons and ligaments, pink for organs, brown for muscles, normal pencil for bones (In questions about joints), light blue for cartilage. If at all you are very short on time, skip the colors and draw normal pencil diagrams and label them well. Draw medium sized diagrams, don’t be too stingy or too generous with them since the first may cause them to come across as shabby (due to the numerous labels) and the second will cost you precious time. Use H& E pencils for histology diagrams along with other color pencils (If required in the diagram)
1) The first thing you need to do when you prepare for an anatomy examination(as well as physiology and biochemistry) is to make a list of all the questions asked from a particular unit in the last ten years MUHS first professional examination question papers from BHALANI (The question papers are given at the end of the book. Only refer those questions) and prepare for all of those questions very thoroughly. Usually preparing theory for these questions will prepare you for MCQ’s as well. This is especially important for university examination. For your college exams, ask your seniors about the frequently asked questions in your college and prepare for them as well.
2) Practice diagrams from B D Chaurasia (BDC). Prepare answers from B D Chaurasia or from Kazi’s anatomy notes. I found Kazi’s very useful during last minute preparation. But do not use Kazi’s much for diagrams (you may use a few of the simple ones). While BDC is not very useful for conceptual clarity, it comes in handy during exam preparation for practicing diagrams and preparing answers more suited to MUHS’ taste. List of books: BDC Books 1, 2 and 3, BDC General Anatomy, I.B.Singh Histology and Embryology, Kazi’s anatomy, Bhalani set of question papers.
Length of the answer
Do not waste your time writing extra stuff because you feel that you haven’t covered enough pages in ink. Keep your points concise and cover everything important along with suitable diagrams. They will occupy appropriate space as is required. In process of impressing examiners, don’t waste your precious time. Anatomy papers are usually pretty tiresome and lengthy. You don’t want a carpal tunnel syndrome now, do you?
Exam preparation for physiology
Physiology was my favorite subject of the three, during my first professional year. It is an extremely conceptual and intricate subject and thereby it requires very little mugging (yay). A lot of our basics of physiology are usually covered in Grades 11 and 12 and hence it is not as startling/overwhelming a subject as anatomy is initially. Studying physiology out of curiosity usually comes easily and thus preparing for physiology examination is not quite a daunting task. However, scoring really well in physiology can get tough.
Physiology text generally reads like a story book. Every concept is related to another concept and physiology as a subject is basically application of all these intricately linked web of concepts. It is interesting to study how our body works the way it does and how it maintains its rhythm (homeostasis). Most of the physiology is going to be about homeostasis of body at its root level and understanding the coping mechanisms of body and its fine balance is pretty interesting. Once you understand the principal of balance, guessing the mechanisms before reading them becomes quite easy. Don’t make this beautiful subject into something boring which it is absolutely NOT by mugging up the answers except where it’s absolutely necessary(names of clotting factors, pathways etc) Read the text, understand the concept, summarize the concept and write it down in the form of flowchart for practice. At the end of chapter, compare the flowcharts and understand how they are interlinked. This will definitely help you form a great foundation for studying physiology and remembering it.
List all the questions from past ten year question papers from Bhalani. Read the answers for these questions first and aid the memorization by practicing flowcharts (Make your own flowcharts by summarizing your understanding of particular concepts in them. The more creative and detailed you get with the flowcharts, the better you will remember them) Quiz yourself about the interlinked concepts and try applying them to hypothetical situations (create the situations in your head yourself) and derive conceptual solutions or guess the consequences to imprint the concept into your memory. Guyton is great for understanding physiology, but during exam preparation you can revert to V D Joshi for preparing answers. V D Joshi is based on Guyton and hence I absolutely loved it during my preparatory leave. If you are not a Guyton person, you can opt for B J Notes which I personally detest. Only after you are done reading the answers from your list of questions from Bhalani should you turn to extra questions in V D Joshi/B J Notes.
