Medical School Prerequisites: Common Courses + College List

February 22, 2024
8 min read


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 2/22/24

Thinking about becoming a doctor? Wondering what prerequisites for medical school you need to take? This guide will walk you through everything you need to know. 

Applying to medical school can be exciting and challenging. You’ll want to ensure you’ve ticked the right boxes during your preparation before applying to schools. Every medical school has a unique set of requirements, and it’s crucial to meet them before submitting your application. 

There are often required classes for medical school you must take to apply. But what are these prerequisites, and which do you need to fulfill? We’ll cover a general list of medical school prerequisites, an ideal timeline to follow, and prerequisites for top medical schools. Let’s get started!

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What Are Prerequisites? 

Prerequisite courses are classes you must complete before you can attend a program. These courses are essential tools for success. Professors will refer to what you’ve learned from these courses throughout your program, so completing them is critical.

Other than helping you gain valuable knowledge, certain prerequisites are mandatory. A program may reject you unless you’ve completed its prerequisite courses. Check the application requirements for your program long before you intend to apply to give yourself time to prepare.

Examples of med school prereqs are biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and English. These courses help you build the foundational knowledge you need to succeed in medical school. 

Common Med School Prerequisites

Now, you’re probably wondering what prerequisites you need for med school. All medical schools require proficiency in science and math. Beyond these courses, some schools have expanded their requirements for medical school to include English, psychology, sociology, and biochemistry.

Common Required Courses

Let’s review each standard prerequisite course for medical school.

  • Biology: An understanding of biological concepts is critical for medical school. Medical science has biology at its core. Specific areas of biology highly beneficial to furthering your medical education are genetics, anatomy, and evolution.
  • Chemistry: Almost all med schools require chemistry. Organic chemistry helps you understand how medications work in the human body and is essential to your medical education. You’ll also need to understand biochemistry.
  • Physics: The laws of physics are ever-present in the human body, so an understanding is necessary for a medical degree. For example, cardiology often applies the rules of pressure and volume.
  • Mathematics: From understanding lab results to determining proper doses, a physician often uses basic math daily. Medical schools generally require calculus, statistics, or at least one semester of general math. 
  • English: Most schools request English proficiency or an English language proficiency test. Although not always required, English will be handy throughout your degree and future career. 

Valuable Pre-Med Courses Beyond Medical School Requirements

Now, let’s cover other prerequisites for medical school.

  • Psychology: Psychology can be beneficial for interacting with patients and their families. As a doctor, you’ll interact with others in many high-tension situations; taking psychology and sociology courses can help you better understand your patients. 
  • Foreign Language: Foreign language classes are rarely required for med school, especially in the U.S. However, learning a foreign language can be incredibly useful. Studying a language broadens the number of patients you can communicate with and the regions in which you can study and practice. 
  • Biochemistry: Biochemistry isn’t always required, but you should consider it as it appears on the MCAT. Being well-versed in biochemistry will prove helpful throughout your degree.
  • History: A background in history, specifically medical history, may aid you in understanding how medicine has changed and evolved over time. This could give you a new perspective on your career and help you to better understand future changes in medicine. 

Major Prerequisites for Medical School 

You do not need to have majored in a specific discipline to apply for medical school. However, many med school applicants major in science. According to Indeed, the top 9 majors to prepare for medical school are: 

  1. Psychology
  2. Biology
  3. Biochemistry
  4. Public health
  5. Health sciences
  6. Exercise science
  7. Nursing
  8. Biomedical engineering
  9. Foreign language 

Any of these majors will serve you well in your preparations for medical school, but remember that you must be a well-rounded student in order to be accepted. Consider taking some electives that are outside your program to give your application a boost. 

How to Get Into Medical School

To get into medical school, you’ll need to fulfil many more med school requirements beyond prerequisites! Aim for a 4.0 undergraduate GPA and an MCAT score of 501 or higher. You’ll also need to supplement your application with compelling essays and letters of recommendation from professors or clinical supervisors. 

The process of getting into medical school also includes gaining clinical experience, participating in extracurriculars, and sometimes having an interview with the admissions committee or med school alumni.

Also, remember to research your target medical schools in advance to see what their specific admissions criteria are. That way, you can tailor your application to better suit your desired school’s requirements to improve your chances of getting into med school.

Ideal Timeline for Medical School Prerequisite Courses

Before applying to medical school, you should give yourself at least two years to decide which schools you plan to apply to. Every school has different requirements, so you should give yourself ample time to take prerequisites before applying. 

