Calculus AP credit for Med school?

Should my son use his AP credit for Calculus AB (scored a 5) or retake it in college for med school? Some people say he should retake the Calc I for a good grade and then biostat to end his math sequence without taking Calc II, but he thinks it will be boring to retake Calc I. Is that true, or is it better for him to retake Calc I and Calc II? Would the Calc grade be part of the science grade? Thank you in advance!

Another option is to take calculus 2, assuming that is the college’s recommended placement and he checks his knowledge with the college’s old calculus 1 final exams.

Taking calculus 1 would mean marking it as a “repeat” on the medical school application.

AP credit can be a more complicated subject than it seems:

– Most medical schools do not specifically require calculus as a pre-req. So unless your state med school(s) requires calc or his major requires calc, whether he uses his AP credit or not is pretty irrelevant.

If he’s planning to major in chemistry, biochemistry, or any flavor of engineering, calc 2 will be required for his degree. So he may want to use his AP credit for calc 1 and start with calc 2.

(BTW, there are a small number of medical schools that specifically require Calc 2 for admission. Off the top of my head-- Harvard, WashU, Carle-Illinois.)

–Regardless of what he decides to do about his AP Calc credit, he need to take stats or bio stats since stats is heavily tested on the MCAT and it’s a pre-req at most med schools.

–Math grades are included in sGPA calculation for allopathic med schools, but not for osteopathic med schools

My personal opinion--retaking calc 1 is waste of his time.  (Plus there is no guarantee he'll ace it when he takes it at his college. College grading curves can be killers.) 

Both of my daughters used their AP calc credit to gain advanced standing in math and then added either a math minor or a second major. A math minor or major greatly improves post graduation employability and will offer your son more options for his Plan B.

Every pre-med needs to have a Plan B career option because fewer than 40% of med school applicants get an acceptance.  

Rice’s Pre-Health Advising Office annually publishes a list of med school AP credit policies:

Rice OAA:

July 2020 List:

My pre-health advisor (I go to Brown) said it’s fine to take AP Calc credit. The recommendation is to take at least one math class in college (Stats is recommended.)

A student applying to medical school needs to find out what their medical schools require. Frankly, it doesn’t matter at all what the undergrad school allows or thinks is OK.

As @WayOutWestMom noted, if a medical school requires calculus, the student applying to that medical school will need to show that they have taken it at the college level, or that they have taken higher level math that shows the competency is there.

Using the AP credit to gain advanced standing (into Calc2) may depend on the school: there are many schools that recommend even students with 5s “retake” the course as their own Calc2 is better prepared for(i.e. easier to be successful) by taking their own Calc1. My undergrad requires a 5 to even consider the AB skip and even then they encourage re-taking. Most of my friends re-took their AB or BC credit. I did not–I used my 5s to start in more advanced Calc(MVC, calc3) and it was the right choice for me. Half of my small freshman MVC class dropped back to calc 2 in the first 2 weeks, despite that being the class designed for frosh coming in with AP credit. Part of the purpose may have been weed-out! The same thing happened with organic chem freshman: very few of us stayed the course. The college advising was upfront about how hard both would be and advised against doing either, but let those of us try who wanted to. So ask the specific college, if that is possible.

If he fills out a form to “decline AP credit,” it won’t show up as “repeat” on the transcript sent to med school, will it?

I can tell you that I never used my calculus at all in medicine. But even to this day I feel the deficiency of not having a good background in Statistics. You need Stat to intelligently evaluate the statistical validity of scientific data and clinical trial results all the time in medicine. Unless he is applying to a school that insists on Calculus, I would recommend he take Statistics (whether or not the med schools that he is applying to require Stat).

No, you only need to report AP Credit that you accepted and is listed on your transcript. Even then, you don’t report the test scores, only the test name, amount of credit, and what it equates to (if your school provides course equivalency.)


Note that unless an undergrad records AP credit as equivalent to a specific course offered at the college, medical schools will not accept AP credits as fulfilling admission requirements. That’s because it shows up on the transcript as general credit in a subject area.

e.g. AP Bio (score 5)-- 4 credits biology

The notation on your transcript needs to look something like this:

AP Bio (score =5) – 4 credits BIO 1001

otherwise med schools won’t accept the credit as fulfilling admission requirement.

The thinking is that if your own undergrad doesn’t consider AP class as equivalent to a specific course (like into bio, gen chem, calc 1, etc) offered at the college, then the med school won’t either.

@“mom in va”

The safest option if your son isn’t going to accept credit for his AP class/score is simply to not send his AP scores to the college.

This because although he may decline the credits, depending on the specific policy of the college, AP test results may still show up on the transcript.

Too late to edit the above

@“mom in va”
If your son doesn’t want to take Calc 2, but still wants to have 2 college math classes on his transcript, I suggest he take statistics for science majors (which can be offered through the math dept or through some other department like biology or psychology. But NOT business. Business stats covers different topics and uses different analysis methods than those used in the sciences.) Then take biostatistics for his second math class.

Both classes are enormously useful in medicine.

Or if he wants something a bit different–probability (which is distinct from statistics) which D2 said she found enormously interesting. Many of its concepts are useful in medicine w/r/t risk management.

RE: calculus and medicine. Both Ds lamented “there is no math in med school”, but D1 says that calculus actually has some applications in anesthesiology and cardiology. (She loves her specialty but said if she had to choose another field it would be interventional cardiology with a subspecialty in electrophysiology.)

