BACKGROUND: Emotional intelligence (EI) is a type of social intelligence that involves monitoring, discriminating between and using emotions to guide thinking and actions. EI is related to interpersonal and communication skills, and is important in the assessment and training of medical undergraduates. AIM: This review aimed to determine the impact of structured educational interventions on the EI of medical students. METHODS: We systematically searched 14 electronic databases and hand searched high yield journals. We looked at changes in EI and related behaviour of medical students, assessed using Kirkpatrick's hierarchy, provided they could be directly related to the content of the educational intervention. Results: A total of 1947 articles were reviewed, of which 14 articles met the inclusion criteria. CONCLUSIONS: The use of simulated patients is beneficial in improving EI when introduced in interventions later rather than earlier in undergraduate medical education. Regardless of duration of intervention, interventions have the best effects when delivered: (1) over a short space of time; (2) to students later in their undergraduate education and; (3) to female students. This should be taken into account when designing and delivering interventions. Emphasising the importance of empathetic qualities, such as empathetic communication style should be made explicit during teaching.