Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Exam time!

guy studying
Many students have exams coming up this week or next . . . or sometime soon.

Last week, I shared some tips for exam preparation.

Now here are a few tips for what to do on exam day . . . and during the exam:
  • Be healthy. Do NOT stay up nights studying . . . sleep deprivation will reduce your ability to perform well. Eat well in the days leading up to the exam. Try to reduce stress. Exercise (it'll help you think more clearly).

  • Get to the test in time. Duh-uh, of course you should be there in time. But for the exam, try to get there early. I've seen SO many students cut it close, then something comes up (bad traffic, for example) and they come in LATE. Not only does that cut down the time you have to take the exam . . . you'll be flustered and unable to think clearly.

  • Skim over the exam before taking it. This will give you an idea of what's ahead and you can use your time wisely.

  • Don't waste time on something you really don't know. Do all the parts you are confident about. Then use the remaining time to work on the real puzzlers. If you start with the puzzling parts, you won't have time for the parts you know well . . . and you might get flustered and bomb the whole thing.

  • Double check your responses. Make sure you read the question accurately (a common mistake). Makes sure things are spelled correctly. If you use a scan sheet, make sure you answered on the correct line. If there are complex problems, and you have time, do them AGAIN--just to make sure you got the right answer.

  • Don't skip anything. Well, if you absolutely run out of time, you have no choice. But if time gets away from you and realize that you have only a few minutes for the remaining items that you'd prefer to take more time with . . . then just "go with your gut" and fill in some fast answers. You'd be surprised how many may turn out to be right (especially if you've prepared yourself well).
There are more tips at the Study Tips & Tools page on Taking Tests.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Study Stack

In recent posts I mentioned flashcard rescources such as Flashcard Exchange and also recommended that you check the data in the resources before using them to study.

Here's another resource you might find useful:

This site allows you to choose a topic, then study the data in any of several formats:
  • notes
  • flashcards
  • study stack (try this one out . . . it's cool)
  • study table
  • matching
  • Hangman
  • crossword
  • wordsearch
  • unscramble
  • type in
  • bug match (this one is crazy, but fun)
You can also choose to
  • export the data
  • print the data
  • edit the data
  • recommend other options
For example, see the stack on the Endocrine System. Click on each of the formats to see what you get!

To find topics related to A&P, try these:

  • Medical/Nursing
  • Medical/Anatomy
  • Medical/Physiology

There are many different levels represented here, going all the way up through med-school level. So you'll have to pick the data that suits your needs.

How about this . . . why don't you make some stacks fo your own and put them up and then request a new category for undergrad A&P?

Exams are coming!

guy studying
Many students are preparing for upcoming final exams. Or they SHOULD be!

Now is a good time to go over your study strategy.

What is a study strategy? It's your plan regarding how you are going to prepare yourself for your tests and exams.

Why bother to have a specific plan? Well, you want to PASS the course, don't you? Sure! You want to do more than that . . . you want to EXCEL (otherwise you wouldn't even be reading this, eh?). Having a plan will make your exam preparations more efficient (that is, less time-consuming) and more likely to produce a successful outcome.

Each student's best strategy will be somewhat unique them--tailored to individual strengths and learning styles. (Click here for more on learning styles.)

A good strategy will have been fine-tuned by previous experimentation with different study plans over the course of the semester.

Here are a few things to think about when developing your study strategy:
  • What study plan has worked in the past? What hasn't worked out so well?

  • What do you know about the format of the upcoming exam? What kinds of items will be on the exam?

  • What is the content of the exam? What concepts will be tested?

  • What has your instructor told you about the exam? Professors often drop a lot of hints. Even if they don't, you can always just ASK them. Most professors will have SOME KIND of advice for their students. A good question to ask is, "how do you go about making up the exam?" Such a question will often reveal what the professor finds to be most important.

  • Practice the exam. Use previous tests from the course (if available) to practice the exam. One way to do this is to cut up copies of your tests and draw individual items randomly from an envelope. Sometimes professors will provide a practice exam or copies of some old exams. If not offered, it wouldn't hurt to ask.

  • Study with a group. Pooling your thoughts, and helping each other review and practice, work surprisingly well to solidify what you already know and to fill in any gaps.

  • Manage your time well. Don't cram at the last minute . . . do a little preparation each day for a week or more before the exam.
For more study tips, see Study Tips & Tools in the Lion Den.

Next week, I'll share some strategies for what do during the exam.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pinky and the Brain

Have you ever seen the Pinky and the Brain cartoon? Here's a crazy video clip from the show sent to me by one of my favorite textbook editors, Karen Turner over at Elsevier (Mosby). It features a musical tour through the brain.

[Here's an easter egg in Anatomy & Physiology 7th ed. . . . Karen Turner's photo is on p. 55]

Although this clip is funny and includes a lot of "real" anatomy terms and structures, it's not very useful in understanding brain anatomy in an organized way . . . it's just a jumble of random structures, jumping all around and from microscopic to macroscopic and back again. But it IS entertaining!

