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Medical School Prerequisites: The Complete Guide for 2022

May 16, 2022
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What are Prerequisites? Common Med School PrerequisitesIdeal Timeline for Medical School Prerequisite CoursesPrerequisites at Top Medical SchoolsMedical School Prerequisite FAQs

Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 5/16/22

Thinking about becoming a doctor? This guide will walk you through all the prerequisites for medical schools.

Applying to medical school is an exciting and challenging process. You’ll want to make sure you’ve ticked the right boxes during your preparation before you start applying to schools. Every medical school has a unique set of requirements, and it’s crucial to check them out well before turning in your application. 

A typical requirement for medical school is a list of prerequisite courses. You should ensure you’ve completed all the necessary prerequisite courses. 

At this point, some questions may arise. What are prerequisites? What prerequisites do I need? How many should I take? When should I 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 later success in your program. Professors will refer to what you’ve learned from your prerequisites throughout your program, so completing each recommended course is critical.

Other than containing valuable information to help you through your program, certain prerequisites are mandatory. The program will reject you unless you have completed its prerequisite courses. You should check the application requirements for your program long before you intend to apply to give yourself time to prepare.

Examples of prerequisites for medical schools are biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and English. These courses help you build foundational knowledge that you can apply in various areas. 

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Common Med School Prerequisites

Now you’re probably wondering, what prerequisites do I need for med school? All medical schools require high levels of understanding of science and math. These are always necessary for medical school. 

Some schools have expanded their required courses to include English, psychology, sociology, and biochemistry.

Common Required Courses

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

Other Prerequisites

Now, let’s cover some other prerequisites for medical 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 each prerequisite before applying. 

You should also include other things you want to add to your application in this timeline. Of course, you should have enough time to get clinical experience, research experience, volunteer, acquire letters of recommendation, take your tests (multiple times if necessary), and take your prerequisite courses. 

You can take up to five courses a semester at any typical university. You could probably take your prerequisites all in one semester for most medical schools. It would probably be best to spread out these courses as they are intense, and you’ll need time to prepare for other areas of your application.

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 for five of the country’s leading medical schools.


Harvard’s medical school prerequisites are listed on their website as required or encouraged. It is a highly competitive school, and taking all the courses on their list is recommended. Harvard’s prerequisite courses are:

For each of Harvard’s med school prereqs, you must take at least one year. 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 to getting into Harvard.

NYU Grossman 

NYU Grossman does not have mandatory prerequisites; however, it does have a list of recommended courses to take before applying. U.S. News has named Grossman the No. 2 medical school for research in the U.S. Here are its recommended courses:

Although Grossman does not 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.

Duke University

Duke University School of Medicine has a detailed list of prerequisites and the courses you can choose between on its website. Duke University School of Medicine’s recommended and required courses are as follows:

Each of Duke’s medical school prerequisites has a different number of courses and amount of time required. Duke has recommendations on how to take the courses together.

Columbia University

There are several minimum prerequisites for Columbia medical school. Further information on which courses are acceptable provides a detailed course option list online. Its prerequisite courses are:

Prerequisites for Columbia medical school also include CPR and first-aid certification alongside other standard application materials. As Columbia’s list of prerequisites is longer than usual, we recommend planning at least three years of your undergraduate education around its course requirements if you plan to apply.


Stanford Medicine does not have specific course requirements to ensure its application requirements are inclusionary. However, it does recommend coursework that endorses knowledge in these areas:

Stanford’s recommended areas of study correlate with the AAMC’s 15 Core Competencies, which fall into the categories of: 

For more information on how to get into this medical school, check out our guide to getting into Stanford medical school.

Medical School Prerequisite FAQs

Here are answers to the frequently asked questions about prerequisite courses for medical school. 

1. What Are the Prerequisites for Medical School?

Every medical school has different prerequisite requirements. Generally speaking, most schools require biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and English.

2. Are There Medical Schools Without Prerequisites?

Many medical schools do not have prerequisite course requirements, so you can apply to med school without them. However, prereqs will prepare you for your future courses. You can take a pre-med program to build the foundational knowledge you’ll need. 

Some medical schools without prerequisites include:

All of these programs require a bachelor’s degree. Although they do not have specific prerequisite courses, they still highly recommend a strong background in science. 

3. Can You Retake Med School Prerequisite Courses?

If you’ve done poorly on a prerequisite, you can always retake it. Before doing so, you should research your school’s stance on retaking prereqs. Depending on the school, retaking courses can potentially damage your applicant profile.

4. 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 also planned for a minimum of one year of English and math.

5. Can You Take the MCAT Without Taking Prerequisites?

There are no required courses for the MCAT. However, taking the MCAT without prerequisites is not recommended. Prerequisite courses provide opportunities to take notes, ask questions, and study with peers. If you plan on taking the MCAT without prereqs, seek guidance from a tutor.

6. What Courses Should I Take Before the MCAT?

It’s good to take all the prerequisites for the program you’re considering. You should build your knowledge by taking biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and English courses. 

7. Do Medical School Prerequisites Expire?

Most medical schools do not have a specific expiry date for prerequisites. If you wonder if your prerequisites will be acceptable, speak with an academic advisor or admissions consultant. 

8. 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 undergraduate study to ensure you’re fully prepared for medical school. 

Final Thoughts 

Many medical schools do not require prerequisites, but they are always recommended. Prerequisite courses are valuable tools to help build your knowledge before medical school. 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 prerequisites of each school you are interested in at least two years before you begin applying. Remember, while you could cram every prerequisite into one year, it will be stressful, and you may want to give yourself more time.

Generally speaking, every medical school will want you to grasp biology, chemistry, physics, math, and English before entering your degree. To be safe, you may also want to add biochemistry, anatomy, psychology, and statistics to your course load.

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