Academic Record and GPA
How Does My Academic Record Impact Medical School Admission?
Medical schools review your undergraduate transcript and the grades you have earned in your courses as a way to measure academic competencies that you have gained. Admissions committees look at your undergraduate transcript for indications of whether you will have the intellectual abilities, stability, consistency, and self-discipline to survive and succeed in the extremely rigorous curriculum of medical school.
Grades are not everything, but they are generally considered to be a reliable predictor of how you would perform in medical school. No matter how many impressive volunteering experiences you have listed on your application, your transcript must present convincing evidence of your readiness for medical school.
Medical schools review transcripts and look for evidence of strong intellectual competency, particularly in the sciences. Especially in science courses they would like to see a pattern of mostly A’s, while making allowances for the occasional B. This level of performance generally indicates that you possess the academic competencies to succeed in medical school.
Remember also that grades earned in science courses provide you with important feedback on the competencies that you are developing for the MCAT exam.
If you find that you are earning frequent grades of B and C in your science courses, it can be an indication that you are not making progress in developing the high level of competency in the sciences that medical schools expect that students have already achieved prior to beginning medical school. Grades in the B and C range often foreshadow that a student is not developing the competencies required for success on the MCAT. Grades of D and F are an even more serious indication that a student is just not demonstrating the extremely high level of competency required in the sciences for medical school. Simply passing premedical science coursework with grades of C and D, or failing these courses, does not demonstrate the level of competency desired, and should be taken as a sign that your academic performance and career goals may not be in sync.
Quick Transcript Self-Evaluation
A quick way to do a simple self-evaluation is to look at your transcript. Would you place trust in a doctor who had your current transcript?
Numbers and Trends
Your undergraduate GPA is one of the primary ways in which medical schools will make an initial evaluation of your candidacy for admission. What is a competitive GPA for admission to medical school?
The Health Professions and Prelaw Center reviews the data each year on the students from our campus who applied to medical school. In 2016, the average cumulative GPA for students from IU Bloomington admitted to allopathic medical schools was 3.79. The average science (“BCPM” – see below) GPA of IU Bloomington students admitted to allopathic medical schools was 3.73.
Nationally, the average cumulative GPA of applicants admitted to allopathic schools was 3.70 in 2016. The average science (BCPM) GPA of students admitted to allopathic schools was 3.64. For osteopathic medical schools, the average cumulative GPA of students admitted in 2015 was 3.53. The average science GPA for students admitted to osteopathic schools was 3.43.
The averages do not tell the whole story, of course, so we also look at ranges. By far, the majority of students from our campus accepted to allopathic medical schools have a cumulative GPA between 3.6 and 4.0, so if you are aiming for admission to allopathic schools, a good benchmark would be to maintain a GPA of 3.6 or higher. For osteopathic schools a helpful benchmark would be to maintain a GPA of 3.4 or above in order to have a good chance for admission.
Medical schools very much consider grade trends as well as grade point averages. A student with a low GPA that had a bad first semester as a freshman but then earned straight A’s in rigorous science courses for several semesters would most likely still be considered favorably. Inconsistent performance or a downward trend will raise more concerns than a slow start followed by an extremely solid performance.
How Will My GPA Be Calculated by Medical Schools?
Applicants apply to medical schools through centralized application services, and each application service will have its own method for calculating your GPA. The AMCAS and AACOMAS primary application services recalculate standardized GPAs for all applicants so they more easily can be compared, regardless of the grading system used at the college or university the applicant attended.
When you apply to medical school you will type information onto the application from the transcripts of all colleges and universities you have attended, including the title of each course, number of credit hours, and the grade earned for each course. Each course will be classified according to the subject matter of the course. This information will be used to calculate an overall cumulative GPA for you, as well as a science GPA, and other types of GPAs.
