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The process of applying to medical school can be very daunting and stressful. Deciding where to apply can be determined by a number of factors such as: location of medical school, the size of the medical school, or living cost to name a few. One aspect that matters to many is the teaching style at different medical schools. Medical schools structure their courses based on broad teaching styles. However, while the styles may be similar between some medical schools, no two schools will be identical. 
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Traditional courses 

Traditional courses tend to be broadly split between pre-clinical and clinical years. The first 2 years are traditionally preclinical, during which students learn basic medical sciences via lectures. Following completion of pre-clinical teaching, the final 3 years include clinical teaching in hospital and GP practices. Clinical years are used to apply theory taught in earlier years and learn how to take appropriate patient history, perform clinical examinations, and understand concepts surrounding patient management in clinical scenarios. 
 
Pros: 
• Students get a strong foundation of scientific knowledge before clinical exposure 
 
Cons: 
• Students may not be aware of realities of medicine before clinical years 
• Some students may forget the scientific theories they have learned after exams 
 

Integrated courses/ Systems based approach 

Integrated courses combine the time in which clinical attachments are undertaken and lectures are delivered, teaching medicine with regards to systems. For example, students being taught about the respiratory system will consider the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology and pathology during their time learning that system. Universities who run an integrated course also encourage early patient contact. 
 
Pros: 
• Early clinical exposure 
• Scientific knowledge is delivered to students so that they are able to make sense of it in relation to a specific disease 
 
Cons: 
• You may be seeing patients before you feel you have enough clinical knowledge 
 

Problem based learning (PBL) 

PBL courses tend to be patient-oriented, with learning having the context of realistic medical problems and scenarios. Students may be in teams where they work through different clinical scenarios with a facilitator. As well as this, students undertake private study which they may discuss in their next tutorial. 
 
Pros: 
• Encourages students to become independent with their learning 
• Early clinical exposure 
• Allows students to develop problem-solving skills early 
 
Cons: 
• No standardised approach to teaching 
• Requires self-motivation 
• Risk of gaps in scientific understanding 
 
Each teaching style has its own benefits and drawbacks. Therefore, choosing one that works best for you can seem difficult. The teaching style which suits you best depends on the type of learner you are as an individual. When choosing which medical school to apply to, it is important to be aware of the type of structure the school applies to their course. 
 
It is also worth noting that while medical schools have their own nuances and individual differences with teaching styles, there is no one style that is better than the rest. Each type of teaching style will develop medical students into competent doctors, and to be wary of placing too much emphasis on this aspect of choosing a medical school. Weigh up the pros and cons of each style to guide which courses may be better for you. 
 
Article written by: Aarushi Khanna, Final year medical student, Med Success team. 
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