FAQ Pre-med courses, AP/IB/etc. credit and college/DE courses, etc.

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.

Item G is what most high-school students should be worried about (especially if you’re applying to BS/MD programs, which can require you to submit all college transcripts.) IMO, if you think you’ll get a low B or C in a dual-credit class, then 110% don’t sign-up for the dual-credit or take the class Pass/No-Pass (which does not factor into your GPA.) As pointed out in @ucbalumnus and @WayOutWestMom 's OP, Medical schools are DEFINITELY smart enough to know the difference in difficulty between a dual-credit class AND an actual college class, so the perceived benefit of receiving an A is meaningless if you don’t ACTUALLY receive an A.

Also, if you do decide to sign-up for the dual-credit, MAKE SURE YOU READ THE SYLLABUS! Many dual-credit courses are graded differently for the high school credit vs. the college credit. For example, a dual-credit course I took had projects, graded notes, and exams; while the projects and graded notes were counted in your high school grade, ONLY the exams were counted towards the dual-credit grade (so you could have an A for the HS class but a B on your college transcript.) There are usually different registration, grade change, and drop/withdraw deadlines for dual-credit classes, especially if the class corresponds to a year-long course spanning multiple semesters/quarters of the college’s calendar, so keep those in mind. It’s much better to withdraw from the course rather than waiting until a F is posted to your transcript.

Hope that helps!

Also, thank you so much @ucbalumnus and @WayOutWestMom for creating this FAQ!!

We chose dual enrollment program for my son as quite frankly, the education at his high school is low level even in AP (I worked there, I can 100% attest to AP classes being a mess and dysfunctional).

My question is:
How do those classes affect him if the school doesn’t take the course for transfer credit?

He has taken Bio I, Chem I, and is in Physics I now. He has earned As in the formers but doesnt seem like the classes will transfer to some of the schools he wants to attend, which means he would have to take Bio I and Chem I again??

It doesn’t matter whether the course credits transfer or not. AMCAS doesn’t concern itself with transfer credit policies of specific colleges.

For the purposes of medical school admission, every single college level class your son has ever taken MUST be reported to AMCAS (and AACOMAS and TMDSAS) when he goes to apply to medical school. It doesn’t matter whether some of those credits were not counted by his college of record toward fulfilling graduation requirements.

If his post HS college does not accept his transfer credits and he has to retake those science classes, he still has to report the dual enrollment classes and their grades. He will then mark the classes taken at his post HS college as “repeated” if he is required to retake the same classes** he had taken for dual enrollment but for which his post HS college did not accept the credit.

**exact titles of the classes don’t matter. What matters is whether the material covered in the 2 classes is substantially the same.

RE: @PikachuRocks15 comment about taking a dual enrollment class as a pass/no pass option.

Students are still obligated to report dual enrollment courses taken as P/F when they apply to medical school. Although P/F grades don’t influence GPA calculations, they will appear on your transcript and on medical school school applications.

Because medical school do not accept P/F classes as fulfilling admission requirements and because colleges do not accept P/F classes as meeting graduation requirements within majors, students with P/F dual enrollment credits will still need to retake that class for a grade in college. Those college classes will be marked as a “repeat” by AMCAS/AACOMAS/TMDSAS and will be negatively perceived by adcomms.

Using the P/F option for pre-req classes is a poor idea.

I was doing some analysis for a member about university of arizona. I found that they bypassed most of the one year requirements for biology, chemistry etc but added courses like these as required. when you review the course requirements, they show biology, chemistry etc as prerequisites, essentially prolonging the requirements by an additional 4 courses on top of the basics.

It seems to work out better with AP/Dual credits from Arizona where they are skipping biology and going straight to physiology, molecular biology etc.

https://medicine.arizona.edu/admissions/key-info/requirements

I second this. S took dual credit chem at the HS. Going into the final he knew it was pretty much impossible to get an A, and also he needed only 40% on the final to keep his B. So he didn’t study for it and bombed the final. He figured it didn’t make any difference.

He did keep his B at the HS, but it dropped him to a C at the college, because they double-weighted the final. He didn’t realize that.

He’s not pre-med, so not a huge deal. But he has a 3.8 GPA on the classes he has actually taken at college, and IIRC 3.6 something when that C gets averaged in. It was taken at an affiliated U to his current school, so the grade transferred along with the credit.

