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Is Medical School as Difficult As Everyone Says?

In this post, I’ll be answering a question many people have on their lips: how difficult is medical school? I’ll give you my experience of being a medical student in London and all the challenges that brings.

Quick Answer

Here’s a quick answer to the question.

  • Medical students complain a lot which is why everyone thinks medical school is difficult
  • The amount of content that is needed to be learned is the hardest part of medical school
  • An average person can survive medical school if they are willing to put the effort into it

As a side note, if you are thinking of applying to medicine, then check Medmentor. It is a new site which has all the resources you need for applying to medicine.

Why Do People Say Medical School is Difficult?

What makes people say that medical school is so difficult in the first place?

People say that medical school is difficult for a simple reason: medical students say that it’s difficult.

The complaining by medical students cannot be equated with any other student. They tend to be the loudest and firecrest, asserting their territory as the hardest degree.

Another thing that is circulated is the idea that to be a doctor you must be unique and different. There is no way that a normal person can be trusted to save people’s lives and so the training must be challenging to match this high-risk job.

However, if you knew what a doctor knows, you would think differently.

The main thing that a doctor has above all else is experience. They have seen many patients over their life and have treated them all. They have learnt from their mistakes to become someone that people can trust their secrets with.

It is a doctors job to save people’s lives. That may sound romantic but think about it. The job you are doing right now would seem alien to someone in a different field. That is the same way people think about doctors.

It is a different field in that a lot of training is involved.

A surgeon once told me that surgery is like driving a car. It is a complex skill that requires a long time to master, however, once you have gone through the slog of learning how to do it, it is much easier than someone who has no idea realises.

What Makes Medical School So Hard?

What are the easiest and hardest parts of medical school?

The Content

The amount of content that is needed to be learned by medical students is insane.

The stress that occurs from this vast amount of material is of equal magnitude. The problem comes from a dichotomy between what the medical school tells you versus what is actually true.

They tell you that every single thing that comes up on a lecture or handout is examinable content. This is simply not the case.

You could get away with knowing less than 50% of the content and still passing with flying colours. That is because the people who write the questions are going to gear their questions towards more important topics.

There is little point in asking a question about some minutia no one cares about.

Luckily, after a year or two of medical school, medical students realise this and allow themselves to relax after learning key points. They understand that as long as they have the key points down, they will be fine.

The Easier Parts of Medical School

Other parts of medical school are a lot easier.

For example, the clinical skills are enjoyable and put the theory into practice while improving communication skills is a lesson that you realise everyone should know and has real-world benefits.

Also, learning about interesting topic always makes university more enjoyable. I would say that medicine has more than its fair share of fascinating topics.

Social Activities

A common misconception is that medical students don’t have time for socialising.

While it is true that medical students don’t go out as much as other students, that is not to say that there is no way to socialise at all.

Can the Average Person Survive Medical School?

If you are just a normal person thinking of going to medical school, can you do it? Can an average person get through medical school without having a mental breakdown?

An average person can easily get into medical school and become a doctor.

I have an entire article which is about if an average student can become a doctor, so check that out if you want.

A quick summary of that article is this:

  • Average students can become doctors
  • They need to work extremely hard
  • Medicine is a difficult career path, but it is achievable for most people

I do believe that medicine is a worthwhile and fulfilling degree, even if you don’t want to be a doctor. Just learning about diseases and talking to people you would never normally meet builds you up to be a much better person than you would otherwise be.

However, if you don’t have the work ethic and are not fully committed, then I don’t think you should pursue it.

Although a normal person could survive medical school, it does require a lot of work and is not a decision you should take lightly.

The Most Difficult Years of Medical School – My Experience

Here is my take on how medical school has been so far.

First Two Years of Medical School

My first couple of years of medical school were challenging. It was difficult to get into the rhythm of studying for exams by using lecture slides.

I also found living out of home surprisingly difficult. I never realised how many comforts there are at home that we take for granted. Simple things like food and an organised house were missed dearly at my university halls.

Another challenge was the hit to my ego that medical school was. I was used to being near the top of the class for most of my education and to suddenly find myself completely average was a shock.

However, I did get used to it and after a while, things started to get better.

Third and Fourth Years of Medical School

The start of my clinical years brought with it a much more enjoyable way of learning medicine.

Going to the hospital and talking with real doctors and patients was a fun change that seemed to make the first couple of years worthwhile.

The exams were still challenging. I had to work hard to pass them all and the stress never went down. However, by that point, I had found a good rhythm and was used to the whole university and lecture stuff.

BSc Year

I am currently in my 5th year of university and am having a good time studying Biomedical Engineering. You can learn more about that in this blog where I discuss what an intercalated BSc is and how I am finding it.


Let’s conclude everything we have been talking about.

I don’t think medicine is as bad as people say it is. I have been able to start this website and a YouTube channel which, although challenging, is something anyone who is determined can do.

I have another article which talks about if engineering or medicine is more difficult. It has a few points about how difficult medicine is from other students perspectives which you may find interesting.

If you enjoyed this article then share it with your friends and colleagues who might find it useful.

Stay safe!

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