Preparing for Pre-Medical Coursework

Learner Series:

Pre-Medical Classes

Table of Contents

Pre-Medical Coursework

Pre-medical coursework… well, it doesn’t really need an introduction, but we’re going to attempt one anyway! These classes will lay the framework for your medical school foundation. In the process, some classes will weed-out students by being pretty… challenging. We’ll recap the core pre-medical coursework, possible study techniques, what you should learn coming out of the classes, and how the classes are used in medical school (if they are used at all).

Did You Know: A weed-out class refers to a class that ‘weeds-out’ or removes people that aren’t hardworking or serious enough to do the work needed to get into and through medical school. 


One of the pillars of medicine. You’ll be taking at least 8 credits in biology and learn a ton about topics like cellular composition, physiology, Unfortunately, if you are single-mindedly set on medicine you’ll find that these classes are infiltrated by the likes of plant biology and other non-human biology content. Still, many of of these concepts are foundational moving forward. 

It’s still important to know and the human biology aspect will show up heavily on your MCAT.

How to Study Biology

Since biology is heavy on both memorization and understanding how concepts relate to one another. Make sure you really know this content well before you take the MCAT. The following study methods may help:

  • Flashcards
  • Anki
  • Study Groups
  • Tutoring
  • Videos like Khan Academy

Biology In Medical School

As we stated above, the concepts you review in college biology are foundational to medical school. You are absolutely going to encounter these concepts again while in medical school – especially anything related to human biology, physiology, cellular structure.  


This is an important class for you to develop your own scientific skills. This will be another 8 credits spread over two semesters. You’ll spend a lot of time in labs and learning how to approach things While you may not be tested on acid-bases specifically again, a lot of chemistry lays the framework for topics such as biochemistry and pharmacology. This is also a major topic that comes back during MCAT and beyond.

How to Study Chemistry

Your approach to chemistry will be a little different. You’re going to need to do a little less work memorizing facts compared to biology, but far more work will be needed memorizing formulas and concepts. It is one of the more math-heavy classes you’ll be taking. 

  • Practice Work-Books
  • Study Groups
  • Tutoring
  • Videos like Khan Academy

Chemistry In Medical School

Expect Acid-Based chemistry to come up again during medical school, especially during your first year. Some concepts will also return, like how gasses and liquids interact with each other – especially with things like diffusion. However, it comes up a lot less then Biology topics. 

Organic Chemistry

In terms of pre-medical coursework this class is usually the classic “weed-out” course for pre-medical students. Frankly, you’ll never see organic chemistry again after the MCAT as a physician-in-training, yet you will need to take 8 credits of it. Why do you need to take it? Well for a few reasons: it helps you learn to think critically, it’s a challenging course (they want to see you can do well in challenging situations),  and it’s also important if you want to do research. Side benefit, you’ll also get really good at drawing hexagons! Unfortunately, with changes to the MCAT in 2015, you won’t even see it much there. Still, you need to learn it, and if you’re good at orgo you can pick up some easy MCAT points.

How to Study Organic Chemistry

Organic chemistry starts off with concepts that you really MUST understand to do the mechanisms. Once you get past the concepts it’s about 90% mechanisms and 10% concept behind the mechanism. 

Organic Chemistry In Medical School

Frankly, after the MCAT you won’t see organic chemistry in your medical school curriculum. It’s the class you’ll hear doctors joke about the most. “I’ve been practicing 20 years and no one asked what grade I got in organic chemistry.” They’re not wrong!


Depending on how much you like or don’t like math, this class may be hard. This is another 8 credits of classes, spread over two semesters. This may not directly appear post-MCAT, but some concepts such as fluids and resistance play a vital role in human physiology. A lot of this is math and concepts, so be sure to do tons of practice problems. Physics will be a big component of the MCAT as well.

How to Study Physics

This class, at the level you’ll be taking it, is probably 20% concepts and 80% formulas. You mainly need to be able to identify the concept the exams are talking about and be able to apply the correct formula. 

  • Many Many Practice Problems
  • Flashcards
  • Study Groups
  • Tutoring!!
  • Videos like Khan Academy

Physics In Medical School

Like organic chemistry, after the MCAT you won’t see much physics directly, but again understanding concepts like fluids and resistance is important depending on your specialty. However, physics is an interesting companion to physicians interested in research and entrepreneurship. 

Other Classes For Pre-Medical Coursework

Biochemistry: Here they take biology and chemistry to the next level. These topics persist beyond MCAT and into medical school, so definitely don’t take it lightly. It’s another pre-medical class that you will need to do well in and that is High-Yield for the MCAT. 

Psychology: A relatively relaxed class focusing on human behavior, and it shows up on the MCAT! If you learn it properly, it can play a big role in how you perform as a physician. Some research has shown that students who do well in psychology have better ‘people skills’ and do a great job talking to patients. Future psychiatrists may be especially interested in this class! 

Suggested Pre-Medical Classes

Sociology: Another underrated aspect of medicine that, while also present on the MCAT, can be crucial to your development as a physician if you give it its importance. Sociology, and studying people in general, is a topic that has a great deal of meaning when you practice medicine. If you’re interested in a dual degree MPH, this is a good class to take!

Genetics: Not a requirement per se, but its a topic that shows up again in medical school and can be useful down the line. Take this elective if you find it interesting, but otherwise you don’t have to it. It’s a low-yield course in the grand scheme of things.

Physiology: Not a requirement, but personally I think it should be. Physiology holds the core to most of medical school, and getting the basics down during undergrad will lay a really nice foundation for you as you progress along. Studying physiology may also help you on the MCAT, as that exam tends to ask a lot of biology, chemistry, and physics questions related to physiology. 

Anatomy: Another class that isn’t required, but definitely can be useful moving forward. Every medical student ends up taking anatomy lab anyway, and with the amount of volume that it covers, having a background in the subject matter will definitely help.

Finance, Public Speaking, Typing, & Ethics: Great classes for any budding physician. You’re moving into a high-paying career, you’re going to have to give hundreds of presentations, you’ll spend most of your career quickly typing out patient notes, and you’ll frequently face ethical dilemmas. All of these classes will help you in these areas. 

What else? Take what interests you! Read up on our “What Major Should I Choose” post about how you can figure out what coursework works best for you!

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