There is ample evidence to show that rural community-based learning encourages students to consider a career in rural practice, but there is far less evidence in regard to the clinical educational value of such experiences in comparison with traditional hospital-based teaching. In 1997, eight volunteer medical students undertook their entire fifth-year clinical curriculum based in rural general practice. This pilot course was referred to as the Parallel Rural Community Curriculum (PRCC). The academic performance of the PRCC students was compared with a matched control group of eight of their peers who studied at the tertiary hospital. The rural community-based students' scores were higher in each of the five specialist disciplines as well as the aggregate results for the whole year. One of the PRCC students topped the year, and five of the eight were ranked in the top 15.