The AMCAS application used for applying to allopathic schools does not use grade replacement for repeated courses when calculating your GPA; both the original course grade and the repeated course grade will be used in AMCAS GPA calculations. What this means is that grade replacement policies that may apply at your undergraduate college or university – such as the “Extended-X policy” at Indiana University – are irrelevant to the way that AMCAS will calculate your GPA for your medical school application. If you plan to apply to allopathic medical schools and you are considering repeating a course, you should be aware that both the original grade earned in the course, as well as the grade earned when you repeated it, will be used in calculating your GPAs on your AMCAS application. For example, the effect on your overall GPA of retaking a 5-credit hour course and earning an A in it is the same effect as if you took a different 5-credit hour course and earned an A in it.
In the past the AACOMAS application used for applying to osteopathic schools used grade replacement for repeated courses when calculating GPAs, but as of the 2017-2018 application cycle, this policy will be changed, and AACOMAS will no longer use grade replacement for calculating GPA’s.
Both allopathic and osteopathic schools seek applicants with a very strong GPA that indicates the applicant can succeed in medical school. Many medical schools will recommend that students not retake courses but instead proceed to higher level coursework and demonstrate that they can earn A's in those courses the first time. Many med schools do not like to see many repeated courses on a transcript. The way they look at it, if you plan to go to medical school, you need to be able to succeed in a course the first time – otherwise they envision that if you were admitted it might take you six or seven years to make it through med school while you repeat courses (that’s usually not an option in med school).
How Will My Science GPA Be Calculated?
Besides a cumulative GPA, the AMCAS and AACOMAS centralized application systems calculate special science GPA’s for all applicants. Your science GPA will be considered especially important when you apply to medical school.
AMCAS calculates a special “BCPM” GPA that is considered especially important for medical school admission. The “BCPM” GPA calculation includes all coursework classified on the AMCAS application as biology, chemistry, physics or math courses. AMCAS provides a chart in the application instructions that explains how coursework in different subject areas should be classified, since courses are not always classified the way one would expect according to the department at Indiana University that offers the course. Remember that AMCAS does not use grade replacement for repeated courses when calculating GPAs, so both the original course grade and the repeated course grade will be used in AMCAS GPA calculations.
In 2016, the average BCPM GPA of students at IU Bloomington admitted to allopathic medical schools was 3.73.
AACOMAS calculates a science GPA for all applicants that will include all coursework in biology/zoology, biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, other science, and physics (math coursework is not included in the AACOMAS science GPA). AACOMAS provides a chart in the application instructions that explains how coursework in different subject areas should be classified. Remember that as of the 2017-2018 application cycle, AACOMAS also will not use grade replacement for repeated courses when calculating GPAs, so both the original course grade and the repeated course grade will be used in AACOMAS GPA calculations.
WARNING: Allowing your cumulative GPA to slip below 3.0 at any stage can pose a risk to your admission to ANY graduate program in the future. Almost all graduate-level programs, of whatever kind, expect a GPA well above 3.0. If you want to pursue graduate-level study in the future, make sure you maintain a GPA that is at least above 3.0, even if it means that you must stop taking any further prehealth coursework to ensure that you can earn solid grades and graduate with a GPA that you can present with pride on employment and graduate school applications. Graduating with a stronger GPA (3.0+) is far more important for keeping your future employment and educational options open than continuing on a path that involves taking more challenging courses that may drag your GPA down and cut your options off in the future.
How Can I Forecast My Future GPA?
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 would need to achieve a given "Target GPA," click here.
Understanding the Process of Raising Your GPA
If your GPA is below the suggested benchmarks above, you may wonder if it’s still possible to recover and rehabilitate your GPA. Early intervention is critical. To learn more, go to Understanding the Process of Raising Your GPA.
What if I Continue to Struggle in My Science Coursework?
If you find that you continue to struggle academically from semester to semester, it's important to evaluate and take action. Go to What if I Continue to Struggle in My Science Coursework.
The Health Professions and Prelaw Center has developed a self-assessment questionnaire to help you more clearly identify your interests, skills, and values. Click HERE to open the survey in your word processing program. (Important: In Word for Windows, if the drop down menus in the questionnaire do not work, click the "Enable Editing" button toward the top of the window.)