Medical School Admissions, Explained

Prerequisites for Medical School

Though the details of the prerequisites for medical school change from year-to-year and school-to-school, the basic coursework has stayed the same for decades. Medical School Admissions Requirements, known as the MSAR, is published yearly by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) and provides the most comprehensive information on the prerequisites for medical school.

In general, the prerequisites for medical school require completion of an undergraduate degree, taking the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), and completing certain coursework. The vast majority of medical schools require the same classes:

1 year of biology (1 semester each of micro and macro)

1 year of physical chemistry with lab

1 year of organic chemistry with lab

1 year of physics

1 year of calculus

1 year of English

Many schools have started to require a semester of biochemistry as well. In addition, certain schools like to see certain other coursework, such as LIST OTHER COURSES HERE.

Many medical schools will allow AP coursework accepted for credit by an undergraduate institution to count as prerequisites for medical school. For example, if you obtained credit for AP calculus in college, you do not need to retake a year of calculus for medical school.

Each college and university offers different premed classes that may count as the prerequisites for medical school. Medical school admissions committees have a hard time keeping up with all of the coursework available at each undergraduate institution and, thus, rely on college and university premed advisors to steer premeds towards classes that fulfill the medical school prerequisites. Before taking a class, be sure to check with a premed advisor to be sure it counts as one of the prerequisites for medical school.

The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) puts an emphasis on the premed coursework by breaking out most of the prerequisites for medical school into a different grade point average category known as the “BCPM.” BCPM stands for biology, chemistry, physics and math and is calculated by the AMCAS application in addition to the total GPA.

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As you well know, academics are a huge part of the medical school admissions process. This Academics Bucket is filled with items weighed by the medical school admissions committees when assessing your readiness to excel academically in medical school. These include: GPA, MCAT, undergraduate/graduate school strength, course strength, and major. I am often asked, “What GPA and MCAT do I need to get into Harvard Medical School.” I always answer, “It depends.” Many pre-meds think it takes a 4.0 GPA and 45 MCAT score to get into medical school. They are wrong. Pre-meds with 4.0 GPAs and 45 MCAT scores used my consulting services after they were NOT accepted to medical school. Sure, you generally need good grades and a decent MCAT score to get into medical school, but there is no exact GPA or MCAT score that guarantees admission. Medical school admissions committees look at a pre-med’s "whole package" when deciding who gets into medical school. Great grades and MCAT scores, a top-20 school pedigree, upper level classes, and a challenging or unique major are not enough to get into medical school. You need to be well-rounded and stand out among the other 40,000 applicants.