Learning medical terminology can be a tough assignment to undertake. With a few tips and tricks, however, it can also be a lot of fun. Students can invent games, make harmless wagers against one another, and construct physical models of body parts to add some excitement to what may seem a daunting task.

Use Flash Cards

Make flash cards by writing the medical term or word part on one side and the definition on the other. For example, the front of a card would read, '-itis' and the answer on the back would read, 'inflammation.' The goal is to go through the stack of cards repeatedly, until the you know the answers without looking. To make it fun, have a child help you. Kids get a kick out of adults getting their school work wrong. If you don't have kids of your own, borrow a niece, nephew, or neighbor.

Make a Wager

Choose a partner from class, and make a reasonable bet (loser buys ice cream or a cup of coffee). Each person sets a timer for one minute, and goes through the note cards without seeing the answers. The person who gets the most correct answers wins, and the loser pays up. This may be most appropriate in a post-high school setting where the students are all above the age of 18, and can appropriately consent to the small deal.

Play Hangman

Spelling is an essential part of medical terminology. Pick a friend, classmate, or family member and give them a list of the words you are having trouble spelling. If the word is sclerosis, for example, your partner will make eight dashes and you guess letters until the word is spelled correctly. Be careful, though. Every wrong answer gets you a body part drawn (head, torso, arms, legs, etc.). If the full body is drawn before you have spelled the word correctly, you are "hanged," and have lost the game. This game works for students of all ages. Younger students are eager to get the answer correct and adult learners have fun playing a game they probably haven't had reason to try since childhood.


Most medical terminology textbooks come with a CD-ROM full of activities. In her textbook "Comprehensive Medical Terminology," Betty Davis Jones writes that CD-ROM activities are essential for mastering medical terminology. Her CD-ROM includes board games like tic-tac-toe.

Build a Model

A model of this brain can be easily replicated using clay.
A model of this brain can be easily replicated using clay.

Although a little advanced, kinesthetic (hands on) learners might find it fun to build models of body systems to increase medical terminology skills. For example, while studying the nervous system, use modeling clay or even PlayDoh to make a 3D image of the brain. Labeling the major parts of the brain will increase medical terminology retention. Ask your instructor if you might earn extra credit by bringing the model into class and showing off your terminology skills to the other students.