Thanks for clarifying @WayOutWestMom !

@mom in va I’ll also add that the AP credit that shows up on your internal academic record can be different from how it appears on your actual transcript. For example, I graduated from HS with an Associates and while my internal academic record provides me with course equivalencies for my AP tests to satisfy degree requirements, my official transcript lumps all of the AP credit together as “AP Credit-----total # of credits.” Make sure that he confirms with his advisor that the AP credit will be listed with the corresponding equivalency on his OFFICIAL transcript, not just the internal record.

If any test provides placement credit only (lets you take the higher course,) it might not show up on his external transcript, so confirm with his advisor when discussing pre-med requirements.

If your son is considering skipping Calc I at his college, see if the college offers its own placement test for math and be sure he takes it. If not, see if he can talk with the math department to get a copy of a previous semester’s final and take that or at least look at it to be sure he feels he would do well.

I’ve seen kids who did well in AP not do well in college in Calc 2 and I’ve seen kids do fine. The difference appears to be:

  1. The rigor of the course in college - some schools, esp science heavy schools, go far more in depth than others do.

  2. How well the student shifts over to a college atmosphere - if they major or minor in party assuming they can study tomorrow, there’s often a problem.

  3. How well they truly understood the math involved vs memorized how to do it. This can be less of a problem with Calculus and a terrific AP score (vs without the test) than with lower math courses, but it’s still a problem. Calculators are not always allowed if a student was too dependent on those. Check with the college, and perhaps, class.

There is no single answer that suits everyone.

For my background I have 20+ years teaching math and/or science at our local high school. I had my own pre-med lad retake Calc 1 at his school. It was an easy A for him, but he was glad he did because his school was more difficult so it prepared him well for Calc 2. Several of his friends told him they wish they had instead of moving on. He also took Bio and Chem at the same time getting As in all (never did get a B in college). Had he gone to a different school my thoughts could have been different.

Both my daughters did engineering in college but their schools differed in offering credit.

One school started out listing credit for specific AP and IB classes but when they took an equivalent class in college, the credit went to zero although they left the name on the transcript which looked like this - AP Math Calc BC 0 credits, AP Chemistry - 0 credits AP Physics B 8 credits. What it means is that she took equivalent class for both Math and Chemistry in college while she started at a higher level in Physics retaining her original credits. In theory, the Physics grade was sufficient to meet premed requirments but she took so many additional physics classes for the engineering major they were useless.

The other school had a different way of doing things. They gave a lumpsum of maximum AP and IB credits, capped at 16 semester equivalents. She started at Calculus III in the college even though it was risky for grades but she did well. When it came time to file medical school application, the school essentially said split your 16 credits any which way you want to support your medical school app knowing that we are not officially giving you credit for any class or specific AP. So they could not be used for any requirements.

Calculus is useful in some areas of medicine:

Also, a good knowledge of calculus can help understand statistics better.

And physics.

Calculus was literally invented to solve certain types of basic physics problems involving motion and gravity.

@WayOutWestMom Regarding your comment that fewer than 40% of med school applicants get an acceptance, is that for first time applicants? It seems incredibly high that 60% work hard to apply only to be rejected. Do the rates go up if they do a post bac or take a gap year to augment their application?

@“mom in va”
AMCAS doesn’t routinely publish data on first time applicants vs reapplicants and acceptances rates. The last data are from the 2017-2018 application cycle.

During that cycle ~39,000 of the 53,000 applicants (or 73%) were first time applicants.

Miller School of Medicine ( UMiami) reported about 20% of their applicants last year were reapplicants.

As for whether reapplicants do better–the answer is no, they don’t. They do the same or worse.

Reapplicants are expected to have significantly improved their application over their previous application and to have remediated any weaknesses in their CV.

So whether a post-bacc or gap year helps depends on why they were rejected in the first place.

If their academics were lacking, then a grade enhancing post-bacc may help.

If their ECs are lacking then one or more gap years that are focussed on improving their ECs may help.

But there are no guarantees.

(BTW, the current trend in med school applications is to only apply to med school for the first time after one or more gap years. More than 65% of medical school matriculants report taking 2-3 gap years before matriculation per the MSQ.)

As for the low acceptance rate–that has held pretty steady for the past 50 years. In the mid 80s, it dipped down to a 32% acceptance for 3 years. In the early 2000s, it rose to about 48% for 2 years. But except for those few years, the acceptance rate has hovered between 39-43%.

For the 2019-2020 application cycle, there were over 53,000 applicants for about 21,000 seats. This current cycle has seen a very significant jump in the number of applicants ( +6.5% over last year) so I expect this year’s overall acceptance rate to drop.

BTW, acceptance rate only applies to those students who persist and actually apply to medical school. It’s estimated that between 60-75% of freshmen pre-meds will never actually apply to medical school for a myriad of reasons, most of them having nothing to do with academics.

Getting a med school acceptance is a very competitive process.

@WayOutWestMom can clarify…

I am pretty sure she means the %age of applicants who get accepted to medical school at all is within this range.

The actual acceptance rates for each medical and DO school are way lower than 39-43%.

Am I right?

The 40% acceptance is aggregate rate–for all applicants at all medical schools.

Acceptance rates for individual med schools are very low, ranging from 2% to 27%.
Lowest: FSU (2.2%)
Highest: LSU-Shreveport (27.1%),