Can You Fail Medical School? (Explained)

Studies haven’t been going well and you’re now feeling the pressure? You probably want to know…

Can you fail medical school?

Yes. If you break the code of conduct of your school, or fail to act accordingly, failing is a possibility. Academically however, due to the costs involved in training each student, med schools will do everything they can to keep low-scoring students from leaving the program.

So whether that’s relief or not depends on your circumstances…

We’ll dive deeper into med school failure in this article. You’ll learn:

  • How you can fail med school
  • The main reasons why
  • What you can do to avoid it

Having failed one or two exams myself, I know what the feeling’s like. But hopefully this can help.

Ready to learn more? Let’s go.

Can You Fail Med School?

Only in extreme circumstances are students kicked off courses and barred from advancing. 90% of times these reasons aren’t linked to academic performance.

Students failing exams at my own University, for example, get plenty of chances to put things right. Opportunities to re-sit or carry outstanding exams over to new semesters are some of the options available. But it depends on the school’s policy.

Of course there is a limiting point when Universities say no. My own school’s policy only lets you carry two outstanding exams over to each year – with the stipulation that they must be completed within the next two years of study.

So failing exams doesn’t make you completely immune. You can still get suspended or asked to leave if you don’t meet the academic requirements.

Even if it’s rare!

Common Reasons for Failing

The most common reason for failing medical school has nothing to do with exams and everything to do with mental health.

For those that maybe aren’t aware; medical school can be very overwhelming. Students who struggle with time management or simply can’t overcome their laziness? Pile further stress on themselves.

Another reason for failure (although rare given the rigorous application process) might be due to lack of professionalism.

Some students compromise a school’s reputation. Or damage relationships with professors, teaching assistants and colleagues.

I’ve personally heard of this happening with UK students who pass around pirated medical education materials for example. Although in this case several warnings were made to students first.

So make sure you check your school’s code of conduct before doing anything questionable.

How to Stop Failing (Predictors of Success in Medical School)

According to US-data, the strongest predictors of medical school success (and not failure) are a high pre-clinical GPA, MCAT and use of a variety of references.

For other international med students (although it’s difficult to verify given the differences in systems), it seems to be the same. The more resources you use to check and further your knowledge? The less the risk of failure.

The same goes for implementing a strong work ethic and building the habit and discipline to study.

Of course you can’t prepare for the unexpected. So things like illness, bereavement and other personal circumstances, all factor in.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you do have to drop out for reasons beyond your control.

Do Grades Matter in Med School?

There’s also the question of what constitutes failure. The broader part of this article? Talks about failing out of medical school and being unable to continue. Or having to repeat a year.

It doesn’t consider the fact that failure is something every medical student experiences at one time or another. Especially given the sheer number of exams and mid-terms and everything else.

The big thing to remember here? It’s really difficult to get a perfect exam score every time.

Or even a pass.

So don’t worry about your grades too much when starting out at least. And remember there are plenty of ways to study medicine more effectively to reduce the risk of failure.

Failing Before Medical School

Most students fail before they even get to medical school. Given the competitiveness of entry – and the necessity to score high in entrance exams – the rate is much higher on the way into med school than it actually is inside it.

Read about American pre-med stories (only 41% of applicants gaining enrollment) and you’ll see that to be true. But the same can be said for UK-based students too (those falling short at the A-level or UKCAT/BMAT stage). Not to mention all the European students who fail to hit threshold scores either.

Getting into medical school then – although I’d say it’s much easier for European International programs or Caribbean med – is tough.

And often the first hurdle most students fall at.

Final Thoughts on Failing Out of Med School

Obviously to avoid failing out of medical school you should ensure you know your Universities policies inside out. If you’re not sure ask the admissions office or student support. Or reach out to other students who might know.

Another key thing to remember is even if you do, for some reason, fail, it’s still not the end of the world. You can still be a doctor. And there are still many paths open to you (check out mine if you need some inspiration).

Failing out of med school, although rare, is not a reflection on you being a failure. Nor is it the end of the line.

The same goes for failing before med school too.

As this guy in the video below goes to show (the excellent Anas Nuur Ali), the resilience failure can build in you? Can make you all the stronger.

Didn’t stop him from still becoming a doctor.

Nor should it stop you.