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Gray's Anatomy for Students: Review

If you are a complete rookie to the world of anatomy and medicine, you may not have heard of the textbook ‘Gray’s Anatomy’. Instead, you’ve probably heard of the American medical TV drama ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, whose name was inspired by this legendary textbook.

Gray’s Anatomy for Students’, now in its 3rd edition, adapts much of the core information found in the original Gray’s, but presents it in a more concise and reader-friendly way!

  1. Gray’s Anatomy for Students: Third Edition
    1. Pros
    2. Cons
  2. Gray’s Anatomy for Students vs. Kenhub
  3. Summary
  4. Sources
+ Show all

In a review from The Royal College of Surgeons of England, Roger Stevens perfectly described this book as follows:

Gray's Anatomy for Students (description)

Just by looking at the title, you can tell that ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students’ has one major aim - to make anatomy manageable for students. In essence, this textbook is the smaller and friendlier sibling of ‘Gray’s Anatomy’, distilling the details into a more manageable and airy version that fits the needs of not only anatomy experts, but beginners as well. This article will shed some light onto this popular learning resource and expose both its strengths and weakness, helping you decide if the investment is worthy or not.

Gray's Anatomy for Students (cover)

Gray’s Anatomy for Students: Third Edition


The latest edition of this textbook available on the market is ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students 3rd Edition’, published by Elsevier Churchill Livingstone. Its birth was in 2014 and has continued the legacy of its predecessors of simplifying anatomy ever since the first edition, which hit the shelves in 2004.

Before dissecting and stripping this anatomy textbook all the way down to its bare bones (pun intended), something needs to be clarified. ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students’ is the umbrella term encompassing both the third and the international editions. The former is mainly sold in the USA, but not only, while the latter, ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students International Edition’ targets countries outside the USA, but it’s not limited to them. Apart from the front cover and some minor visual aspects, both versions are identical regarding the information provided. The difference lies mainly in the price, so only your wallet will be affected.

The first section of this textbook begins with a light introduction to basic anatomical terms and different medical imaging techniques, which are used throughout the book. This is a great first stepping stone if you are new to anatomy and it’s a good idea to read this section before jumping into more complex anatomy topics. Terms like anterior, posterior, lateral and medial are an anatomist’s bread and butter, getting these straight in your head first will help immensely when reading more descriptive text later on.

Gray's Anatomy for Students (contents)

The textbook is regionally organised, with detailed units on the:

  • Back
  • Thorax
  • Abdomen
  • Pelvis
  • Lower limb
  • Upper limb
  • Head and neck

Each unit is further divided into:

  • Conceptual Overview - These are beginner-friendly and will introduce you to the key features and functions of that region.
  • Regional Anatomy - This section however, dives into more detailed anatomy. The text is very informative and concise, avoids waffle and describes complex anatomical relationships in good detail - without over complicating topics! The illustrations are very clear and give you multiple views of each area, which complement the text nicely.
  • Surface Anatomy - This describes anatomy that can be studied without dissection. This branch of anatomy is not included in huge detail in most anatomy textbooks, so it’s inclusion in ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students’ could be particularly useful if you are a medical or physiotherapy student.

Dotted throughout the textbook, are small ‘In the Clinic’ information boxes which explain some of the pathologies associated with the anatomical structures being discussed. This feature may not be useful if you are studying pure anatomy, but it is definitely a bonus if you are a medical student, particularly because a lot of anatomy textbooks aren’t always clinically orientated!


Like the majority of textbooks on the market, ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students Latest Edition’ comes in many styles. The most popular choice, the paperback version, sells anywhere from $58 USD all the way to approximately $94 USD, depending on the state of the book and discounts on offer. In addition, an eBook version can also be found online, ranging from $41 USD all the way to $85 USD. However, ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students International Edition’ has a little surprise up its sleeve - a price of approximately $40 USD.


With this textbook, you also get an additional treat. ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students’ is accompanied by a ‘Student’s Consult’, which can quench your appetite for extra knowledge through 77 modules about embryology and anatomy, as well as medical cases. The clinical aspect of this subject is not neglected either, clinical cases are also included, together with various types of images, such as radiological ones. Review questions are also available to test your knowledge and really drill all the information into your head, helping long-term retention.