I know, this thread is almost 7 months old, I am new to this website. I just read this and have a question. Basically, what you’re saying is that don’t take the AP exams since there is a possibility that medical school isn’t going to count the higher level classes? For example if you take AP Biology exam and got a 5 and your UG College gives you credit for Bio101 and the college recommends that you take Bio201. However some medical school might not accept your Bio201 class(?). I know you mentioned that you have to check the medical school you’re going to apply to, but since you have no idea which medical school is going to accept you, shouldn’t you just play it safe and not take the AP exams while in HS? Or should you take the AP exams and not submit your scores to your UG college so that you don’t get credit for it? Will medical school know that you took the AP classes and didn’t submit your AP scores to your UG college?

Med schools generally want one year of Bio with lab. A student can use their AP credit in college, but then they need to take a higher level Bio class to fulfill the requirement.

@orchid_2020

I know you mentioned that you have to check the medical school you’re going to apply to, but since you have no idea which medical school is going to accept you, shouldn’t you just play it safe and not take the AP exams while in HS?

This is highly personal decision and it will depend a lot on the AP policies of the university/college you enroll in as well as the AP policies of your high school. Some schools have policies that require any students enrolled in AP classes to take the AP exam. The exam is considered part of the coursework. No exceptions.

Plus, not every college will apply AP credit toward fulfilling their major graduation requirements. For example, my daughter’s college took her AP credit and gave her 3 credits toward bio 101–which does not fulfill graduation requirements for science majors. Science majors need to take bio 110. This meant when she took bio 110 she was not repeating a class. Her AP bio credit appeared on her transcript but was not applied toward her graduation requirements, and, because AP credit has no grade, it was never included in her GPA calculations.

Nearly all medical schools will allow students to substitute an UL elective (with labs) for any intro level course where AP credit used. Those disallowing the substitution are a small minority of schools.

You can check the MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements) database at AMCAS and see what your state med schools’ policies are on AP credits. (Your home state’s med schools are always a pre-med’s best chance for an acceptance.) Or even better, check the websites of the med schools themselves.

Or should you take the AP exams and not submit your scores to your UG college so that you don’t get credit for it?

That’s one way to handle the issue. But see above.

Will medical school know that you took the AP classes and didn’t submit your AP scores to your UG college?

Medical schools have no access to your high school records. Med school won’t see you took AP classes in high school unless it’s recorded on your college transcript.

Thanks for answering. Since your daughter was a science major and needed bio 110 to meet her graduation requirements, what happens if someone who is a computer science or engineering major? Those majors don’t need a biology requirements, so they take an intro biology class that is geared for non-biology majors, would Med school accept that bio class or do they need to take the bio 110 (graduation requirements for a Biology major)? Also, since there are soo many kind of bio, chemistry, math classes etc, how would you know which classes you need to take that will prepare you for the MCAT? For example would bio 101 or bio 110 prepare you for the MCAT or would you need to take bio 201 or other UL classes ?

Pre meds are required to take the science major version of all science & math pre-reqs regardless of what their actual major is. Med schools do not accept the non-science major version as fulfilling admission requirements.

Many undergrads offer as many as 3 different science tracks–one for humanities and other non-science majors ; one for nursing and allied health majors; and one for science majors. For med school, only the courses which bio and chem majors would normally take are acceptable for admission purposes.

AMCAS offers information about and prep materials for the MCAT. This site lists the topics covered in each of 4 subsections of the MCAT.

You can compare the topics listed in the course description/syllabus with topics tested on the MCAT to see if your course covered the topics needed and then you can decide if you want to take addition UL elective to fill knowledge gaps or to expand your knowledge base.

Be aware that no college class will actually prepare you for the MCAT. Your college coursework only gives you the basic background knowledge needed for the MCAT. Just taking the coursework alone isn’t adequate preparation for the MCAT. You will need to study on your own for several weeks/months before you sit for your MCAT exam.

If you consult the MSAR or look on the individual websites of med schools, you’ll find a list of recommended additional UL bio electives. Most med schools recommend or require biochemistry, genetics, human anatomy & physiology in addition to a year of intro bio. Some may also recommend cellular bio and microbiology.

MSAR = Medical School Admission Requirements™ for Applicants | AAMC

In my daughter’s case, she took BIO 110, 111 (one year intro bio for majors), plus she took genetics (with lab), biochemistry, neurobiology and variety biology-based neuroscience classes and ecology (distribution requirement for her major). She was a biological neuroscience and math double major

My other daughter was a physics & math major so she took fewer bio classes. She had a year of intro bio, plus biochem, and one semester of human anatomy (with dissection).

Both did fine on their MCATs, but both also spend literally hundreds of hours preparing for it.