Pre Medical Coursework

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Premedical Coursework and Competencies

Before applying, medical schools expect that applicants develop certain competencies through undergraduate coursework, especially in the sciences, to provide the foundation for studying medicine.  Most medical schools currently require that students complete at least one year of college coursework (including both lecture and lab components) in biology, general/inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics to meet their admission requirements.  Science and medicine are changing, however, and some medical schools are considering changing their admission requirements and how they evaluate applicants.  It has been proposed that medical schools eventually move away from course-based admission requirements toward competency-based admission requirements, in order to allow greater flexibility in the types of courses that students take to prepare for medical school.  Although a few schools have moved in this direction, it is unlikely that many schools will fully abandon course-based requirements in the near future.

For most premed students, we recommend using the Indiana University School of Medicine's course requirements as a basic, initial guide for planning while beginning to research additional requirements for other medical schools where they may want to apply.

The section below outlines many of the common course requirements for admission to medical schools.  Please note that there can be important variations in admissions requirements.  Students should research the requirements for the schools where they intend to apply.  There are several resources for researching requirements.  Students can consult the individual medical school websites for information on their admission requirements.  The guide produced by the Association of American Medical Colleges, Medical School Admissions Requirements provides information on admission requirements for allopathic medical schools.  The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine publishes an Osteopathic Medical College Information Book that provides information on admissions requirements for osteopathic medical schools.  Students also may consult with an advisor at the Health Professions and Prelaw Center on premedical coursework.

Most medical schools will not require that you complete all required coursework before you submit the application for admission; most will simply require you to complete all required coursework before you matriculate to (enroll in) the school.  However, before taking the MCAT exam you should be sure to complete the necessary coursework in the sciences for building competencies in the areas covered on the exam.

You should not view your premedical coursework as simply part of a checklist of tasks to get out of the way before applying to medical school.  You should view your premedical coursework as a means to build critical competencies that will be vitally important for the MCAT exam, success in medical school, and your future practice as a physician. 

 

Your performance in premedical science courses will be viewed by admissions committees as a predictor of your ability to cope with the rigorous demands of medical school.  Simply earning passing grades in these courses is not sufficient.  Medical schools have expectations that students who are building the necessary competencies should be able to excel in their premedical science coursework, generally earning A’s in most premedical science courses, with occasional B’s.  If you are earning C’s, D’s or F’s you cannot be regarded as developing the necessary competencies for success and you may need to reevaluate whether medical school is the path for you. 

Having clear, realistic projected GPA information is important. For examples of some useful GPA calculators, including some that will help you discover what future grades you will need to achieve a given "Target GPA," click here. Consult the page on Academic Record and Grades for more information on how medical schools evaluate applicants. 

For more information on the competencies required for success in medical school please see the report, “Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians.” 

Advising appointments at the Health Professions and Prelaw Center are focused on helping students prepare for admission to professional school.  You should periodically meet with your assigned advisor (either a University Division advisor or an advisor in the academic department that offers your major) to plan your schedule and discuss how to best work admission prerequisites into your undergraduate degree plan.  Your assigned advisor has expertise on the curricular requirements for your degree and is the best person for you to consult on most questions regarding your class schedule to make sure you are making good academic progress.

Common Coursework Used to Fulfill Requirements and Build the Competencies Needed for the MCAT and for Medical School

 

Biology

Most medical schools require a minimum of one year of biology, including lecture and lab.  Many medical schools will recommend additional coursework in biology as well.  As of 2015, biology concepts will be tested in the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems and the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems sections of the examSome biology concepts also will be tested in the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section of the exam.

 

Recommended Courses to Fulfill Common Requirements and Prepare for the MCAT:

BIOL-L 112, 113, and 211 (for both the current and the revised MCAT).  Additional optional courses that may provide further background for the revised MCAT 2015: BIOL-M 250 (for background on prokaryotic biology) and BIOL-M 430 (for background on viruses).

 

General/Inorganic Chemistry

Most medical schools require one year of general/inorganic chemistry, including lecture and lab.  As of 2015, general/inorganic concepts will be tested in the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems and the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems sections of the exam.

 

Recommended Courses to Fulfill Common Requirements and Prepare for the MCAT:

CHEM-C 117 and CHEM-N 330

 

Organic Chemistry

Most medical schools require one year of organic chemistry, including lecture and lab.  As of 2015, organic chemistry concepts will be tested in the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems and Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems sections of the exam.

 

Recommended Courses to Fulfill Common Requirements and Prepare for the MCAT:

CHEM-C 341, 342 and 343*

*Many universities offer a sequence of two semesters of combined lecture and lab in organic chemistry, but the IU Bloomington chemistry department offers a lab course, CHEM-C 343, that is separate from the lecture courses (CHEM-C 341 and 342).  Most medical schools will accept CHEM-C 343 alone as fulfilling the laboratory portion of the requirement for one year of organic chemistry. 