General format for physiology answers
Keep your answers concise and neat. Only answer that which has been asked in the question but answer it in a detailed manner in form of neat points. If there is a process/sequence of events/web of concepts involved use beautiful flowcharts to depict them. You may not have to draw as many diagrams as required in anatomy, but include at least 2 diagrams in a LAQ and 1 diagram in SAQ. Colored diagrams are not necessary and basic colors for depicting arteries and veins will do. If you are pretty short on time, write quick answers in forms of flowcharts. Inclusion of clinical aspect and etymology will earn you brownie points so include them wherever possible. You can practice diagrams from Guyton. Usually, diagrams are given in V D Joshi too. Include graphs wherever applicable (usually in answers consisting of different parameters). You will find these graphs in Guyton.
Exam preparation for Biochemistry
Biochemistry is the most rampantly neglected subject of the three in the first professional year and I am guilty of it too. Usually, exam time preparation suffices unless you have a special affinity towards this innocent subject (Not that innocent since it requires quite a lot of mugging. No kidding) Mostly, it’s the easiest subject to score well in and a favorite with many students (since it’s so harmless and stuff)
Make a list of all the questions asked from the past ten year question papers in Bhalani. Lippincott is great for conceptual study of biochemistry (Yes, it too has concepts and pretty interesting ones at that. Clinical biochemistry is extremely interesting too) but I personally used to resort to Singhal’s Biochemistry notes during exam preparation. A lot of people use B J Notes but I detest them. Singhal’s is a very concise book and it’s perfect for exam preparation. It has all the necessary content but it is so concise, that skipping anything in this little book would be a criminal offence against yourself. Thorough study of this book is bound to get you a great score in biochemistry. Remembering different cycles can get a little difficult but practicing them on paper aids memorization. I also used to make songs about the cycles to remember them more easily. Understanding the production of ATP’s and its likes (energy exchange molecules) and their usage (Net production) is a better strategy to remember than to mug it up. It is important to mention the Energetics of a process wherever applicable. The initial chapters of biochemistry concerning enzymes and the basics are usually covered in Grades 11 and 12 and should not be memorized. It is easy to understand and remember them and they can aid in scoring well. Use mnemonics for biochemistry. Draw neat cycles wherever asked along with all the enzymes and co-enzymes as well as a proper explanation of Energetics. If you are short on time, you do not need to explain the cycle. Only drawing the cycle will suffice as long as its Energetics, enzymes and co-enzymes are mentioned. You do not need to draw structures of different compounds. Write clinical aspect and etymology in your answers wherever possible to score brownie points with the examiner. Clinical cases are asked in exam and you can study these from a little book which comes free with the Singhal’s book and it covers all the clinical cases perfectly with concise yet beautifully presented answers. You can also make a list of cases from past ten year question papers from Bhalani and study them, but they might not be sufficient for a thorough and confident preparation.
Take adequate sleep before your exam (Even anatomy) Don’t break sweat over fussing about exams. Start preparing for your examinations well in advance so that you can sleep and gloat while your batch mates go crazy with anxiety. You will definitely score better than them since sleep aids retention of memory and helps you to be in your Zen state which is “the” state to be during examinations. Deprivation of sleep may cause you to go blank and get tired while writing long answers. Maintain your cool. You do not need to loose your calm over petty exams. You are greater than the scores on your paper. Scores are not always a good test of your knowledge. Trust me. If you are feeling too stressed out, take a break and watch a good movie. Losing an hour of study might do you more good than spending it in anxiety. Have faith in yourself. You will remember everything you have studied. Don’t ask your friends how much they have studied. They will likely lie either way and you will only end up drowning in nervous anxiety. Concentrate on your own study instead. Set timed goals for portion completion so that you don’t miss out on preparation of important questions. If you are finding it difficult to remember something, let it pass. Don’t fret over it and waste your time. Other questions will come to your aid and you will be able to skip that one question which really bothered you. Don’t waste time preparing for MCQ’s. Your theory preparation will prove sufficient for answering the MCQ’s. Hydrate yourself well. Drink warm/room temperature water with electrolytes. Eat light food. Set your schedule a ten days prior at least to your important examination so that you sleep for about seven hours and you are awake and studying at the same time as when you will be appearing for exams ten days later. Don’t fluctuate your diurnal cycle after setting this schedule. It will help you remain alert and at your best during your actual examination. Erratic schedules often sap you of your necessary energy. All the best, peeps! Break a leg!!