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Course Breakdown


Mid-Semester Test: 26%
End-Semester Test: 24%
Laboratory Component: 10%
Exam: 40%

Course Information


Prescribed Textbook:
Principles of Anatomy and Physiology (14th ed) - Tortora & Derrickson

Official UoA link.

Basic Information

This paper is probably the most rewarding 1st year paper in the whole of the University of Auckland. It's got a great set of lecturers, fascinating content and extremely efficient organisation. The amount of resources available to you is extremely large; with special mention to Piazza. This course uses Piazza and the tutors are very active on it to provide lots of help whenever you need it. The course coordinators also post up past questions for everyone to decide on the answers to, which really helps revision. That said, this paper is also notorious and has earned itself a reputation as one of the hardest Stage I papers, and rightfully so, as it covers a lot of content and provides a great foundation to further studies in any medical context.

The mid semester test (MST) and end of semester test (EST) are purely multi choice questions. Each lecture usually gets about 2 questions in the test. The MST tests content in the first half of semester whereas the EST tests content in the second half of semester. Both the MST and EST also contain questions regarding the lab content. However, the exam covers the entire courses' content via written-answer questions, while labs will not be directly examined. The organisation of this paper is very, very well done - with test results of over 1000 students being released within 24 hours (just as an example) and lecturers being incredibly responsive to students' questions. The labs are also extremely engaging, with most of the lab content tying into the lecture content thus being incredibly relevant.

​The course guide is very extensive and should form the basis of your notes. The textbook is also incredibly good and can be easily accessed through the University's short loan thus purchasing it isn't an absolute necessity. If you must buy a textbook, however, buying any edition from the 12th - 14th should be fine as the course guide should have the correct page references for those editions as well. Lecture recordings in the past have been audio-only and is unlikely to change in the future.


Laboratory Component

Labs are, for many, the highlight of this paper. There are 6 labs: 1 lab per fortnight. In order, there is a rat lab, brain lab, cardiovascular lab, reproduction lab, musculoskeletal lab and respiratory lab, the order of which roughly corresponds with the progress of the lecture content. These labs supplement what is taught in lectures, offering additional knowledge while consolidating your understanding of the lecture content.

At the end of each lab there is a 10 question MCQ test, of which the difficulty varies between labs but is generally straightforward provided attention is paid during the lab itself. The labs also contribute to the midsemester and end-of-semester MCQ tests, with 6 questions per lab. The questions here require more thinking than those at the end of labs and often involve the application (not recall) of what was taught in labs.

In 2015, each lab contributed 2% to your final grade and your best 5 labs were weighted, amounting to a total of 10% for the lab component for Medsci142.

In order to get the most out of labs, we strongly encourage reading the lab itself as many times as possible before the lab, familiarizing yourself with the tasks and any new terminology or concepts. For most labs there will also be required pre-readings, which cover some of the lab content – be sure to read these as they may be tested in the MCQ test at the end of each lab. During the lab, do not hesitate to raise your hand if you’re lost or have any questions as Medsci demonstrators are all very helpful!

​In the MST and EST, each lab contributes 6 questions each i.e. MST has 18 questions (6 each of the first 3 labs) and the EST has 18 questions (6 each of the last 3 labs) and they have been notoriously difficult in the past. They can be quite tricky - be sure to know the labs very well and clarify any concepts you are unsure of on Piazza to ensure you obtain those coveted marks in the MST and EST!


Lecture Content

Nervous System

This section was 5 lectures long and was taught by Prof Richard Faull in 2014. Prof Faull is an extremely passionate lecturer and is bound to make most if not everyone in the lecture theatre fall in love with the 1.5kg piece of tissue behind the eyes. For those who do not know Professor Faull, he is a world-class neuroscientist whose research group was amongst the first to discover that brain cells do in fact regenerate. In these lectures, you will probably need lots of coloured highlighters and coloured pens (think Dr Kubke from 107). This section is considered to be not too difficult as it introduces a relatively new topic which many are unlikely to have learnt before. It has moderate amounts of content and can be conceptually tricky at places but should be ultimately relatively easy to do well in after doing past papers and consulting Piazza along with the very useful Brain Lab which helps to consolidate your knowledge.


Cardiovascular System

This section was 8 lectures long with 4 lectures taught by Mr Peter Riordan and 4 lectures taught by Professor Simon Malpas in 2014.

Peter is an awesome lecturer. This section focuses on the anatomy of the heart. He teaches by annotating his section of the courseguide so make sure you bring your highlighters and writing equipment! He's incredibly easy to approach and is very responsive to students. However, that said, his questions are a serious killer! The quality of his teachings in terms of clarity and detail mirror his demand for conceptually precise answers in his assessments. Be sure to actually understand his section rather than simply rote learning it; but this shouldn't be much of a problem as long as you attend his lectures!

​Professor Malpas' section on cardiovascular physiology is notoriously difficult in terms of understanding the physiology of the heart. It is relatively content light but is conceptually taxing. It would help immensely to learn the flow diagrams Professor Malpas' emphasises in class and also supplement that with the relevant textbook readings. He also often misses sections in his lecture slides and has a reputation of testing them regardless so make sure you go over his slides in their entirety! In addition, participate either in Piazza discussion or with your fellow classmates to ensure your understanding is sound; many also found the lecture recordings to be particularly helpful in instilling the concepts Prof Malpas teaches since it can take a few times to really grasp them.


Autonomic & Endocrine System

This section was 2 lectures long and was taught by the amazingly talented Associate Professor Roger Booth. You do not want to miss his lectures. And for re-emphasis: YOU REALLY DO NOT WANT TO MISS HIS LECTURES. His lectures provide a fantastic basis to our human stress responses and are extremely applicable to many of us on a daily basis. His section is not too heavy in terms of content and is not too conceptually difficult. Provided you understand the sequential nature of the stress responses and know the characteristics of various aspects of the autonomic and endocrine systems, you should be well prepared for the test and the exam, the questions of which are both relatively straightforward.


Reproductive System

This section was 5 lectures long with 2 lectures about Male Reproduction taught by Professor Larry Chamley and 3 lectures about Female Reproduction taught by Professor Andrew Shelling. These two sections were filled with fantastic entertainment with many thanks to the two lecturers' affable personalities. Needless to say, you'll want to come to these lectures! There is a decent amount of content, so be ready to memorise a lot but there's also quite a bit of conceptual understanding required in the many diagrams to figure out. Professor Chamley's section in the course guide usually consists of many pictures but most of the information you are required to know are on his lecture slides. Also, he loves to test his numbers so be sure to learn those!


Musculoskeletal System

This section was 5 lectures long and was taught entirely by Mr Peter Riordan. This section is simply put, another treat to learn and another nightmare to prepare for in the assessments! This is a delightful introduction to our musculoskeletal section paralleled by Peter's fantastic teaching but similar to his teaching in the cardiovascular system, demands you to know his content in depth to be able to answer conceptually difficult questions. Moreover, Mr Riordan often asks questions about this topic in the exam calling for diagrammatic recall, so make sure you understand and know the many diagrams in this section and are able to recall them if needed. Be sure to consult Piazza or your classmates if you're not feeling too confident with any concepts. 


Renal System

This section was 4 lectures long with one lecture about renal anatomy taught by Ms Angela Tsai (also the course co-ordinator of 142) and 3 lectures on renal physiology taught by Dr Carolyn Barrett. Renal anatomy is covered in a very detailed manner by Angela and should be quite straightforward due to her excellent, easy-to-understand teaching style. Dr Barrett's section can be conceptually difficult for many, thus consulting Piazza would be a great idea along with consulting the textbook and other classmates. She, like Simon Malpas, uses flow diagrams so make sure you learn and understand the scenarios she gives as they may be tested in the final exam! This section can be quite tricky so you'll want to stay on top of it as to not fall behind and consequentially not understand the subsequent lectures since each lecture builds on top of each other. The textbook is also very helpful with renal physiology, and this is another section that may call for particular use of the lecture recordings.


