BreakThru Learning: Pre-Medical Class Strategies

Learner Series

How to Stay Focused and Be Successful in Your Pre-Med Classes

Table of Contents

Why is This Talk Important?

Getting into medical school is hard. After I got in, one doctor joked "Good Job! Getting in is the hard part you know!" After having finished nearly four years + an MBA, I’m not sure I totally agree, there have definitely been a lot of hard parts after getting in. But I can say getting in is really freaking hard.

Let's look at just the numbers. According to the AAMC, in 2019, 53,371 students applied to medical schools. However, only 21,869 of those applicants were accepted into at least one medical school. In other words, 54% of applicants got rejected to every medical school they applied to.

In 2019, the average science GPA of all applicants was 3.48. However, the average science GPA of all matriculates was higher at 3.66.


Strategic Class Selection

Which Should You Pick?

Class A: Biochemistry at State U., where the average grade is a C+

Class B: Biochemistry at State U., where the average grade is a B+

Class C: Biochemistry at Local Community College where the average grade is a B-

The Point

Class selection needs to be strategic.

Pick classes and sections that’ll maximize your chance for success. But also consider classes in undergrad that you’re interested in and that are enriching.

Never lose sight of your end-goal. Consider class is a step towards that goal. Easier and harder sections of that same class can either create a barrier that keeps you from moving forward or bridge that helps you.

Don’t pick the hardest class just to prove something and conversely don’t just pick the easiest class to slack off.

Make sure you put in the work in classes that’ll serve you well later. Genetics and physiology are particularly high yield during that first year of medical school!

It Depends...

1. Does your dream medical school give preference to classes at a university vs a community college?

2. Who is teaching these classes? - Ask friends, check rate my professor, do your research

3. Why are people saying they got these grades? An easy 'A' now might translate to problems down the road when you need to recall this knowledge.

4. Your own strengths and weaknesses. Is Biochem a class you know you’ll excel or struggle in?

In the end it all comes down to doing your research and knowing your strengths and weaknesses.

Some Class tips you Need to know


Be Smart. Study Smart and Use Supplementary Materials

OFTEN the path to an A is NOT a straight line. Doing your homework, reading the book, and studying notes will sometimes just not be enough.

Set yourself apart by using highly-rated resources like Khan Academy or books like Organic Chemistry as a Second Language. Sometimes you can even surpass the class by knowing how to do harder problems. If you reach this point you should be set for any of your exams.


Do Your Homework!!

Homework is usually essential to being successful in class. Usually quite literally, as there will be a homework grade.

Keep in mind that most classes will have homework that both helps reinforce concepts and also reflects the exam.

The key to utilizing homework is to consider it a practice run for your exams and not just something to do for a homework grade. I actually recommend flagging tricky or key problems in your homework and repeating them. This will help you a lot during exams and possibly during your midterm / final.


Tracking Grades Helps You Setup Success in Class

Research has shown that tracking grades, throughout your class, actually improves performance. To track your grades try using apps or self-created tools, like an excel sheet. You can even use these tools to project what your GPA will be given theoretical grades. This can be great for identifying what programs you’ll be competitive for, given certain grades.


Beware the Homework Helpers! Use Responsibly and With Caution.

Sites such as CHEGG are very useful, and I used them a lot in undergrad and grad school. However, using them can also backfire. Many former classmates over-relied on homework helper sites and never learned how to really do the problems. Also sometimes the answers are wrong or outdated! If you don't know how to do the problem yourself, you might not catch a mistake.

I suggest using Chegg as support for what your doing in class. Let it help you outline an approach for a few problems, do that until you really understand the concept. Then do the rest of the problems yourself. Keep redoing problems until you can see the patterns and solutions yourself.


Starting Long Before Day One of Your Class Start Decoding The Exams

Exam day will come. Don't be caught flat-footed on that day! If you're staying up all night cramming before the exam you've put yourself in a bad spot. Prepping for the exam begins should begin even before your first day of classes. Remember, that exam stands between you and medical school!

Start with research on what other people say about the exams. Good places to look for advice include classmates,, and asking the teacher directly! Most professors will be ok with a student asking question so they can better prepare themselves.

The Path to Medical school can feel long and unclear

But never forget that we're here to help. Do you have a question about something you just read in our BreakThru Learner Series?

Use the BreakThru Feed to Ask and Inspire others with your questions. Our Medical Student Mentors are always here to help you, for free, anytime.

Where Mentoring Happens

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What is Medical School?

If you’ve made it to this page, you’re probably a high school or a college student looking to learn more about what medical school ACTUALLY is. What do you learn? When do you get to be in the hospitals? When do you start working with patients? Look no further as we delve into what medical school is!


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