Anatomy at the start of medical school

Anatomy at the start of medical school

In this blog post, I will discuss some of the ways anatomy was taught at the start of medical school for me and some of the things I learnt along the way.

The anatomy syllabus

The anatomy core syllabus has been published by Professor Claire Smith, who teaches anatomy at my medical school. Some people may find this useful to identify gaps in their learning.

How anatomy is taught

Here are some of the ways anatomy was taught at my medical school.


Anatomy lectures often had really clear slides with a lot of content and were a useful preparation ahead of dissection room sessions.


This was smaller-group teaching in classrooms. These were sometimes a lesson or a quiz. There were also living anatomy sessions where we learnt surface anatomy relevant to clinical examination. We also had ultrasound sessions.

Dissection room sessions

We had dissection groups of eight for each cadaver and half the year group would be in the dissection room at any one time. In the dissection room, I found it useful to look at different cadavers to see variations.

Anatomy vivas

One of the ways I was assessed in anatomy in first and second year was anatomy vivas. This was a formative assessment meaning it did not count to our overall grade but we still needed to pass it. This generally involved an anatomy demonstrator pointing to different areas on a cadaver, prosection, or skeleton, which we needed to identify or answer a question. At face value, this is a slightly terrifying concept. However, I ended up really enjoying it because I felt that by the end of it I was able to learn the area to the point where I was able to point things out on a cadaver and explain them.

Things I found helpful

  • Focus on the content covered in the lecture notes and dissection room notes as otherwise there's just so much to cover.
  • Teach me anatomy is a useful website that summarises important topics very well.
  • Every time I was trying to learn a new structure I would try to find lots of different images from different sources and at different angles. This can be as simple as google imaging every new term you come across.  
  • I made my own flashcards using Quizlet and made questions that could potentially be asked in the viva.
  • Visible Body. My uni gave us access to Visible body and using this you can see lots of different aspects of a virtual body. I found this useful as I am a visual learner so moving the virtual images around helped me to remember things like which structures were adjacent to each other.

Importantly, each person will find a different approach to learning anatomy which suits their own style of learning so I would recommend trying lots of different approaches. Don't worry if one approach isn't working for you - this is very normal!

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