In this timeline, you should also include other differentiating activities to add to your application. You should allot time to get clinical experience, research experience, volunteer, acquire recommendations, take your tests (multiple times if necessary), and take prerequisite courses. 

You can take up to five courses a semester at any typical university. It would probably be best to spread out these courses as they’re intense, and you’ll need time to prepare for other areas of your application.

Medical School Application Requirements

Your medical school application will need to include many different materials, including test scores, reference letters, and essays. Here are some key med school requirements:

  • Transcripts 
  • MCAT & CASper scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Extracurriculars
  • Personal statement
  • Secondary applications
  • Interviews

Let’s go over some of these requirements in more detail to help you prepare! 

Minimum GPA for Medical School Admission

The minimum GPA requirement for med school is generally considered by applicants to be the incoming class’s lowest reported GPA. This normally lands somewhere around 3.6. However, many schools don’t require a specific minimum GPA. 

MCAT Score Requirements for Medical School 

A good MCAT score for medical school should be above the national average, which is 501 in the US. The maximum MCAT score is 528. 

The minimum MCAT score differs between medical schools. Some schools require applicants to be within a certain percentile. Check each institution’s requirements for medical school to get a better idea of what to aim for, and check out our MCAT guide to help you prepare!

CASPer Exam Requirements for Medical School 

As of 2023, over 50 medical schools require CASPer. The CASPer exam, a situation judgment test (SJT) which tests applicants’ social skills and behavioral tendencies, is steadily growing in popularity among medical schools. 

Applicants for med school need to take the American Professional Health Sciences test. You can prepare to take the exam with our ultimate CASPer test guide

Letter of Recommendation for Medical School 

Most medical schools require recommendation letters. They provide a detailed look into an applicant’s skills and qualifications from a trusted and respected source. This gives your application significant credibility. 

A good recommendation letter could be the difference between acceptance and rejection to your dream medical school!

Extracurricular Activities for Medical School 

Engaging in extracurricular activities for medical school will make your application more well-rounded. It will also help the admissions committee better understand who you are as a person. 

Important extracurriculars for medical school include:

  • Clinical experience 
  • Research experience
  • Teaching/tutoring
  • Community service
  • Hobbies 

Ensure you diversify your extracurricular activities to help you seem like a well-rounded applicant. 

Prerequisites at Top Medical Schools

To better understand which prerequisites you should take for med school in the U.S., we’ll cover the prerequisites at five of the country’s leading medical schools.

Harvard Medical School

Harvard’s medical school prerequisites are listed on its website as required or encouraged. 


Since the school is highly competitive, taking all the courses on its list is recommended. Harvard’s prerequisite courses are:

  • Behavioral sciences (recommended)
  • Biology
  • Chemistry/Biochemistry
  • Physics
  • Math
  • Writing

You must take at least one year of each course for each of Harvard’s prereqs. The exception is chemistry, which you must take for two years (or four courses). For more details on how to get into this prestigious school, check out our guide on getting into Harvard.

NYU Grossman 

U.S. News names Grossman in the top 10 medical schools for research in the United States. 

NYU flag

NYU Grossman doesn’t have mandatory prerequisites; however, it does have a list of recommended courses to take before applying. Here are its recommended courses:

  • Inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry with lab
  • Biology with lab
  • Physics with lab
  • Statistics
  • Genetics
  • English

Although Grossman doesn’t require these courses for admission, it strongly recommends them. If you want more information on how to get into NYU Grossman, check out our guide.

Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons 

Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons provides a detailed course requirement list


Columbia’s recommended and required courses are as follows:

  • English or other writing-intensive courses 
  • Biology 
  • Physics 
  • Chemistry 
  • Biochemistry 

Each of Columbia’s prereqs for med school requires at least one year. The exception, similar to Harvard, is chemistry, which requires two years, one of which must be organic chemistry. Although biochemistry isn’t required, it’s recommended. For more information on getting into Columbia, check out our comprehensive guide

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine 

Johns Hopkins School of Medicine is ranked as the second-best medical school for research in the U.S. 

Source: Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

The school requires students to take many prerequisites before applying. Required courses include the following: 

  • Biology 
  • General chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry 
  • Humanities, social, and behavioral sciences (assorted courses) 
  • Calculus/Statistics 
  • Physics 

Besides the humanities requirement, you must spend between three and eight semester hours per course. 