[The video player embedded here may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Student blog to access the video viewer. ]

So why share it with you?

First, because . . . well . . . it IS entertaining.

Second, it gives me the opportunity to bring up (once again) the value of silly songs as a learning tool.

Remember my previous article Pump your blood, which featured a silly song about blood flow through the systemic and pulmonary circulation? That one was effective because it put all the essential facts together in a way that makes sense (unlike the Pinky and the Brain clip). Such songs teach not only the facts . . . but also (and this is important) how the facts fit together.

Silly songs can also be useful as mnemonic devices to remember the anatomical order of structures in the body or the members of a group of structures in the body (see Sad Pucker).

Third, I'm sharing this video because even though this clip is "not very useful" in learning A&P, it is still "somewhat useful." It does show structures visually while at the same time stating the names . . . which will probably help remember where they are and what they look like.

But one must alway be careful with this sort of thing (media not really intended to be strictly educational) because there may be unintentional errors or misleading usages embedded in them. Looking for, finding, and correcting such errors can in itself be a learning experience.

For example, the clip contains several eponyms (terms that include someone's name). We learned in last week's article International standards for anatomy terminology that eponyms are "old fashioned." So the clip isn't really wrong in this regard . . . it's just not up to date.

Also, near the end of the clip the term "medulla oblongata" is sung but the entire brainstem and part of the diencephalon is illustrated--not just the medulla oblongata. Ooops. There are probably several more of these that I didn't catch on casual viewing.

Of course, these mistakes only support my previously mentioned hypothesis, summarized here:

Dr. Patton's Theory of Media Science (Dr. P's TMS) . . .which I just made up after years of mulling it over . . . and shouting it to my television screen . . . states that

"biological accuracy of a science-based fictional media production is inverse to the total budget for special effects in the production. "
Do you have other silly songs or video clips to share (accurate or not)?

Then share them with us by "commenting" on this article!

Check your sources

In my recent post Flashcard Exchange I recommended the use of flashcard sites that allow students to share A&P flashcards with one another.

How can you be sure that the information on the cards you use are accurate?

You can't!

As with anything borrowed from other students . . . class notes, diagrams, concept maps, concept lists, outlines, PowerPoint slide, images, videos, podcasts . . . you can't be certain that each element is correct. Nor can you be certain that they contain the same usages that your course uses (for example, the exact term of several possible correct alternatives).

What to do? Give up using these study aids?

Don't give them up . . . just check them out before using them!

That should always be your first step . . . compare the content to what you know to be true from your own learning. Then double-check that against your textbook and other course references.

This part of the process may seem overly time consuming--but it's worth it.

Not only will it keep you from studying the wrong thing--which could have tragic results--it in itself is a good study technique. By the time you are ready to use your borrowed resource, you'll already have learned a bit more just by checking it out thoroughly.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

International standards for anatomy terminology

anatomy terms
Not long ago in my article Introducing Terminology I mentioned that I'd be sharing more information with you.

This new video discusses the new worldwide standard for anatomical terminology and why it's important for A&P students to know about it.

Take a look . . .

[If you don't see the video viewer in your newsletter or feed version of this article, please go to The A&P Student blog site to view it. ]

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Myths about textbooks debunked

As an occasional student myself and the father of some college (and college-bound) students, I feel the pain of textbook prices.
We hear a lot about why college textbooks are so expensive and what might be done to slow or even reverse the expense of college textbooks. In a recent post, I suggested that professors start comparing the prices of the textbooks available for their courses when making adoption decisions. See The Cost of Textbooks, in which I pointed out that some A&P textbooks cost as much as $45 less than comparable A&P textbooks.
Even state legislators have taken this up as a cause and have enacted regulations aimed and making textbooks more affordable. Unfortunately, none of these efforts seem to work . . . or at least not very well. Some of these efforts actually make the situation worse!

Most of the news stories I've seen or heard—and comments from students and politicians—makes it clear that we are not getting all perspectives on the issues involved. How do I know that? Because as a life-long student, as a professor, and as a textbook author, I know some important facts that are not commonly reported or debated. Facts that could and should expand the debate to help us find solutions that actually work.
So that you can find out "the rest of the story" I suggest checking out this brief article from the Text and Academic Authors Association (TAA), of which I'm a member:
(Feel free to pass the article around to others who might be interested.
Click here for the PDF version.)
You may also want to explore this website


New A&P Student Library

I've just added a new set of tools to help you succeed in your A&P course!

There's now a new link to The A&P Student Library at the blog site. This "library" is an affiliate of that shows my personal recommendations for books and other resources that may help you.

Many of the listings include my own comments on the resource.

Over time, I'll be adding more resources. If you have any that you want to share with me, please comment on this blog post, or email me directly.

Want to know how The A&P Student Library works? Check out this quick video:

After starting video, click the icon in the lower right corner of the frame to EXPAND.

[If you can't see the video player in your newsfeed then click this link or go to The A&P Student blog to view the clip.]