What are some advantages and disadvantages to each approach?

Traditional Lecture Based Medicine

They are heavily lecture and tutorial based and employ more didactic teaching methods. This is an approach which is universally adopted across other degrees, subjects and courses around the world. In Medicine the traditional courses can often come with the award of a BSc degree on top of the conventional Medicine degree (e.g. MBBS / MCHB – For further information about what these different Medicine degrees mean visit our blog on Medicine degrees and their meanings) and so the traditional Medicine courses can take a year longer than most Medicine degrees. Traditional courses give students a strong underpinning in pre-clinical sciences. Students interested in academic Medicine or research may be drawn to these now rare courses.

PBL Medicine

Problem Based Learning (PBL) as the name suggests, is far more focused on self-directed learning with guidance. Courses usually have much lighter timetables in the early years than traditional courses. Sometimes lectures are not compulsory, and this gives you much more scope to model your own learning objectives and manage your schedule.

The group nature develops teamwork, communication skills and more. Students learn to become problem solvers and self-directed learners. Students will need to deal with uncertainty better in PBL courses, be self-aware i.e. know what they don’t know (of course there is plenty of guidance and support) and be self-motivated. These are all good traits for future doctors to develop.

Integrated Approach

As well as the traditional and PBL approach, some courses adopt an integrated approach. Integrated courses sit in between traditional and PBL courses. Some integrated courses lean more towards a traditional didactic approach while most lean more towards a PBL approach.


In summary, there are a number of advantages and disadvantages to each approach. The most important thing is to look at your own learning style and see what works best for you, this will help you pick a university which caters to your particular learning style. For more information about how to choose the right medical school, visit our comprehensive guide on picking which medical schools to apply to.