Course Structure : Traditional vs. Integrated

Tamsin Dyer

Tamsin Dyer

Senior Writer at Medic Mind

Choosing the right medical degree course is a very important part of deciding where to study medicine. You need to pick a course that lends itself to your learning style, and it is something many students don’t consider properly when applying to medical school. That’s why we have put together the Medic Mind University Comparison Guide [link this], to help guide you in making informed decisions.

As with any style of course there are advantages and disadvantages to each, below we discuss what each course style actually means your teaching will be like, and have created a comparison table to help you decide which teaching style is better suited to you!

Traditional courses:

There are only 3 universities that use a traditional style of medical degree, these are; Oxford, Cambridge and Edge Hill. A traditional medical course consists of two parts:

Pre-clinical years

During this time students study the biochemistry topics as well as anatomy and physiology, before moving on to clinical years. Often students will complete laboratory research during these preclinical years too. 

Clinical years – On a traditional course once you have finished you pre-clinical years you will move into the clinical years where you will start placements with patient contact and related clinical teaching. 

Integrated courses:

Integrated courses are where clinical and preclinical teaching overlaps, with many medical schools now choosing to introduce clinical teaching and patient contact in the first year of the programme. Often with integrated courses there is a systems-based approach to teaching, where students will learn the anatomy, physiology and biochemistry related to the clinical teaching and that system.  

Comparison Table:

Patient contact startsIn clinical years. Pre-clinical years vary from 2-3 years in lengthAs early as year 1, but this does vary between universities
Teaching styleLecture based in pre-clinical years, followed by clinical years with discussion based classesSystems-based teaching, often using a spiral curriculum so you develop your understanding of each system with each year of study
How many universities
use this teaching
Benefit to this styleYou have a good base scientific knowledge before you begin your clinical learningYou get early patient contact and develop your clinical skills from early on in your learning
Disadvantages of this
You have to wait till clinical years for patient contact, which some students don’t likeYou start interacting with patients very early on in your training, with little scientific or clinical knowledge.

As with any teaching style, you have to find the one that suits you. Maybe it is the more traditional, or you prefer the integrated approach, or even you like the PBL style and would prefer to go to a university which uses this method. Whichever style you feel best suits you, be sure to take this into consideration when picking which medical schools to apply to. After all, they may well ask you at interview to discuss why you chose their style course over another. 

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