So, How Hard is Medical School Anyways?

How hard is medical school anyways? Is it really studying all the time like everyone says? Do you stay in school for years working countless hours? Do all medical students only sleep fours a night?

While some of these questions are unfortunately true, others are far from it. For your information, I sleep at least 4.5 hours a night (just kidding).

In this post, I’ll break down some of the common questions about medical school. I’ll talk about what it’s like and show you how to overcome the biggest of challenges.

How Hard is Medical School?

Like anything worth having medical school is a challenge.

Is it as scary as most make it out to be? No.

Medical school does involve difficult topics, long hours, and countless years devoted to mastering your craft.

Many use the fire hydrant analog for medical school. They say learning in medical school is as like trying to drink from a fire hydrant.

I instead prefer the pancake analogy. This analogy says that medical school is like having to eat full pancakes every day.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? (Who doesn’t love pancakes?)

But the catch is that anything you don’t eat today will be added to tomorrow. If you don’t plan your “eating” out, then you’ll become overwhelmed and feel sick.

This is how medical school is. It’s a plate full of pancakes every day. Individually it’s not hard. The classes in medical school are at similar difficulty levels to college courses. It’s the ability to remain consistent which is challenging about medical school.

See medical school is not as hard as it’s made out to be. Selling medical school as a battle of determination instead of wits, however, is just not as fun. So medical school is and forever will be painted in as a scary 4-year monster.

But now you know better.

Using the tips and techniques on this website, you will learn everything I’ve learned to excel in medical school without the unnecessary stress.

The trick is to be excited about pancakes every day. I will teach you how to do that with each post!

How Much Do You Study Every Day in Medical School?

When someone asks me “how hard is medical school” their next question is almost always, “how much do you study every day?”.

You probably don’t like to ask a question where the answer varies. So I won’t say that. Instead, I’ll say studying time is on a spectrum. (Don’t be mad)

But it’s true. Give a man a day to learn how to fish and he’ll be eating the next day. Give a man an hour and you may be able to get through an episode of Breaking Bad before he’s caught his first fish.

The same applies to medical students.

One medical student can allocate 18 of their 18 nonsleeping hours to studying. They will likely use most of it up. They also will be fatigued and burnt out.

The same medical student can allocate only 5-6 hours and he/she will become an expert at managing their time. They will take out all the crap that doesn’t improve their learning. Instead, those 5-6 hours will be spent for ultimate learning.

I talk extensively about this in my posts about studying in medical school. You can read more in the following posts!

Studying in Medical School No More Than 5 Hours A Day
Studying in Medical School: How to Use the Feynman Technique
How to Study Less in Medical School and Make Higher Grades

Also check out my first book, The Preclinical Guide, which breaks down my studying methods for the first two years of medical schools.

So we learned that medical school is not as hard as we thought. We also just learned that you can study in medical school the amount of time that works best for you.

Minds are being blown!

How Do You Study in Medical School?

The answer is “likely different than you did in college”.

Remember that medical school is like an accumulating plate of pancakes. As you’re scarfing through your pancakes (class material), you’re going to be responsible to understand it. You’ll be expected to remember this material not only for the test in a few weeks, but also your rotations, residency, and as an attending.

Thus not only you responsible to consume the pancakes (material) – you’re expected to retain them! (Your BMI is going to get scary high)

So you can’t rely on the all-night cramming you did to ace exams in college. You will have to learn techniques that are designed towards long-term retention.

I discuss this is my study posts below. As I add to my pre-med section I will continue to add the techniques in college that I still use in medical school.

Studying in Medical School: How to Use the Feynman Technique
Studying in Medical School No More Than 5 Hours A Day
Studying with a Memory Palace in Medical School

What is a Day in Medical School Like?

I’ll break down the schedules for preclinical (year 1 and 2) and clinical (year 3 and 4) schedules. This will vary from school to school and rotation to rotation.

Preclinical Schedule:

4:30-6: Wake up, Read, Carry out my Miracle Morning – Yes I actually wake up at 4:30 (read about it here) but you don’t have to

6-7:30: Gym and shower

8-9: Breakfast and look over material from yesterday

9-12: Lectures (attend or stream)

12-1: Lunch

1-5: Required activity (anatomy lab) or study time

5-6: Dinner

6-10: Chill, Watch Movies, Play Basketball, Read, Blog, etc.

Not as hectic as you imaged huh?

Clinical Schedule:

4-5: Wake up and shower

5:30 – 7:45 Get to hospital depending on the rotation, preround on your patients and be ready for clinic

8-12: Rounding on your patients – AKA seeing them with your medical team and discussing their care and management

12-1: Lunch (sometimes provided with lecture)

1 – Until Dismissed (often 4-6 PM):

5-6:30: Gym

6:30 – 7: Dinner

7-9:30: Study

10-11: Bed

Hope that paints a picture of what my schedule in medical school looks like.

Refer to the posts below to get a more detail picture:

My Typical Day in Medical School
Welcome To Clinicals – Beginning of “Third” Year
Study Schedule for the Pediatrics Rotation

Do Medical Students Even Have Time For Hobbies? If So How?

I prefer to schedule medical school into my life and not my life into medical school.

Sounds nice right? It’s completely doable.

As a medical student, I still get to workout, read, watch movies, hang out with my loved one, and more.

It all goes back to whether you dedicate all your time to medical school vs. keeping strict time cutoffs.

study less than 3-5 hours most days. I sleep 6-8 hours every night. I’ve also never pulled an all-nighter in medical school.

I often drive back home to Austin to visit my family and fiance. Daily workouts are always a part of my life. I binge watch Netflix just like you.

Being a medical student doesn’t force you to become boring. In fact, it’s a self-inflicted wound medical students do to themselves.

This blog is made for someone like you. If you want to see medical school in the right light then let me help you one post at a time.

Now, whenever someone asks, “How Hard is Medical School?”, you can answer, “like eating a plate of pancakes every day”.  This will for sure get some foodies to apply! : D


So how hard is medical school really? Hope you understand that it’s not as bad as we all make it out to be.

Thank you for reading my first post in the pre-med section. More to come!

Also check out my first book, The Preclinical Guide, made for students in their first two years of medical school. Learn about the techniques I used during my first two years to succeed in medical school without the unnecessary stress. Learn more about The Preclinical Guide here.

Make sure to like, share, and comment below!

Until next time…

If there is something specific you’d like me to address in a future blog post, comment below or email me at themdjourney.com@gmail.com.

As always please like, share, and subscribe. Sign up for my monthly newsletter to receive updates on new blog posts. By signing up you also get access to my free eBook, Top Ten Resources for Medical School. Sign up here!

Top Resources For Medical School

If you’re a first or second-year medical student wanting guidance on how to succeed in medical school, read my book, The Preclinical Guide. I provide all the tips I wish I knew day one of medical school. Check out the book here.

Top Tips for Medical School

Until next time…

Originally syndicated from TheMDJourney.com with permission. 

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Lakshya Trivedi, TheMDJourney

My name is Lakshya (pronounced Luck-sh) and I’m a third-year medical student at UT Southwestern in Dallas, TX. TheMDJourney is my effort to give helpful advice and personal experiences to anyone on a similar journey. It is also my dedicated form of self-reflection and a project I hope to keep on going for a while.