The demand to implement clinical and educational strategies based on evidence has increased in the past two decades. Over a similar time frame, the problem-based learning (PBL) approach has been widely adopted by undergraduate medical schools, in spite of empirical reviews suggesting that its effectiveness may be limited. Students claim that PBL provides a more satisfying learning experience than traditional methods. While such an outcome is desirable, it is substantively less than the original promise of the approach. We hypothesise that the widespread adoption of PBL may be more a consequence of the approach meeting criteria for successful dissemination than of demonstrable positive educational outcomes. We suggest that greater effort should be taken to articulate and measure important undergraduate educational outcomes. Alternatives to the PBL approach should be actively considered.