 

Physics

Most medical schools require one year of physics, including lecture and lab.  As of 2015, the revised MCAT exam will test physics concepts in the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section of the exam.

 

Recommended Courses to Fulfill Common Requirements and Prepare for the MCAT:

PHYS-P 201 and PHYS-P 202 (noncalculus-based physics)

OR PHYS-P 221 and 222 (calculus-based physics)

 

Biochemistry

Some medical schools require one semester of biochemistry and virtually all strongly recommend it before medical school.  It is strongly recommended that all premed students currently complete a biochemistry course before medical school.  As of 2015, biochemistry concepts will be tested more extensively in the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems and the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems sections of the MCAT exam.

 

Recommended Courses to Fulfill Common Requirements and Prepare for the MCAT:

CHEM-C 383 OR CHEM-C 483 (a survey in one semester for the non-biochemistry major) OR CHEM-C 484 and 485 (a two-semester sequence for biochemistry majors).  CHEM-C 484 and 485 cover many of the same concepts from CHEM-C 483, but in greater detail.  If you plan to take only one biochemistry course prior to the MCAT you should take CHEM-C 383 or 483. CHEM-C 484 taken alone will not cover all the biochemistry material for the revised MCAT exam.

 

Social and Behavioral Sciences

While only a small number of medical schools have formal requirements for a specific number of credit hours in social and behavioral sciences, virtually all recommend some coursework in these disciplines in order to develop an understanding of human behavior and society.  As of 2015, the revised MCAT exam will test concepts from psychology and sociology in the Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior section of the exam. In addition, the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section of the revised MCAT may include passages from cross-cultural studies (anthropology, communication and culture, etc.) and population health.

 

Recommended Courses to Fulfill Common Requirements and Prepare for the MCAT:

For psychology content on the revised MCAT, general coverage of concepts to be tested can be obtained by taking PSY-P 155 or PSY-P 101 and 102.  PSY-P 101 and 102 in combination will provide the most comprehensive coverage of the concepts to be tested on the revised MCAT exam as of 2015. 

For sociology content on the revised MCAT, general coverage of concepts can be obtained by taking any introductory course in the sociology department.  Some options include SOC-S 100, SOC-S 101, SOC-S 358 or SOC-S 365.

 

Courses from anthropology and communication and culture may also be beneficial.

 

Math and Statistics

The majority of medical schools have no specific math requirement.  However, many of the required science courses at IU Bloomington have math prerequisites that students must meet before enrolling, most undergraduate degree programs require math, and strong math skills are important for success in premedical coursework. As of 2013 only 35 of the allopathic medical schools in the U.S. have a specific requirement for math.  Of the medical schools with a math requirement, some specify one or two semesters of calculus (as of 2013 only 13 of the allopathic schools in the U.S. require calculus).  Some of these medical schools will allow substitution of a statistics course in place of the second semester of calculus. 

As of 2015, the revised MCAT Exam will test statistical reasoning skills.  While the Association of American Medical Colleges has advised that not all students will need to complete a statistics course before the revised MCAT, completion of one course in statistical methods may be beneficial for preparation for medical school and the revised MCAT. 

 

Recommended Courses to Fulfill Common Requirements and Prepare for the MCAT:

For fulfilling calculus requirements, MATH-M 211 (for schools requiring one semester of calculus) and MATH-M 212 (for schools requiring a second semester of calculus).  Some schools are willing to substitute a statistics course for the second semester of calculus.  As of 2013 only 13 of the allopathic medical schools in the U.S. require calculus.

For preparing for statistical reasoning content on the revised MCAT, STAT-S 303 Applied Statistical Methods for the Life Sciences is a course specially designed by the IU Department of Statistics to help students prepare for statistical reasoning content on the revised MCAT exam.  Other options include STAT-S 300, PSY-K 300, SPEA-K 300, MATH-K 310 or PSY-K 310, or any other statistics course at the 300-level.  Please note: very few medical schools require a course in statistics, although coursework in statistics will be beneficial for success on the revised MCAT.

 

English

The majority of medical schools in the United States require one or two semesters of English (as of 2014, 88 of the allopathic medical schools in the U.S. require English coursework for admission).  Since English coursework is so commonly required, if you plan to apply to a variety of medical schools, you should make plans early on in your college education to complete two semesters of English coursework.  Some medical schools will accept two semesters of literature while there are some that will require that at least one of the courses be a writing course.  Although some students are exempt from the Indiana University English Composition Requirement on the basis of SAT or ACT scores, you should be aware that an exemption from a requirement is not considered to be equivalent to course credit by most medical schools and would not be accepted in place of college credit.  Most, but not all, medical schools will accept courses that fulfill Intensive Writing requirements at Indiana University, although many will only accept Intensive Writing courses outside of the sciences.  When you apply to medical school you may be required to submit documentation such as a course description or syllabus to the medical school verifying that the course fulfills a writing requirement at Indiana University. 

