The Yale System

The Yale system of medical education was first introduced in 1931 and with little modification continues today. There are several essential ingredients:

  • student freedom, flexibility, and individual responsibility
  • no formal grading or class rank in the two pre-clinical years
  • required submission of a research thesis for graduation
  • intensive interaction and collaboration between students and faculty

The Yale system creates a supportive and interactive community of colleagues. All students, and especially minority students, thrive in this environment in which students are recognized and respected for their abilities.

Freedom with responsibility

The Yale system entrusts major responsibility to the student in pursuing their medical educational experience. The goal is to develop organized, self-disciplined and motivated physicians. The system allows students to advance at their own pace guided by their specific interests and goals. During the first two years, there are no required graded examinations. Faculty do provide written assessments of student performance in small group sessions and seminars.

The system offers numerous advantages. For example, the self-paced method of study allows the student the opportunity to pursue other interests unburdened by the frequent testing and competition that characterizes the pre-medical education experience. The method of evaluation reduces competition, and the small seminar and lab size allows maximum student-faculty interaction.

Anonymous examinations in pre-clinical years

All students are required to take an anonymous minimal-proficiency examination given by each basic science department. Students who fail the anonymous course exam are required to make-up the deficiency at a later date. Confidential extra help and tutoring are available for students who need assistance.

Thesis requirement

Each student is required to submit a thesis as a prerequisite for graduation. This requirement gives the student the opportunity to pursue an area of interest in greater depth. The thesis is not confined to basic laboratory research. Students may pursue projects in clinical medicine, public health, or other approved areas of interest. Ample faculty support is available in completing this requirement.

Faculty/student collaboration and interaction

There are approximately 450 Yale medical students (including MD/PhD students) and 1000 faculty members. Because all students are involved with faculty in mentored research, a culture of collegiality, collaboration and mutual respect has become an essential and enduring component of the Yale educational experience.