OBJECTIVE To evaluate the academic satisfaction and importance among traditional learning (TL) and problem based learning (PBL) medical students, and to further evaluate the areas of concern in the academic education from the student's point of view. METHODS A cross sectional study was conducted at the College of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from May to June 2012. The survey questionnaires were self-administered and consisted of mainly 6 sections: teaching, learning, supervision, course organization, information technology (IT) facilities, and development of skills. RESULTS A total of 92 TL (males: 66 [71.7%]; females: 26 [28.3%]), and 108 PBL (males: 84 [77.8%]; females: 24 [22.1%]), with a mean age of 21.3 +/- 1.3 (TL), and 20.7 +/- 1.0 (PBL) were included in the study. The overall satisfaction rate was higher in the PBL students when compared with TL students in: teaching (84.7%/60.3%); learning (81.4%/64.5%); supervision (80%/51.5%); course organization (69.3%/46.9%); IT facilities (74.0%/58.9%); and development of skills (79.1%/53.9%). There was statistical significance difference in academic satisfaction comparing both groups of students (p</=0.001). The overall importance rating was almost similar in both TL and PBL of students, and found no significance in comparing importance rating. CONCLUSION The most unsatisfied elements for TL students were supervision, teaching, and course organization, which demonstrate the disadvantages of the traditional system. The PBL was potentially considered a successful method in enhancing medical education.