Frequently asked questions from pre-meds in college and prospective pre-meds in high school often involve AP/IB/etc. credit and college or dual enrollment courses taken while in high school. This page hopes to answer some of these questions. (Thanks to @WayOutWestMom for help writing this page.)
A. Course requirements and policies relating to the issues described here for specific medical schools can be found in the Medical School Admission Requirements™ (MSAR®); see https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/applying-medical-school-process/medical-school-admission-requirements/ (requires subscription or payment to see that part of each medical school’s profile). Medical schools may also list some information on their own web sites. Due to variation in requirements and policies, check the requirements and policies for each specific medical school that you are interested in.
B. Medical schools commonly require or expect applicants to have completed a set of pre-med courses while in college. These commonly include the following introductory-level courses, although specific medical schools may vary:
- 1 year of general chemistry with lab
- 1 year of general biology with lab
- 1 year of general physics with lab
- calculus and/or statistics (for science majors)
- 1 year of English writing/composition/language/literature/rhetoric
- introductory psychology
- introductory sociology
In addition, some more advanced courses are likely to be required or expected:
- 1 year of organic chemistry with lab (a few require 1 semester plus 1 semester of biochemistry instead)
- 1 semester of biochemistry
- other commonly required courses include genetics, human anatomy, human physiology, and/or cellular biology
See the MSAR® for each specific medical school’s requirements.
C. AP/IB/etc. credit is often accepted by colleges for many of the introductory level courses listed above (however, there is no AP exam for sociology).
D. Medical schools commonly do not accept AP/IB/etc. credit in lieu of pre-med course requirements (some medical schools accept AP/IB/etc. credit for some subjects but not others). Even if accepted, using AP/IB/etc. credit for a pre-med course requirement without additional advanced course work in the same subject area looks worse to medical school admission readers. For medical schools that do accept AP/IB/etc. credit, your college transcript must indicate equivalency to the college course in question (not all colleges do this). See the MSAR® for each specific medical school’s policies.
E. Medical schools may accept substitution of more advanced course work in the same subject area if the pre-med had skipped the introductory level course with AP/IB/etc. credit. But note:
- Medical schools’ policies vary; see the MSAR®. There may be conditions on acceptance of advanced course substitution, such as requiring permission in advance. Some medical schools that allow advanced course substitution may not allow it in all subjects.
- Advanced course substitution for general chemistry should not be other pre-med courses like organic chemistry or biochemistry, but other chemistry courses like advanced inorganic, analytical, or physical chemistry.
- There are typically no more advanced physics courses after physics-for-biology-majors or AP physics 1 or 2. Taking more advanced physics courses typically requires taking physics-for-physics-majors.
- Advanced courses may require additional prerequisites and be populated by stronger students (those in that major) than the introductory courses.
F. Taking the introductory-level course in college after having received AP/IB/etc. credit for it will require marking the course as a “repeat” when listing course work on the medical school application. Many medical schools will see this as grade-grubbing, and some explicitly state not to do that. However, sometimes there is no way to avoid a repeat if you have AP/IB/etc. credit for something that a medical school you want to apply to does not accept and does not allow advanced course substitution for. See the MSAR® for each specific medical school’s policies.
G. College or dual enrollment courses taken while in high school and the grades earned must be reported on medical school applications along with all other college courses. A (or A+) grades will help, but B+ or lower grades will exert a downward pull on college GPA for pre-med purposes.
H. Many medical schools do not accept or look down on pre-med courses taken at community colleges or in online / distance format (which are commonly used for dual enrollment programs and may be more convenient for many high school students taking college courses). Taking more advanced courses in the subject area in person at a four year school may mitigate this disadvantage. (Courses in online / distance format for COVID-19 reasons may be treated as another special case.) See the MSAR® for each specific medical school’s policies.