  • Illustrations and format - ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students 3rd edition’ has a very clear and colourful format. Just look at the images - some of them span up to an entire page! This, along with the book’s clever use of illustrations and diagnostic images, makes this textbook very visually appealing, and would be really useful for you, especially if you are inclined towards visual learning.
Gray's Anatomy for Students (sample page)
  • Beginner friendly - The organization and language used is beginner friendly, but the information and detail provided is by no means basic. There is a nice balance between providing enough detail without over complicating things.
  • Clinical material and surface anatomy - They are included with each chapter, and these  are features that aren’t found in a lot of anatomy textbooks. They explain every single line, bump and groove that is visible on your skin, and add an extra layer of clinical knowledge to the information that you are learning. ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students 3rd edition’ would tick the box for anyone really, from anatomy beginners to medical professionals who want to brush up on their anatomy.
  • Student consult - Even more anatomy and embryology knowledge, additional clinical cases and review questions. Show me someone who doesn’t want this kind of extra information without the need of spending extra money.
  • International edition - An identical book, but at a fraction of the price. What’s not to like about the ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students International edition’?


  • No neuroanatomy - Sadly, this textbook does not cover neuroanatomy, so you will have to dig out a different textbook for this topic. This is a shame, because neuroanatomy can be quite a daunting branch of anatomy for students to study, and the clear illustrations and detailed text in this book would have lent well to the teaching of this tricky subject.  
  • Lack of details - Another downside to this book is that while the images and illustrations in ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students’ are clear and colourful, they don’t always provide the same level of detail as the accompanying text, or images found in other textbooks for that matter. They will help you survive, but you will definitely need an atlas to complete your understanding and add some flesh to the bones presented in this textbook.    
  • Price - While used versions, discounts, and the international edition make this book more financially accessible, it still comes with a hefty price tag. The eBook version doesn’t really improve the matter because it is very close to the price of the paperback, so all the portability and online access come at a price.
  • Access to resources - Do you know all those extra embryological knowledge, clinical  cases, and review questions offered online? Everything is a fairytale if you don’t purchase the textbook itself, so you’re back to square one.
  • Big, thick, and heavy - You certainly don’t want to hear these three words when you want to carry with you a reference book for your anatomy lectures and practicals. At 1192 pages and 2.6 kgs, ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students Latest Edition’ can definitely make you feel like the day is dragging.
  • Textbook - As you can tell, this is a textbook (duh!), so you need to read all the words in order to understand it. While the book is filled with large illustrations and it strikes the perfect balance between basics and details, reading can become annoying after you have done it for the past several hours. Take a look at the section about the duodenum:
Gray's Anatomy for Students (duodenum)

At a glance it looks completely doable, especially since ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students’ uses large illustrations and easy-to-understand explanations, but how easy do you think it really is after reading such pages for a few hours? It doesn’t sound like fun anymore, right? The alternative would be to simply sit back, relax and watch a video tutorial about the duodenum.

Kenhub (duodenum video)

Gray’s Anatomy for Students vs. Kenhub

As you can see, ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students 3rd Edition’ is not as excellent as you might believe. On one side, it definitely succeeds in simplifying the explanations of its older brother, ‘Gray’s Anatomy’, and presenting the information in a friendly way. After all, it is one of the most, if not actually the most popular anatomy textbook used for a reason. However, it definitely has its drawbacks.

Diversifying your study methods is always a good strategy to prevent boredom and increase efficiency, and Kenhub can definitely help us in this area. Here’s how it compares to ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students’ and how it can help you achieve your goals:

Gray's Anatomy for Students vs. Kenhub

Using Kenhub provides you with more than one way to reach your goals. Through the integration of several teaching methods, you receive all the explanations and descriptions about your favourite anatomical structures. Are you tired of reading line, after line, after line? Simply select your desired video, hit ‘Play’ and absorb the information without ploughing through walls of text! Do you want to see a specific anatomical structure from multiple perspectives? Go and check out the atlas! Kenhub also has over 900 articles that you can use for further clarifications, and quizzes to really cement your knowledge. By the way, you receive everything in one go, automatically adapted to work on all portable devices - so what are you waiting for?! Go and try it out now!

Overall, ‘Gray’s Anatomy for Students’ has definitely evolved since its first edition to try and keep up with the fast-paced life of the modern student. Although the written content in this textbook is excellent, you may want to use more detailed images along with this text or different ways of learning to prevent the process from becoming stale. In the end, the choice is completely yours and you need to take a step back and analyse which resource fits your style, funds and goals because there isn’t a perfect one to rule them all.

© Unless stated otherwise, all content, including illustrations are exclusive property of Kenhub GmbH, and are protected by German and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

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