Was your medical education/training extended or interrupted?

Was your medical education/training extended or interrupted?

When you are applying for residency, one of the most common questions that you will be asked is “was your medical education/training extended or interrupted?” This question may seem confusing or daunting at first, but it is actually quite important. In this article, we will discuss why this question is asked and how you can go about answering it in a way that benefits you greatly.

Why residencies care about extended training issues

When it comes to answering this question for residency, it is usually either done in your personal statement or on interview day.

The residency can see in your ERAS application if your medical education extended, but they can’t see why your medical training was extended, and explaining why is crucial to you matching and continuing on with your residency training on your path to becoming a full fledged attending.

Discussing why your medical education was extended

There are many different reasons why students would have their medical education extended by an academic year or even a half year and throw off their starting expected date of graduation.

Some of them include a medical exam like the USMLE or COMLEX, failing a course, family issues, and even just taking a year off to do research.

If any of these reasons apply to you, it is important to be upfront about them and discuss why your medical education was extended in your residency application.

What caused the interruption in medical education

It is so important that you are honest about any interruptions in your medical education on your residency application because if you are not, it could come back to bite you later on.

Being honest about an interruption in medical education is always the best policy, and it will show that you are responsible and have nothing to hide.

If you try to cover up an interruption in your medical education, it will only make you look bad and could potentially jeopardize your chances of matching into a residency program.

Common reasons for medical education to be extended

Now, lets jump into some common reasons why medical education gets extended.

Each point below is a common reason and a good reason that I can’t imagine any residency program not seeing it as a good reason so long as you explain why it happened.

The USMLE/COMLEX as a reason

Failing the USMLE or the COMLEX happens, and there are some good reasons for failing it and some not so good reasons.

If you failed the course because of family reasons, other stressors such as death in the family, divorce, childs/personal illness then this is the time to explain it.

You can’t use this as a reason if it is simply because you “didn’t have time to study”.

This means that if you fail one of these exams, then have a good reason and be ready to explain it to your residency of choice on the interview trail.

Failing a course as a Reason

Failing a course happens, and this can cause extension of medical school.

The same rules apply here though, there needs to be good reason why you failed.

If you don’t have a good reason that you can think of then you need to think harder.

Simply having a fail on your transcript is a red flag, but if you can’t explain why it happened and how you rebounded from it then that is an even bigger problem.

Most residency programs don’t have an issue with failing a course, but truth is they have problems with a student that can’t show how they improved from a hardship and overcame it.

Family Issues/Death

Family issues can and do always come up and they can cause medical students to take a break or even drop out of school for a semester or two.

The same goes with death, it is hard to study and be focused when grieving, and handling the logistics of a family members death.

If either of these issues have happened to you, make sure you explain it on your residency application and how you made it through the tough times, because your residency program will want to know, and it can certainly soften hearts when they find out you put such focus on your family that you were willing to extend medical school to take care of them and their needs.

Can you take a year off between med school and residency?

You absolutely can, but I am sure as you can tell by now you need to be able to explain why. Good reasons are research, family issues, internships, scholarships obligations, and that is about it.

If your reason falls under one of these then simply state it on your residency application and be done with it, but if you have another reason that is not listed here, make sure you can explain it well.

You want to come off as being responsible and having a good head on your shoulders when discussing why your medical education was extended or interrupted.

With that being said, there are some good reasons and some not so good reasons for this question to come up on your residency application. Be honest, be prepared, and explain yourself well and you will do just fine.

Can you skip a year in medical school?

No, you can’t skip a year for the sake of skipping a year. You can take a year off if needed and come back to studies and graduate at a later date.

If you are considering taking a year off then it is always a good idea to talk with student affairs at your institution and get a better idea of all the details in that process.

Skipping a year doesn’t happen, but taking a year off for personal reasons or medical reasons can certainly be accommodated and often is.

What is considered a gap in medical education?

A gap in medical education is anything longer than a few months where you are not enrolled in some form of medical school.

This can be taking a semester off, a year off, or even dropping out for a couple of years.

Gaps in medical education are often frowned upon by residency programs because it shows that you were not able to complete your schooling in the traditional four years.

This can be a problem because it makes residency programs question your commitment to medicine, and whether or not you will be able to complete residency training.

If you have a gap in your medical education it is important that you are able to explain it well on your residency application, and show that you are still fully committed to becoming a physician.

What are residency red flags?

Residency red flags include a variety of things, but the most common one is a gap in medical education.

Other red flags include failing a class, having a low GPA, or not being able to explain why you want to pursue a certain specialty.

It is important that you are able to address any red flags on your residency application, and show that you are still a strong candidate for residency training.

How do you explain gaps in residency?

You explain gaps by being honest and upfront about them on your residency application.

You will need to explain why you took time off, and how you plan on making up for the lost time.

It is important that you show that you are still committed to becoming a physician, and that the gap in your medical education will not affect your ability to complete residency training.


Well, there you have it. That is everything you need to know about answering the question “was your medical education/training extended or interrupted?” on your residency application. Be honest, be prepared, and explain yourself well and you will do just fine. Thanks for reading!

I hope this was helpful! If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me.

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