Pre-Med Academics

The academic requirements and prerequisites for medical school.

Pre-Med Academics

What kind of grades do I need to get into medical school?

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), for the 2011 application cycle, the mean grade point average of APPLICANTS to medical school was 3.53 overall. Conversely, the mean grade point average of MATRICULANTS to medical school was 3.67 overall. Needless to say, especially for those applying to schools that pride themselves on numbers, students hoping to be admitted to medical school should strive to earn GPA’s lose to the mean matriculant GPA.

Many schools have a minimum requirement of anywhere from 3.0 to 3.3 for admissions into medical school. Furthermore, some undergraduate pre-professional programs require pre-medical students to maintain a certain ¬†grade point average. Considering that most medical schools require that every student submit a letter of recommendation from the institution’s pre-medical committee (if one exists), it is important to at least meet these requirements.

While many medical schools claim that they have no minimum requirements, it is very common for the admissions committee to screen applicants merely on the applicant’s grade point average and MCAT score. For example, say that the Imaginary Medical School receives 5,000 applications in a single application cycle, but only accepts 250 students. The Imaginary Medical School Admissions Committee generates the median GPA of the applicant pool to be 3.4 out of 4.0. In an effort to substantially reduce the number of secondary applications that must be processed, the admissions committee will eliminate the applicants that have a GPA below the median, leaving them with only 2,500 applications to process.

Then, the admissions committee finds the median MCAT score to be a 28. Of the 2,500 applicants that remain, those with an MCAT score lower than the median will be eliminated. Given the statistical correlation between grade point averages and MCAT scores, this will leave the admissions committee with nearly 1/4 of the original applicant pool and therefore a much more reasonable list of students who will be sent secondary application materials.

Pre-med Academics include MCAT Scores

Of course, these numbers are merely for explanatory purposes. All medical school admissions committees take a different approach on the screening of applicants. Some place more importance on grades, while others place more importance on MCAT scores or extracurricular activities. The only way to know what kind of grades you need to make in your undergraduate degree program is to research the medical schools to which to intend to submit applications.

Keep in mind that almost all medical schools consider the grades of upper-division courses and courses taken in the student’s senior year to be much more important than “core” classes. A student that shows a progression throughout the pre-med academic program will be considered a far more competitive applicant than a student who worked hard for two years before neglecting pre-med academics good practices in the last two.

Pre-med Academics and Coursework

The prerequisites for medical school vary from school to school. However, the vast majority of medical schools require a minimum of 1 year of English, Biology, Math, General / Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Physics. All prerequisite courses should include lab sections to meet the premed requirements. Students should find the specific prerequisites for the medical school to which they intend to apply. Some schools may require additional coursework such as Biochemistry or Statistics prior to matriculation.


Most medical schools require at least two semesters of biology with lab. Usually, introduction courses will not satisfy the prerequisites due to the concise nature of those courses. In light of this, it is generally recommended to take a course that includes “Principles” in the title. Principles of biology is intended to provide premedical students with the fundamental knowledge necessary to succeed in medical school. Also, although not required, many premedical students choose to major in biology or a similar field. In addition to the course prerequisites, the biological sciences section of the MCAT tests the application of the basic information taught in principles of biology courses.

General Chemistry / Inorganic Chemistry

Most medical schools require at least two semesters of general/inorganic chemistry with lab. As with biology courses, introduction courses will generally not satisfy these prerequisites. General/inorganic chemistry provides medical students the basic chemical concepts that are required to take Organic Chemistry, an upper-level course that is also required for medical school admissions. In addition to being course prerequisites, the physical sciences section of the MCAT tests the ability to apply general/inorganic concepts to related medical topics.

Organic Chemistry

Most medical schools require at least two semesters of organic chemistry with lab. Organic chemistry is the application of concepts learned in general chemistry courses as they pertain to organic molecules and 3-dimensional space. Organic chemistry courses are known to be extremely difficult in comparison to other science courses. This allows students who do well in these courses to stand out amongst their competitors. In addition to being course prerequisites, the biological sciences section of the MCAT tests the student’s ability to apply organic chemistry concepts to other biological mechanisms.


Most medical schools require at least two semesters of physics with lab. Physics is another core science that many students find difficult, at least in application. Most medical schools do not require physics courses that use calculus to solve problems. Generally, physics courses that rely only on algebra and trigonometry will suffice. The concepts taught in introductory physics courses provide premedical students the fundamental physics knowledge needed for practical medical application. In addition to being course prerequisites, introductory physics concepts are tested in the Physical Sciences section of the MCAT exam.


Most medical schools require one or two semesters of English. Many schools require that students merely fulfill the English requirements necessary for their intended degree. There are unique circumstances, such as the medical schools in Puerto Rico, that also require students to be proficient in Spanish. Even if there is no English requirement at a particular medical school, premedical students are encouraged to take the courses needed to prepare them for the verbal reasoning section of the MCAT exam.

Math and Statistics

Most medical schools do not require specific math courses as prerequisites for admission. However, there are many medical schools that require students to have certain courses such as statistics or calculus. In addition to being a prerequisite for medical school, some premedical students may have to take certain math courses as prerequisites for physics or chemistry.

Other Required Courses

  • Biochemistry
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

Other Recommended Courses

  • Cell Biology
  • Genetics
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Medical Terminology

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