How Becoming a Doctor Works

Requirements for Medical School

Here are the required courses for most medical schools:

  • 1 year of biology with lab
  • 1 year of inorganic chemistry with lab
  • 1 year of organic chemistry with lab
  • 1 year of physics
  • 1 year of English
  • Some medical schools require a course in biochemistry
  • Many schools require 1 year of calculus or college level math

Most pre-med students try to spread out the science courses required for medical school so that they are not overwhelmed all at once. It is also helpful if some of the material is fresh when taking the MCAT.


The Association of American Medical Colleges publishes the specific requirements for admission to each medical school in its Medical School Admissions Requirements, available via online subscription.

Needless to say, getting good grades in college is absolutely necessary. Your GPA (grade point average) is probably the most important factor in being accepted into medical school. Most medical students have GPA's of 3.5 to 4.0 (on the standard 4.0 scale used in the U.S.).

When you apply to medical school, the standard application requests your GPA for your science courses, your GPA for non-science courses and your overall GPA. For those students who entered medical school in the 2017-2018 school year, the average science GPA was 3.64, the average non-science GPA was 3.79, and the average overall GPA was 3.71 [source: The Princeton Review].

If you do poorly on one of the required courses it is probably a good idea to take another course in that field to improve your grades and show that you can handle that subject. It is also important to do well in college from the beginning. After all, if you only get a 2.0 in your first year and then get a 4.0 the next two years your GPA will still be under 3.5. However, medical schools do consider the fact that you are improving. Doing well at a college with an outstanding reputation goes a long way. Try not to fall behind in your class work. This leads to cramming, poor grades and, more importantly, poor learning.

The sciences courses, in particular organic chemistry, are traditionally the "weed out" courses that eliminate students who will not make it into medical school. I remember my first major exam in chemistry. Many students failed. As a result, a large percentage of students dropped the course, stopped their pursuit of a medical career and changed majors. All this occurred in the first few weeks of college.