 

Recommended Courses to Fulfill Common Requirements:

ENG-W 131, ENG-W 170, ENG-W 231, ENG-W 240, ENG-W 270, ENG-W 350, or any other writing or literature courses offered by the English department.  Some schools will allow two semesters of literature courses while others will require that at least one be a writing course.

 

Other Courses to Consider

Other courses you may consider would include courses in ethics, philosophy, cross-cultural studies, and population health. As of 2015, the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section of the MCAT may include passages from ethics, philosophy, cross-cultural studies and population health, although the exam will not assume knowledge of specific content from these areas.  Courses from these disciplines may be helpful in adding breadth to your undergraduate education. 

 

Please note: Students should be aware that some medical schools will not accept Advanced Placement or credit-by-examination towards meeting admission requirements, or accept such credit only under restricted circumstances. College-level coursework is often preferable for preparation for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).

Course Requirements for Indiana University School of Medicine

The following coursework is required for admission to Indiana University School of Medicine. 

IU School of Medicine RequirementIU Bloomington course(s) that fulfill the requirement
General/inorganic chemistry, 8-10 credit hours
(one academic year, including both lecture and lab)
CHEM-C 117/127 and CHEM-N 3301
Organic chemistry, 8-10 credit hours
(one academic year, including both lecture and lab)
CHEM-C 3412, 342, and 343
Physics, 8-10 credit hours
(one academic year, including both lecture and lab)
PHYS-P 201 and 202 or PHYS-P 221 and 222
Biological sciences, 8-10 credit hours
(one academic year, including both lecture and lab)
BIOL-L 112, 113, and 211

Biochemistry, 3 credit hours

(one semester)

CHEM-C 383 or 4833
Psychology, 3 credit hours4
(one semester)
Any course in psychology; some options would be PSY-P 101, 102 or 155
Sociology, 3 credit hours5
(one semester)
Any course in sociology; some options would be SOC-S 100, 101, 358 or 365
Sequence of Chemistry Courses for Premed Students

CHEM-C 117/127 Principles of Chemistry and Biochemistry I
CHEM-C 341 Organic Chemistry I Lectures
CHEM-C 342 Organic Chemistry II Lectures
CHEM-C 343 Organic Chemistry I Laboratory

CHEM-C 383, 483 or 484 (OR CHEM-N 330)

CHEM-N 330 Intermediate Inorganic Chemistry (OR CHEM-C 383, 483 or 484)


To be admitted an applicant must a be U.S. citizen or possess a permanent resident visa at time of application. Also, all science requirements must be completed at a U.S. or Canadian accredited university.

The minimum requirement for entering the Indiana University School of Medicine is 90 credit hours, excluding physical education and ROTC courses. Any major from the traditional arts and sciences curriculum is acceptable. Applications of students with educational backgrounds in other fields will be evaluated based on a minimum of 90 credit hours (three academic years) of college course work of arts and sciences equivalence.

 

 

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Choice of Major

It is important to realize that requirements for medical school are not the same as requirements for a Biology major. These requirements can be met within the context of any major, so long as you plan ahead and choose appropriate electives.

Conversely, a Biology major does not in itself qualify you for medical school. It is true that a majority of our pre-medical students major in Biology or Chemistry, but in recent years we have sent students to medical school with majors in Religion, Philosophy, English, and Sociology. In every case, however, they had taken the required courses for medical school and had demonstrated the ability to do well in challenging science courses, usually through a minor in Biology and/or Chemistry.

Our new Health Scholars Program is an excellent way to prepare for medical school regardless of your major, with all of the requirements and benefits that will help set you apart.  For top students, Science Honors will also allow you to complete a research project at a major research institution.

Course Requirements for Medical School

Most medical schools require the following courses:

  • One year of Biology with lab
  • One year of General Chemistry with lab
  • One year of Organic Chemistry with lab
  • One semester of Biochemistry
  • One year of Physics with lab
  • One year of English

It is always recommended that you check with each medical school to which you are applying because requirements can and do change.

We recommend that premedical students take Biology 305-306 (Human Physiology I & II) during their sophomore or junior year. You should also take additional upper level science courses, in order to demonstrate that you can succeed in medical school coursework. The following courses are good choices for premedical students:

  • BIO 214 Organismal Diversity
  • BIO 260 Preceptorship in Health or Veterinary Sciences
  • BIO 311 General Microbiology
  • BIO 312 Pathogenic Bacteriology and Immunology
  • BIO 325 Vertebrate Anatomy and Embryology
  • BIO 335 Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • BIO 337 Cell Biology
  • BIO 421 Developmental Biology
  • CHE 307 Chemistry and Cancer
  • CHE 327 Medicinal Chemistry
  • CHE 341 Biochemistry

There are also appropriate electives offered through other departments, including Kinesiology & Health Sciences (KHS), Psychology, Philosophy, and Healthcare Administration.

