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What Are Pre-Med Requirements?

Written by Nassim on Jul 13, 2022

When someone says they are a pre-med student, what do they actually mean? What are pre-med requirements? If you want to go to medical school and become a doctor, you need to know what pre-med means and what you should do as a pre-med student.

As a pre-med, there are certain things that you can do to have a more competitive medical school application. In this post, we will explain what it means to be a pre-med student and give you tips on how to use your pre-med years to increase your chances of being admitted to medical school.

What Does Pre-Med Mean, and How Long Does it Take?

Pre-med is a term that causes a lot of confusion, and many people think they can choose it as their major. You need to know that Pre-med is a track, not a major. The good news is that as long as your medical school requirements are met, you can choose whatever major you like.

A bachelor’s degree is required to apply to medical school; therefore, the pre-med route normally lasts four years. However, some students prefer to enroll in fast-track BS/MD combined degree programs, which enable them to complete their premedical coursework in three years.

What Pre-med Courses are Required for Getting into Medical School?

The prerequisites for undergraduate courses vary by medical school, but commonly pre-med courses include the following:

  • Physics (two semesters- with lab)

In a Physics course, you will learn important concepts, such as the laws of pressure and volume, which are very important for the medical field, and understand how different forces and mechanisms work inside the body.

  • Biology (two semesters- with lab)

Medical education demands a fundamental understanding of biology. Thus it is a must for everyone interested in getting to medical school. Genetics, cells, and life structure are the building blocks of medical science, and it is essential to know about them if you want to succeed in the field.

  • Chemistry

  1. General chemistry (two semesters- with lab)
  2. Organic chemistry (two semesters- with lab)
  3. Biochemistry (one semester)

Chemistry gives a solid foundation for understanding acid-base imbalances in the body and how various medications work.

  • Math (two semesters)

The majority of medical schools require at least one semester of mathematics. As a doctor or health practitioner, arithmetic and statistics are crucial. You will need them on a daily basis – for calculating the right dose of medication, interpreting and reading lab results, and more.

Courses that are Occasionally Required for Medical School

Medical school prerequisites vary by program; therefore, some classes are not necessary for all schools, but most or some schools might still require them. Visit the MSAR website to learn more about the exact classes that each school requires.

  • English (two semesters)

Many medical schools want students to demonstrate critical thinking and writing skills in addition to their knowledge of basic science concepts. They assure that you have these skills by mandating an English class or, at the very least, a writing-intensive class. It is also good to remember that English class can also help you in your MCAT, especially in the reading comprehension section (CARS).

  • Psychology and Sociology

The inclusion of these subjects on the MCAT has led to a rise in the number of medical schools emphasizing these courses.

Premedical Courses that are Valuable but not Necessarily Required 

• Medical Anthropology/History:

 The evolution and transformation of medicine over the centuries are fascinating aspects of the medical field. Knowing some medical history will help you understand how medical science has changed over time and how it may evolve in the future.

• Foreign Language: 

Any medical student or doctor would benefit from learning a second language. It not only enables you to engage with a broader range of patients and colleagues, but it can also expand your career options.

An Example of MD Program Requirements

There are probably advisors at your undergraduate school who can make sure you finish your Pre-med requirements on time. To better understand what you are up against, you might also want to explore the requirements at different medical schools. For instance, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine MD Program has the following requirements:

  • General college chemistry (with lab, eight semester hours, one year)
  • Organic chemistry (with lab, four semester hours, one semester)
  • Biochemistry, 3-4 semester hours (lab is not required.)
  • College biology (with lab, 8 semester hours, one year)
  • 24 semester hours in humanities (English, History, Classics, Foreign Language, Philosophy, Arts, etc.), social science (Sociology, Economics, Political Science, Anthropology, etc.), and behavioral science (Psychology, etc.). Must include two writing-intensive courses.
  • Calculus and/or statistics (6-8 semester hours, one year)
  • General college physics (with laboratory, 8 semester hours, one year)

Which Pre-med Major Should You Choose?

Even though science majors are more common, medical schools stress that they want well-rounded students who have studied a wide range of subjects in college. Your college transcript is an important factor in your application, regardless of your major.

Taking electives in the humanities and social sciences can help extend the scope of your studies if you’re studying for a degree in science. Your performance in both science and non-science courses will be assessed if you are not a science major, and since you have fewer science classes, your science grades will be more important. So, it would be best if you thought about taking at least a few more science classes, like cell biology, genetics, or biochemistry.

You need to remember that it is not a good idea to choose a major only because you believe it will help you gain admission to medical school. If you force yourself into something that does not interest you, you will be more likely to experience burnout or give up. Therefore, you’d better study something that genuinely interests you. If you love your major throughout college, you will do better and have a more enjoyable experience.

