Students interested in pre-medical or other health-related fields requiring the MCAT, DAT, VCAT, OAT, PCAT or similar exams in the spring of the junior year or the fall of the senior year usually need to take at least the following in the first three years:
- 2 or 3 biology,
- 4 or 5 chemistry,
- 2 physics,
- 1 statistics
- and 1 mathematics course
Some schools require 3 or more biology courses. Thus, they need at least 10 science courses in six semesters, many of which have laboratories and need to be sequenced properly, regardless of the student’s major. These 10 courses are typically the following:
- Cell Biology and Genetics (we strongly recommend Animal Physiology as well),
- Chemistry I and II, and Organic Chemistry I and II,
- Biochemistry (for the MCAT)
- Physics I and II (algebra or calculus-based),
- One or two mathematics courses.
While some professional schools no longer list any specific math requirement, some list “Calculus I” and a very few “Calculus II” as requirements. Many programs also require statistics. Proper course sequencing throughout the first three years of the four-year curriculum is crucial. One should consult course requirements for any specific major in the Catalog. Once a major has been decided upon, the student should consult with a
faculty member in that department for further information on optimum course sequencing.
Recent MCAT Changes
The MCAT has 4 major sections:
- Physical Science (chemistry, physics and biochemistry)
- Biological Science (biology and biochemistry)
- The Psychology and Sociology of Human Behavior
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning
There are numerous course options that will provide students with the concepts they need in these latter two sections.
Statistics is required to do well on the first 3 sections of the test.
Other Recommended courses
Appropriate Courses for Psychology
- Introduction to Psychology,
- Childhood and Adolescence,
- Adult Development and Aging,
- Social Psychology
- Comparative Animal Behavior.
In Sociology, appropriate courses include
- Introduction to Sociology,
- Gender and Family,
- Racial and Ethnic Minorities,
- Medicine and Culture,
- Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
The Philosophy Department offers several 200-level ethics courses, both as recurrent courses and as occasional topics courses; any of these would be appropriate.
As long as the minimum science requirements are met, one’s major is not a criterion of professional school admission, but overall grade point average, science grade point average, and the standardized exam scores (which have science sections covering courses listed above) are critical. Students with
equivalent credentials (e.g., MCAT, GPA, and grades in science courses) who major outside of the sciences will be a little unique when their applications are considered, and this could be an advantage.
First-Year Course Recommendations
Generally, first-year students need to start at least two science sequences and to take at least four science/math courses in the first year regardless of their projected major. An absolute maximum is six science courses (three per term), but this is
rarely recommended. Taking fewer than three science courses the first year will make it difficult for students to be prepared for the professional school standardized exams in three years.
For Biology courses, it's recommended pre-professional school students take Cell Biology and Chemistry I and II. Other science courses which are often taken by first-year students include:
- Botany (Biology majors),
- Functions and Models,
- Calculus I and Calculus II
Physics may be an appropriate choice for Physics or BCMB majors.
While the courses listed above are the most frequently specified prerequisites by professional schools, students should check for additional prerequisites when they have chosen the particular school to which they want to apply. All students are encouraged to visit the web site of the professional organization
that they wish to enter, as well as the websites of any specific schools they might consider applying to, for further information. You can find links to all U.S. medical schools at AAMC.org