Best stats course for pre-med?

I am hoping to get advice on which statistics course I should take as a prerequisite for medical school applications and/or in preparation for taking the MCAT. I am a rising junior on the pre-med path and am planning to take a statistics course next school year. My school has two intro statistics courses I could choose from: “Introduction to Statistics” (100-level) and “Statistics with Applications” (200-level). Both are designed for students who have never taken a stats class before, but the 200-level one is more oriented towards STEM students and those with stronger math capabilities. The 200-level course also involves more statistical application examples (hence the name) and usage of the statistical software R.

I have always been strong in math but am mostly worried about taking the 200-level course as I have heard it involves many hours of busy work outside of class and because I will also be taking both biochem and genetics during that semester.

Any advice would be much appreciated. Would it give me much of an advantage in medical school admissions to have taken a higher level stats course? Will it benefit me in medical school and/or in a career as a physician (i.e. – what level of statistical knowledge do I need for medicine?) to take a higher level stats course? Would knowing higher level stats benefit me on the MCAT? Or, on the other hand, would a 100-level basic intro to stats course be sufficient?

Sorry for the long-winded question! Being wordy is a [bad] habit of mine :slight_smile: Thanks in advance for any help

This site suggests that while statistics represents an important foundational course for premed students, including as pertains to MCAT preparation, your approach to choosing a specific course can be flexible and based on your interests:

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What does your school’s pre-health advisor recommend? Thoughts @WayOutWestMom?

Are both stats classes offered through the math department? What topics and methods are covered in each class?

The stats questions on the MCAT are very basic – mean, median, mode, standard deviations, and interpretation of p and r values.

If you’re anxious about the amount of time the 200 level class requires, and the 100 level class covers all of the above topics, then take the 100 level class.

Just be aware that should you be accepted into med school, your coursework will include topics in higher level stats/biostats and you will need to teach yourself more stats on the fly.

As a physician, you will be using probability theory plus a broad background is statistical analysis to access clinical guidelines and evidence summaries, explain levels of risk to patients, assess medical marketing and advertising material, interpret the results of a screening test, read research publications for general professional interest, and use research publications to explore non-standard treatment and management options. A strong understanding of statistics is one of the foundational skills of a physician.

P.S. Learning how to use R is a a very useful skill to have should you not gain an acceptance to med school. Knowing how to use various data analytical software packages, or knowing how to code using MatLab or do some computer coding/scripting will improve your post graduation job options a great deal.

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R is indeed a very powerful and fantastic software tool; however, be aware that the learning curve for R can be steep, depending on how your professor uses R for the class. Your professor might give very explicit instructions such as load the data and run these commands, or tell the students to learn R (syntax and all). I guess the format would be a blend of the extremes, starting with type-these-lines-in, to go-have-fun-with-these-data toward the end. You can install R (free for all platforms) and try it out now; if you do, then also install R-studio (free basic version), a user-friendlier interface to help with your learning experience. R is used throughout the world in almost all fields; help and resources are readily available.

Is there another option available as a Biostatistics course which may cover applications in biological science ? It may cover similar thing at a higher level (200- or 300- level). Statistics may be useful in all your medical school related tests including board certification examinations in future.

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I just emailed her (my school’s pre-health adviser) asking that question, so I will let you know what she says. I have asked her about stats courses in the past but she has never told me that any one is better than the others. My school offers three stats courses: intro to stats (100-level), psychology statistics (200-level), and stats with applications (200-level). I had forgotten about the psych stats option as it is technically in the psych department rather than math, but I have heard from pre-health students that this class felt equally applicable to bio so maybe I should consider it.


Thank you! This is all very helpful. I think the intro stats course at my school covers all of those basic topics so it should be okay to take that one. I also forgot about another stats course that my school offers: psychological statistics. This is technically in the math department, but I’ve heard from biology students who have taken it that psychological stats is similar to biological statistics and they felt it was very beneficial. So I am also considering that course. And my major adviser told me similar things about the value of knowing how to use R, so I think that would be the main advantage of that course.

This is incredibly helpful. Thank you! I will consider tinkering around with R software to get a feel for it.

Unfortunately my school doesn’t have biostatistics, but they do offer a psychological statistics course in the psychology department. It’s a lower 200-level and I’ve heard it’s applicable to biology as well. So this might be a good option. I had totally forgotten about this course.

The psych-based stats class will fulfill med school admission requirements. (And on AMCAS, you can list the class as BCMP class if the primary content of the class is statistics, not psychology.)


Texas application accepts specific stats classes by college as acceptable. One can use this to figure out what is a good class to take at their school.

Putting aside the value of knowing R or having strong background in stats (which is VERY useful in medicine) the med school admissions committees are not going to get that granular when looking at your transcript. They will see the grade and that it is part of your science GPA. That’s it. They don’t have the time to ponder the value of individual course.

Please note that depending on the a stats course taken in the psych dept or even biostats might not be counted as a science /math course by AMCAS.

FYI, a Biostatistics course was counted as BIOL ( a science BCMP course) by AMCAS in a recently verified application. Do not know about a PSY statistics course.

Weird, because AMCAS’ own Course Classification Guide lists biostatistics under Math, not Biology

Generally speaking, during verification, AMCAS accepts whatever classification an applicant declares for a class, regardless of the departmental designator that appears on a student’s transcript.

So if a student marked a biostats class as BIOL, then AMCAS will classify it as BIOL class. But if I student marked it as a MTH, then AMCAS will classify it as MTH.

AMCAS will only challenge an applicant’s course designation if the designation and the course description are egregiously at odds.

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