Medical School Requirements

Requirements for medical school and the MCAT through 2014

Most medical (and dental) schools have the following common requirements for admission. Applicants need to have completed all of the courses before application. Many science majors will find that the science requirements are fulfilled as they complete their major course requirements, though the purpose of these requirements is to encourage students to consider any major. A Medical School Preparation Primer has been developed to help students think through their course selections.

  • Chemistry - 4 semesters (Atoms and Molecules (General Chemistry I), Organic Chemistry I & II, Equilibrium and Reactivity (General Chemistry II)).  Some schools also require a semester of biochemistry. 
  • Biology - 2 semesters (Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology (Biol 161), Introduction to the Functional Biology of Multicellular Organisms (Biol 162)) or (Introduction to Biology 1 & 2 or General Biology 1 & 2)
  • Mathematics - 2 semesters (e.g. Calculus II equivalent or statistics)  (Starting in 2014-5, Physics 2 will not require Calculus 2)
  • Physics - 2 semesters (General Physics I & II or General Physics in Daily Life I & II.  The lab is included with each course.)
  • English - 2 semesters (any English Department course and an additional literature course taught in English)


2015 MCAT

The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) will undergo an overhaul for spring 2015, detailed at the MCAT 2015 web site. The final dates for the old MCAT will be in January 2015.  The new MCAT will test "competencies", i.e., skills and content, from the above courses and the following additional courses:

  • Biochemistry - 1 semester (taken in either the chemistry or biology departments)
  • Calculus - 1 semester (Calculus 1 or equivalent) (Starting in 2014-5, Physics 2 will not require Calculus 2)
  • Statistics - 1 semester (taken in either the student's major - e.g. psychology, sociology, economics, biology, etc. - or the 200-level mathematics course)
  • Psychology and sociology - 2 semesters (Introduction to Psychology and The Sociological Perspective)

In addition, there will be a new section called "Critical Analysis and Reasoning" which will require students to understand and apply information in reading passages from a variety of disciplines, including ethics, philosophy, and social sciences, but does not assume specific knowledge of these disciplines. Students may consider taking a course in ethics to fulfill their philosophy requirement.

A note about knowledge competencies:  The AAMC describes new MCAT2015 as testing "competencies" rather than specific course content.  In response, some medical schools are changing their admissions requirements to a "knowledge competency" approach rather than specific course requirements.  However, medical schools expect these competencies will normally be met by taking traditional courses.  This competency approach does leave open the possibility of an applicant meeting competencies outside of normal courses.  For example, a biological psychology class might meet the psychology competency (rather than a traditional introductory psychology course).  Or, an applicant might acquire the competency in biochemistry by working in a professional laboratory.  However, in these cases, the applicant will have to document she or he met the competency in concrete ways - for example, by submitting a syllabus or detailed letter.

General advice

When planning courses, students should also examine requirements for individual medical schools; a growing number of medical schools require biochemistry and statistics before 2015, for example. In addition, we have developed the Medical School Preparation Primer to aid your thinking through course selections for basic sciences over four years at Holy Cross. The Biology Department also has a useful page of advice for students seeking admission to medical school, including a list of additional courses which may be helpful.  The American Association of Medical Colleges provides a wealth of information for aspiring physicians.

Students may also apply to EAP programs at University at Buffalo (SUNY) School of Medicine and SUNY-Upstate Medical University. Applying to medical school is a very difficult decision for a second-year student to make, so any student considering this option should meet with the Associate Health Professions Advisor (or the Health Professions Advisor) to discuss these programs.