Which type of medical course should I choose?

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There are several different types of medical degree course, and choosing the one that best fits your learning style is important. The three main course formats are: traditional, problem-based learning, and integrated. The teaching methods that are used across these three course types vary quite considerably.

Problem based learning (PBL)

Problem based learning is student-centred – students learn through experiencing problems first-hand. Medical students examine different clinical situations each week, in small groups. These clinical situations generally prompt students to do further study of key points that are raised in discussions with their peers. Following additional study, they will discuss their findings with the group, and their tutor. There are also additional lectures and seminars to consolidate what students learn in the hospital.

Who does it suit?

PBL suits hands-on learners – those who prefer to jump straight in at the deep end. This method is not as well established as others though, so traditionalists may prefer to choose one of the other options for their studies.

Traditional

The traditional method is, in a way, the opposite of PBL. The focus is on lecture and seminar based learning, with the emphasis placed on science. This classroom-based teaching can last for between two and three years. The clinical teaching comes later on, in hospitals or clinics.

Who does it suit?

The traditional method is best suited to students who prefer to learn theory first, before going into a practical situation. If you enjoy classroom learning, this option is for you!

Integrated

The integrated method offers a combination of clinical learning and lectures, from day one. Lecture-based learning alongside clinical placements can be useful, in terms of interpreting what you are seeing in the hospital each day – it offers a good compromise between the other two methods. You’ll find yourself working in a hospital very early on though, which can be daunting for some people.

Who does it suit?

Those who like a balance between theory and practice will enjoy the integrated approach.

While choosing which medical schools to apply to, considering the type of medical course is very important. If you’re not sure which teaching approach would suit you best, it might be a good idea to try talking to a teacher who knows you well, who could give you some insight into which environment you will perform best in. It’s also worth talking to your family and friends, as they know you better than anyone!

Make sure you also consider other factors too, such as: location, campus, extracurricular activities, reputation, proximity to home, etc. There are lots of university guides out there than can tell you the best and worst bits about each university- a simple internet search will bring up plenty of results – but make sure you visit as many universities as possible, as that’s the only way you can get a true feel for the medical school and the surroundings in which you’ll be living and studying.

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