The Dreaded MCAT Exam

All medical schools also require that you take the MCAT exam (Medical College Admissions Test). The MCAT is administered several times a year. You must take the MCAT no later than the summer following your junior year in order for your application to be considered in the fall of your senior year. This means you need to be prepared for the MCAT exam in three years, not four. As minimal preparation you should complete the required courses listed above, as well as the following courses: Human Physiology, Introductory Psychology, and Introductory Sociology.  This should be complete by end of your junior year.

“Real-World” Experience

To be a viable candidate for medical school you must demonstrate that you have sufficient firsthand experience with medical practice to make an informed career decision, not just the academic ability to succeed in the medical school classroom. “Shadowing”, in which a pre-medical students observe and assists practicing doctors, is an absolutely essential part of preparing for medical school. We offer an organized shadowing experience via Biology 260 (Preceptorship in Health or Veterinary Sciences), but we also strongly recommend that you find other opportunities to obtain firsthand experience. Volunteer or paid work in a hospital, clinic, or other medical setting is an excellent way to gain experience. Other forms of community service are also very important in demonstrating your commitment to help others, even if the work is not specifically medical.

A Suggested Curriculum

The following sequence of science courses will prepare you to take the MCAT and apply to medical school at the end of your junior year:

Freshman

  • Fall:
    • BIO 111- Biological Principles (with lab)
    • CHE 111- General Chemistry (with lab)
  • Spring:
    • BIO 212- Cellular & Molecular Biology (with lab)
    • CHE 112, 113- General Chemistry II (with lab)

Sophomore

  • Fall:
    • CHE 201, 202- Organic Chemistry I (with lab)
    • BIO 214- Organismal Diversity (with lab), or start the physiology or physics sequence
  • Spring:
    • CHE 309, 310- Organic Chemistry II (with lab)

Junior

  • Fall:
    • PHY 111- General Physics I (with lab)
    • BIO 305- Human Physiology I (with lab)
    • Bio 260- Preceptorship in Health or Veterinary Sciences
  • Spring:
    • PHY 112- General Physics II (with lab)
    • BIO 306- Human Physiology II (with lab)
    • CHE 340 – Biochemistry (with lab)

Senior

Additional upper-level courses in:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Kinesiology
  • or other appropriate fields

You do not have to follow this schedule exactly, so long as you complete these courses by the end of junior year. However, you should plan ahead so that you are taking two laboratory courses per semester. For example, if you start the Chemistry sequence your sophomore year you might also take Physics sophomore year – otherwise you will be taking Organic Chemistry, Physics, and Physiology, all with labs, concurrently in your junior year. Of course, you will also have to take additional courses to meet the requirements for your major. Again, plan ahead so you don’t have too many lab courses in any one semester.

Many students choose to wait one or more years between college and medical school to pursue other interests or to further prepare for medical school. If you want to do so you can spread the courses listed above over four years. Be aware, however, that if you take the MCAT in your senior year you will not be able to start medical school until one year after you graduate.

Pre-Med Curriculum with a Biology Major

For a Biology major you will need to: (1) complete the Biology core, including Genetics (2) take the Biology junior seminar course, (3) take a senior capstone course, and (4) take at least 13 hours of 300- or 400-level Biology courses while still meeting the requirements described above. The following plan of study is just one example of how you can meet these requirements and be prepared for the MCAT exam at the end of your junior year:

Freshman

  • Fall:
    • BIO 111- Biological Principles (with lab)
    • CHE 111- General Chemistry I (with lab)
  • Spring:
    • BIO 212- Cellular and Molecular Biology (with lab)
    • CHE 112,113- General Chemistry II (with lab)

Sophomore

  • Fall:
    • CHE 201, 202- Organic Chemistry I (with lab)
    • BIO 214- Organismal Diversity (with lab)
  • Spring:
    • CHE 309, 310- Organic Chemistry II (with lab)
    • BIO 314- Ecology & Evolution (with lab)

Junior

  • Fall:
    • PHY 111- General Physics I (with lab)
    • BIO 305- Human Physiology I (with lab)
    • BIO 260- Preceptorship in Health or Veterinary Sciences
    • Biology elective (300 or 400 level)
    • BIO 402 – Junior seminar
  • Spring:
    • Phy 112- General Physics II (with lab)
    • BIO 306- Human Physiology II (with lab)

Senior:

  • Fall:
    • Senior Capstone
    • BIO 335- Genetics and Molecular Biology (with lab)
  • Spring:
    • 2 Biology electives (300 or 400 level)

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