You must take a minimum of 24 semester hours in courses that satisfy the humanities, social and behavioral sciences requirement, including “English, History, Classics, Foreign Language, Philosophy, Arts, etc), social science (Sociology, Economics, Political Science, Anthropology, etc.)  and behavioral science (Psychology, etc.).” 

Want to learn more about the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine? Our complete guide contains all the information you need to know. 

University of California – San Francisco 

UCSF is another top medical school, ranked at fifth for both research and primary care.

Source: UCSF School of Medicine

The base course requirements to apply to UCSF School of Medicine include: 

  • Biology, with lab 
  • Chemistry (including one semester of organic chemistry with lab) 
  • Biochemistry 
  • Physics 

Applicants must take biology and chemistry for at least one year, one semester (or 1 quarter) of biochemistry, and one semester (of 2 quarters) of physics. For more on UCSF’s application requirements, read our complete school guide

Baylor Medical School 

U.S. News ranks Baylor College of Medicine in the top 25 medical schools for research. It also is ranked seventh for pediatrics. 

Source: Baylor College of Medicine

Baylor College of Medicine requires the following prerequisites

  • Math
  • Expository Writing
  • Humanities-Social/Behavioral Sciences
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Advanced Biology (genetics or cell/molecular biology highly recommended)
  • Spanish (recommended) 

You need a minimum of 3-4 semester hours for each course, with the two exceptions of humanities and chemistry. The humanities requirement can be satisfied by many courses including psychology, philosophy, literature, etc., and requires 12 semester hours. The chemistry requirement must be completed over 2 semesters with a total of 6-8 semester hours. 

Labs are not required for the science courses. 

Duke Medical School

Duke School of Medicine is ranked fifth for research by U.S. News, tied with UCSF. 

Duke University

Duke School of Medicine lists the following prerequisites on its website: 

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • 2 Alternate Biology courses of choice
  • 2 Chemistry courses 
  • Statistics 

Excluding chemistry and statistics, each course must have a minimum of 3 semester hours. The chemistry courses must total 4 semester hours, and statistics must total 2 semester hours. 

Medical School Prerequisite FAQs

Here are answers to FAQs about prerequisite courses for medical school. 

Are There Medical Schools Without Prerequisites?

Many medical schools don’t have prerequisite course requirements, so you can apply without them. However, prereqs prepare you for your future courses. You can take a pre-med program to build your foundational knowledge. 

Some medical schools without prerequisites include:

These programs require a bachelor’s degree. Although they don’t have specific prerequisite courses, they still highly recommend a strong background in science. 

Can You Retake Med School Prerequisite Courses?

You can retake required courses for med school if needed. Before doing so, research your school’s stance on retaking prereqs. Depending on the school, retaking courses can potentially damage your applicant profile.

How Many Prerequisites Do I Need for Medical School?

Generally speaking, you should plan to complete at least one year of biology, chemistry, and physics, all with labs. It would be best if you planned for a minimum of one year of English and math.

Can You Take the MCAT Without Taking Prerequisites?

There are no required courses for the MCAT. However, taking the MCAT without prerequisites isn’t recommended. Prerequisite courses provide opportunities to learn the foundational knowledge you need to perform well on the MCAT. 

Do Medical School Prerequisites Expire?

Most medical schools don’t list an expiry date for prerequisites. However, it’s always best to check the school’s policy on requirements. 

How Long Do Prerequisites Take to Complete? 

Most medical school prerequisites require one year of study, though some require two or more. It’s a good idea to spread them throughout your college career to ensure you’re fully prepared for medical school. 

Is Biochemistry Required for Medical School? 

Biochemistry may or may not be required, although it’s often recommended. When in doubt, it’s always best to check the requirements of the schools you want to apply to. 

Is Anatomy Required for Medical School?

Anatomy courses may or may not be required, depending on the schools you apply to. However, like biochemistry, schools may recommend applicants take anatomy courses. 

Do All Med Schools Have the Same Prerequisites? 

No, medical schools generally have similar requirements, but not the same. Some medical schools may have only recommended courses! It’s best to always check program requirements before applying. 

Final Thoughts 

Many medical schools don’t require prerequisites, but they’re always recommended. Prerequisite courses are valuable tools to help build your knowledge; they’ll make your tests less stressful and your journey through medical school more manageable. 

Some schools have a long list of mandatory prerequisites, so you should research the medical school requirements of each school you are interested in for at least two years before you begin applying. Good luck! 

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