The Most Popular Pre-Med Majors

Pre-medicine is not a major, as we previously stated, and pre-meds can be students of different majors. So what majors do Pre-med students choose? The most popular Pre-med majors are listed below:

Biological or Natural Sciences:

More than half of those applying to medical schools major in biological sciences as undergraduates. Your major requirements and pre-med prerequisites will largely overlap if you major in biology. Having said that, studying science all the time can be challenging and mentally exhausting. Pre-med biology majors should consider choosing other interesting electives to avoid burnout. 

Physical Sciences:

Physical science courses often overlap with the pre-med requirements, just like the courses for the natural sciences. Despite differences in the coursework, physics and chemistry have roughly comparable benefits and risks to biology. Once again, burnout is very common among students of these majors, but it can be easily avoided if you plan your studies well.

Humanities and Philosophy:

Humanities majors are not very popular among pre-med students since they require electives to fulfill all pre-med requirements. This process will need careful preparation on your part, as well as open communication between you and your advisors. But compared to students who only concentrate on the sciences, humanities students who choose to study medicine might be more well-rounded. 

Mathematics, Statistics, and Other Related Majors:

Math majors may not be the most common choice for pre-med students, but their students have the highest average GPA and scores on the MCAT. Therefore, the success rate among students of these majors is high.

The Importance of Clinical Experience for Pre-meds

Direct patient care clinical work is something that a medical school admissions committee will definitely notice. In a recent survey, among the top five factors thought to be very significant in selecting medical students were health-care knowledge and commitment. The other four factors were GPA, letters of recommendation, MCAT scores, and medical school interviews.

A good place to start is to contact local hospitals or clinics. Talk with a volunteer services representative. They can direct you to the right departments, agencies, or professionals. Pick an organization that interests you and join their program. You may be required to commit for a year, but you will be a member of their team and have a chance to gain some clinical experience.

As a pre-med student, you should try to get involved in as many health care activities as possible. Getting clinical experience will help you confirm your interest in medicine and have a realistic picture of your future career. Such experience will also make it easier for you to explain your motives for pursuing a career in medicine in your personal statement and interviews.

The Importance of Extracurricular Activities for Pre-meds

Admissions committees look for candidates who have shown maturity, intelligence, integrity, and a commitment to patient care. They will look at how you have lived your life before submitting your application as one way of evaluating your non-academic traits. That is why in the AMCAS Primary Application, you can list up to 15 activities, club memberships, leadership roles, honors, awards, and jobs. Additionally, a lot of committees may require you to present a complete list of your extracurricular activities, and many medical school admissions committees emphasize the variety and depth of your extracurricular activities.

The Average GPA Required for Medical School

Medical schools typically do not list a minimum GPA requirement. The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) considers both your cumulative and science GPAs when calculating your GPA. Your cumulative GPA includes all courses, but your science GPA is based on Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Physics, and Math courses (BCPM).

Despite the fact that both GPAs are significant, admissions committees are mostly focused on the science GPA and the consistency of the two GPAs. Allocate time for your personal interests in addition to doing the essential medical school courses. Avoid taking too many challenging courses at once. Instead of impressing the admissions committee, this tactic could reduce your overall GPA and harm your medical school applications.

Consult Your Pre-med Advisor

Your pre-med advisor can help you decide whether medical school is right for you and estimate your chances of admission. Also, they will be especially helpful in pointing you toward the schools whose academic programs best fit your skills and interests. Your pre-med advisor will have helpful information regarding medical school prerequisites, how your school’s students fared in admissions, and where individuals with similar educational backgrounds and MCAT results were accepted.

Final Word

There are no official pre-med majors; Students can major in whatever field they desire and then simply take the classes required to apply to medical school. Therefore, there is no such thing as the best pre-med major; nevertheless, certain majors are more common among pre-med students and make it easier for you to fulfill the pre-med requirements. These include chemistry, biology, psychology, and human biology.

Almost all medical schools agree on the essentials of a premedical curriculum. As we mentioned before, the minimal course requirements typically include one year of biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and the necessary labs. Two-thirds of medical schools need an English or writing-intensive course, and one-quarter need calculus. There are a few schools that do not have any particular course requirements.

You will be expected to finish these prerequisite coursework requirements as part of your Premedical study. In order to strengthen your education and application to medical school, you should also choose other courses in the humanities and sciences.

Remember that because the MCAT includes content from these required courses, you must include them in your preparation schedule. The Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) and the Osteopathic Medical College Information Booklet are two of the most reliable resources for information regarding the prerequisites needed to enter a particular medical school. Make sure you check these requirements and plan your pre-med years in a way that helps you meet all the requirements. In the meantime, if you need assistance with any part of your application process, you can talk to our admissions department for further consultation.


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