The 6 Essential Prerequisites for Medical School Admission
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- Medical school prerequisites include essential courses and competencies.
- Valuable classes include school- and MCAT-required and recommended courses.
- Candidates need to demonstrate 17 competencies to prove their readiness for medical school.
Most medical schools welcome applicants from many different majors — as long as they complete the appropriate coursework.
While specific medical school prerequisites vary by institution, they typically include a four-year degree that satisfies (or helps to satisfy) specific pre-med course and competency requirements.
This guide outlines those essential requirements as you prepare for college or the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Each medical school has its own set of required and/or recommended courses. Many different kinds of courses are viewed as valuable, though only six are viewed as truly essential.
Medical School Prerequisites: The 6 Essential Courses
Medical school prerequisites feature individual courses instead of majors, which makes graduates from various disciplines eligible.
Even if a course doesn't appear in your medical school prerequisites, it may still be required for your MCAT preparation.
Here are the most commonly listed courses in med school requirements:
- Biology: Perhaps the most foundational of all medical school prerequisites, biology provides you with a basic understanding of the human body, its systems, and functions. Most schools require at least one year of biology, or between six and eight credits.
- Organic Chemistry: In this course, you acquire a fundamental understanding of carbon-based compounds and their properties. Most schools require at least one year of organic chemistry, or 4-8 credits.
- Inorganic Chemistry: This course explores the elements on the periodic table, chemical principles, and inorganic compounds. Schools often require up to one year of study in inorganic or general chemistry.
- Physics: Physics courses provide an understanding of physical principles, magnetism, energy, and atomic phenomena. Many medical schools require up to one year of physics study.
- English: In English courses, learners develop reading, communication, and critical-thinking skills to assist them in their medical school studies and professional career. Schools typically require up to one year of college-level English courses.
- Mathematics: Many schools require a foundation in mathematics for making calculations and interpretations, models, and analysis. Schools usually require up to one year of mathematics courses, which may include calculus or statistics.
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Medical School Prerequisites: Important, But Not Essential
Though they may not make them requirements, medical schools often recommend the following courses:
- Behavioral Science: In this course, you study human behavior and psychology, which can prove useful for understanding patients and mental health. One course in this subject can satisfy most medical school recommendations.
- Social Science: This course explores how people interact and function within various environments, helping you understand healthcare access and policy. Many schools recommend at least one social science course.
- Humanities: The study of human culture, humanities courses help you appreciate diversity, empathy, teamwork, and patient-centered care. Schools often recommend a minimum of one humanities course.
- Genetics: Genetics courses teach you the principles of genetics and inheritance, crucial for understanding health-related genetic factors. Many schools recommend one genetics course or at least genetics coverage within your biology studies.
- Biochemistry: In a biochemistry course, you learn about the chemical processes within living matter, which is critical in the study of health and medicine. Schools may have biochemistry prerequisites in addition to standalone chemistry and biology courses.
More Prerequisites: Medical Student Competencies
The Association of American Medical Colleges lists 17 competencies that medical schools use to evaluate candidates. These competencies may affect your medical school application just as much as your pre-med grades and MCAT scores.
Applicants need to demonstrate and justify their understanding and proficiency in each of these competencies throughout the application process, including their interviews, statements, and letters of recommendations.
- Commitment to Learning and Growth
- Cultural Awareness
- Cultural Humility
- Empathy and Compassion
- Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others
- Interpersonal Skills
- Oral Communication
- Reliability and Dependability
- Resilience and Adaptability
- Service Orientation
- Teamwork and Collaboration
- Human Behavior
- Living Systems
Thinking and Reasoning Competencies
- Critical Thinking
- Quantitative Reasoning
- Scientific Inquiry
- Written Communication
Medical School Prerequisite FAQs
What Is the Best Prerequisite Course for Medical School?
The best medical school prerequisite depends on your interests and goals, but the most essential requirement probably belongs to the study of biology. This discipline lays the groundwork for your understanding of physiology and anatomy, cells, genetics, and human health.
What Course Helps the Most With the MCAT Exam?
Since both biology and chemistry help out a great deal with the MCAT, biochemistry can prove particularly useful. In this discipline, you explore the fundamentals in both disciplines in order to understand and analyze living matter. Biochemistry offers critical knowledge for the "Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems" section of the MCAT exam.
What Is the Hardest Pre-Med Course?
The hardest course of the pre-med requirements depends on your strengths and weaknesses, but organic chemistry has a reputation for being the most difficult. In this class, you need to know the compositions and reactions of countless chemical compounds. Rather than memorize, you need to understand and apply fundamental concepts and mechanisms to find success.
What Is the Easiest Pre-Med Course?
Depending on your abilities, many introductory prerequisite classes may be considered easy, such as biology and chemistry. You may find early biology courses easier because of a familiarity with many of the concepts and principles. These courses also tend to be visual and relatable.