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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.  However, it is unlikely that many schools will fully abandon course-based requirements in the near future.

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.  Biology concepts are currently tested on the MCAT exam in the Biological Sciences section of the exam.  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.  General/inorganic concepts are currently tested in the Physical Sciences section of the MCAT exam.  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.  Organic chemistry concepts are currently tested in the Biological Sciences section of the MCAT exam.  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.  Physics concepts are currently tested in the Physical Sciences section of the MCAT exam.  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.  Biochemistry concepts are covered to a smaller degree on the current MCAT exam.  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 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 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.  Currently the MCAT does not test specific concepts in the social and behavioral sciences, although these courses are highly recommended for preparing for medical school.  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.  Options would include SOC-S 100, SOC-S 101, and SOC-S 230.

 

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

A number of medical schools require one or two semesters of English coursework.  Some 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.  If you were exempt from English Composition at IU, the exemption would not be accepted toward fulfillment of a medical school’s English requirements.  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.  Please note the new requirements below that will be effective for students matriculating (enrolling) for the fall 2015 entering class.

IU School of Medicine Requirement IU 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 hours3

(one semester)

CHEM-C 4834
Psychology, 3 credit hours3
(one semester)
Any course in psychology; some options would be PSY-P 101, 102 or 155
Sociology, 3 credit hours3
(one semester)
Any course in sociology; some options would be SOC-S 100, 101 or 230

1 The Indiana University School of Medicine recommends CHEM-N 330; CHEM-C 118 will be accepted.
2 Premed students should not enroll in the alternate organic chemistry course CHEM-R 340. Students cannot obtain credit for both CHEM-R 340 and CHEM-C 341.
3NEW requirements effective for students matriculating for the fall 2015 entering class.

4 CHEM-C 484 (a course for biochemistry majors) or BIOT-T 440 may be substituted. 

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

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


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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.