Study Tip 1 – Keep it organized. Pathology is a high-volume course that progresses and builds on complex concepts. However, many areas of this study can be broken down and grouped to help the student organize and easily recall the pathologic steps. Take one general topic, like Tissue Necrosis, and list all its subtypes underneath it. Keep the diagrams concise so that you may review them for quick reference and comparison as you continuing studying the subject.
Study Tip 2 – Start with the big picture. Sift through the assigned chapter or unit in the beginning of your studies and get a rough idea of what you will be covering. While you are skimming through, decide which material must be thoroughly understood versus the minor details that can be memorized closer to the exam date. Take your time and think through the steps of the major concepts while you have plenty of time before the test. Gene products, chromosome location, and toxin names should be memorized after you are familiar with the terminology and pathologic processes. More than likely, the mundane facts will only reside in your short-term memory and will only frustrate you if you first attempt to memorize words and diseases you don’t understand.
Study Tip 3 – Know the terminology and nomenclature well. Most of the time this can be accomplished by paying attention to the stem of the word. Take hypertrophy for example, which describes an increase in cell size. The stem -trophy often refers to cellular growth and dimensions. If hyper- is added to any term, it usually means an increase, or greater than normal levels. So it is easy to see how the pathologic process of increased cell size is described by its term hypertrophy. Using this, we can infer that hypotrophy indicates decreased cell size. This study tip becomes very useful when differentiating types of cell changes and progression to cancer. For instance, the term carcinoma indicates that a malignant tumor is derived from epithelium, while sarcoma is derived from mesenchyme. In addition, the suffix -oma usually means a growth is benign, but keep in mind that there are always exceptions; such as, Melanoma and Lymphoma which are malignant tumors.
Study Tip 4 – Compare and contrast the disease processes. Every time you are studying something, ask yourself “How is this different from . . . and how is this similar to . . . ?” Pathology is full of dichotomies and many disease processes overlap each other, thus making it easy to confuse them with each other. Some common examples are Benign vs. Malignant, Transudate vs. Exudate, Grade vs. Stage, Reversible Injury vs. Irreversible. Some students will benefit from making tables to keep the concepts and details separated.