Respiratory System

This section was 6 lectures long with the first 2 lectures on Respiratory anatomy taught by Dr Sue McGlashan and 4 lectures on Respiratory physiology taught by Associate Professor Denis Loiselle. The anatomy part of this section is very well covered by Dr McGlashan and is relatively straightforward. There's a decent amount of content, but as it is anatomy, should not be too difficult to grasp conceptually. However, the Respiratory Physiology section of this course delivered by Associate Professor Loiselle is often considered a nightmare of a section. It is notoriously difficult to grasp conceptually along with having to understand a lot of terms thereby being quite content heavy as well. You will need to consult the textbook as well - check out the Short Loan library on IC1 (opposite UBS) to borrow a copy for 2 hours. This section is difficult; so allow yourself plenty of time to go through his material before and after class and consult both Piazza and your classmates if you're having trouble. His lectures also build on one another so make sure you keep up with the lectures as they come! Doing past papers would also seriously aid you in your quest for understanding. Good luck!


Digestive System

An absolutely great finish to a great paper, Associate Professor Clare Wall delivers the final three lectures on the Digestive System. Conceptually, this part is fairly straightforward but can be content heavy. Don't let that trip you up! Be sure to have your highlighters handy as Associate Professor Wall loves to illustrate her points on the document camera. Her teachings are very clear as well and the exam questions are very fair in terms of what they test. This section shouldn't require you to do too much study elsewhere (e.g. in the textbook or consulting Piazza for concepts) aside from memorising many names and practicing past paper questions.


Lab Content

The first lab is the Rat lab. This lab is a wet lab, is very hands-on and has quite an odour to it. Be sure to not pop the caecum... you have been warned. This lab does not have any pre-readings but the time can pass by quite quickly so pre-reading the entire lab to ensure you don't get lost during the lab is very important. This lab corresponds in terms of content to the Digestive module and is purposely not matched up (i.e. Rat Lab is in the beginning of the semester whereas Digestive lectures are at the end of the semester) because the Rat Lab is a great introduction to many organ systems of the body; not just the digestive system.

The second lab is the brain lab. This lab is quite chill and laid-back. Make sure you revise the lecture content before coming to this lab as well as pre-reading the textbook. This lab really consolidates the information from lectures and the in-lab questions aren't too tricky here either; but the MST questions can potentially can be. Be sure to get the anatomy of the brain clear in your mind, you will need a strong understanding of the relative orientation of structures in the brain in order to succeed in the test.

​The third lab is the Cardiovascular lab. This lab is great fun, but there is a lot of stuff to learn during the lab. Be sure to revise both the lecture content and pre-read the lab notes many times. This lab is quite tricky with the wording; do not get mixed up! Also, the last part of the lab may sometimes get rushed due to the hands-on part of the lab going only slightly over time; so again to re-emphasise be sure to read the last part of the lab plenty of times before going to the lab. The actual dissection in this lab is very tricky as well so be sure to pay close attention to your tutor during the lab!

The fourth lab is the reproduction lab. This lab is pretty chill and has multiple stations at which you complete small activities in. Be sure to do the pre-readings for this lab and pre-read the actual lab as it can contain quite a bit of information. You also have to do a bit of microscopy work so it may pay to look at some histological slide images on Google to aid your understanding beforehand. Shotgun Histology on YouTube can also be quite useful if you were curious in material not directly course related but expanded from the material presented in the lab.

The fifth lab is the musculoskeletal lab. This lab is quite hands-on and is great fun. However, as an introduction to the musculoskeletal system, you will have to be learning lots of names of structures. So: be sure to pre-read the lab many many times so you can keep up in the lab. The in-lab test won't be easy either as you will need to use the visual hints to figure out what side or view you're looking at - so definitely pay attention in this lab! This wet lab requires a relatively tricky dissection as well so you'll want a good night's sleep beforehand to do this dissection well!

​The sixth lab was the respiratory lab. The respiratory section is considered conceptually difficult for many so getting your head around respiration concepts taught in lectures is a must. Fortunately, this lab helps consolidate the lecture content. This lab, simply being a respiratory lab, will be slightly hard for some and it's much more conceptually based - so understanding is critical. This lab has multiple stations so you'll be learning in smaller groups with your fellow classmates - be sure to ask the demonstrators any questions you may have!