Explaining failed med school course in rez interview

I’m going out for a FM residency. I’m happy with my Step 1 score (competitive, not brilliant) and rotations have been fine as well. Problem lies with 2 courses that I failed (barely) - as an MS-1 I made up a course during the summer, as an MS-2 I had to repeat an entire year because the course was offered nowhere else. Now I am anticipating that questions will be asked during interviews. I did not have a so-called “compelling reason” (such as personal/family member illness) but rather it took me a long time (1 year, seriously) to overcome academic problems not related to intellectual ability but rather to adopting the right learning style for me and medical school. If you have had this problem or know someone who has, please post a reply or PM me, with info about interview questions as well as about how to address the issue, if at all, in the personal statement. Sincere thanks in advance!

I think you can say just what you’ve said here - don’t dwell on it or over-explain. On your ERAS application you’ll be asked to explain withdraws or failures and they don’t give you a lot of room (which is a good thing). Your dean’s letter is also likely to comment on it.

You’ll be asked about it in interviews, definitely. The thing is, your interviewer will most likely have already read what you wrote and what your dean wrote. So a brief statement to the effect of “It’s pretty much just what I indicated, that it took me awhile to get my learning style sorted out, but I think my Step 1 and rotation evals are a better indication of how I have done in med school.”

I think you should mention it in your personal statement only to the extent that you are NOT able to explain it in the ERAS box about failed courses – in other words, don’t repeat something you’ve said elsewhere in the application. I think the ERAS box is a good place for the just-the-facts explanation, whereas the personal statement is where you can describe your process of self-discovery vis a vis learning style, and how that helped you do better the rest of the way through medical school.

You are going into a friendly specialty where they will listen respectfully and give you the benefit of the doubt Your comfort in talking about what you’ve learned through the process is going to be far, far more important in an FP interview than the nitty-gritty of what the grade was, how the logistics worked, etc. etc. In other words, don’t sweat it!


I concur with Mary. The explanation you gave here will do well.

Good luck with interviews.


As long as you are not going for one of the more cut-throat specialties, then your response should not pose a problem. It is best to answer the question directly – and briefly – if asked, and then move on. Don’t linger on the issue – there is more to you than your grades.

Thanks for your very helpful advice! :slight_smile: