Coming into medical school without the necessary background knowledge is impossible. Practically speaking. Medical schools have prerequisites that must be fulfilled before entering medical school. Before those prerequisites are explained, it must be emphasized that prerequisites are for BEFORE you enter medical school. You can absolutely get accepted into medical school while taking the prerequisites or even get accepted into a medical school before having taken the prerequisites. They must be done and your final grades just have to be submitted before school starts. (If you’re worried about getting your acceptance rescinded if you do not do as well as expected in the later prerequisite classes, there is going to be another article that addresses that fear.)

Prerequisites are necessary for all students applying to medical school, regardless of your major.

These prerequisites just show you have foundational knowledge that will carry you through and support you in medical school. There are strict science courses, humanities courses, and other courses they would like to see, that are not requirements.

1 year or 2 semesters or 3 quarters of Biology 1 year of lab is one of the necessary courses that has NEVER changed, understandably so. If you are wondering why it is about living organisms. It does not get more “foundational” than that. Now, some medical schools might call it Biological Sciences, just know it’s all the same thing. If you’re in a non-science major, take biology with a lab, if you’re in a life science major that does not have straight biology, but some form of biology with a lab, you are safe. You can always double-check if you are worried. This is for people majoring in biological sciences. 

1 year or 2 semesters or 3 quarters of Physics with 1 year of lab is a necessary course that also has never changed. Who knows why? It may seem like one of the more useless requirements, but if you don’t think physics concepts don’t show up in medicine, then tell me how to measure lipoprotein mass by flotation in an ultracentrifuge and whether it is a necessary technique in 2020. Still think it’s useless? Don’t worry, me too. Just take the class and move on.

Chemistry is where it gets weird. A mix of these classes is required, and you must check with the medical school in order to double-check and make sure you meet their requirements. I will give you a basic rundown of what most medical schools would like to see. 

Here are the most popular mixes that medical schools prefer:

1 year or 2 semesters or 3 quarters of Inorganic Chemistry with 1 year of lab

1 year or 2 semesters or 3 quarters of Organic Chemistry with 1 year of lab

1 semester of Biochemistry

This is a popular mix, and I would recommend it if you want to cover all your bases. This is the mix that allows you to not even worry about chemistry requirements. If you do this, then you’re all good to go.

1 year or 2 semesters or 3 quarters of Inorganic Chemistry with 1 year of lab

1 semester of Organic Chemistry with lab

1 semester of Biochemistry 

This is another sequence that medical schools tend to like. This also leaves you free for an extra semester unlike the sequence above. 

1 year or 2 semesters or 3 quarters of Inorganic Chemistry with 1 year of lab

1 year or 2 semesters or 3 quarters of Organic Chemistry with 1 year of lab

Some medical schools will call these two 4 years of Chemistry

If you are curious, no Biochemistry does not need to be done with a lab section, I would recommend not taking it with a lab unless you want to make that semester harder for yourself.

1 semester of Math (Calculus) and 1 semester of Statistics or 1 semester of Biostatistics

Who knows about medical schools? They are so picky! For this, I would recommend a semester of math, and a semester of statistics or biostatistics. A lot of medical schools don’t even care about these classes at all. You could not take these classes and be completely fine. I would recommend not to take that gamble, and just do a semester of calculus and a semester of either statistics or biostatistics. The other very easy thing would be to CONTACT THE MEDICAL SCHOOL and maybe all the schools on your list could not care less about taking any of these.

Moving on to the humanities and social sciences:

1 year or 2 semesters or 3 quarters of Writing or English

Medical schools like to see that you have studied English and writing in some form. You cannot get around this. 

1 semester of introductory psychology

1 semester of sociology

Some medical schools care about sociology, some don’t, most would prefer for you to take psychology if you had to take one. Check with each college. 

Both show up on the MCAT, so it will help you in that aspect. 


Take at least one, it can’t hurt. Sociology is not a humanities course, it is a social science. If you want to use sociology as a non-science course, call a school and ask whether you can or not.

Extras that schools may like to see:


Epidemiology or public health

Language (about 2-4 semesters, 1-2 years, or some odd mix)

Language, I would say to fit it in and some universities have it as a requirement. The rest, I don’t even know what to say. 

All in all, it is better to complete the necessary prerequisites first so that you do not have to worry about your list of medical schools you are applying to rather than having to shape your list based on what classes you didn’t take.  It is also important to keep a check on medical school’s requirements because they might be a little different or change as the years go by. Don’t prioritize what is not “necessary”, prioritize what is needed for you to become a well-rounded knowledgeable doctor that people can trust.