Premedical programs are educational tracks offered to college students to help prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and the medical school application. While some schools have a specialized pre-med degree, most programs provide it as a guide or concentration in addition to another degree. Medical schools admit students with a variety of majors, although because of the required coursework, the majority of pre-med students major in one of the sciences.
The general science prerequisites for medical school include two semesters of general biology with labs. At the College of Charleston, the two biology courses are divided into Cell and Molecular Biology and Evolution, Form and Function of Organisms. Not only will these courses prepare students for the rigorous medical school curriculum, but they are also core components of the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT. Although the Association of American Medical Colleges states that only the general sciences courses are necessary to score well on the MCAT, other biology courses, such as microbiology, genetics and anatomy are often recommended to further prepare.
General and Organic Chemistry
Two semesters of general chemistry with lab, in addition to one semester of organic chemistry with lab, are required for pre-med programs. This introductory-level knowledge of general and organic chemistry is required for the MCAT and will be invaluable for the more advanced medical school curriculum. Topics from general chemistry, such as the periodic table, acids and bases, and bonds and phases, will be covered on the MCAT. Organic chemistry deals with the chemical reactions of living things and is a necessary course for those planning on going to medical school.
Two semesters of general physics are also required of pre-med students. These courses introduce students to concepts in energy and matter that will be on the MCAT, such as electromagnetism, momentum, gravity and periodic motion. These courses require a lab component as well.
Pre-med students commonly take both statistics and calculus, although statistics is not required for all programs. Swarthmore College requires that students take two semesters of mathematics courses, and recommends calculus and statistics. Most introductory physics courses are calculus-based, so students generally must take a college-level calculus course before attempting physics. Concepts from calculus, such as the ability to calculate and analyze change and efficiency, as well as concepts from statistics like probability, and collecting and analyzing data, are important for some upper-level undergraduate science courses, as well as courses in the medical school curriculum.
English Composition and Literature
The Verbal Reasoning section of the MCAT exam takes up one-third of the test-taker's score, so understanding critical and analytical thinking is essential for pre-med programs. Students may often be able to place out of these English courses through advanced placement or International Baccalaureate exams. Many schools, such as Hamilton College, state that students may take any two-semester combination of English courses to satisfy the pre-med requirement. The MCAT requires that students be efficient in the comprehension, analysis and application of new information, and these problem-solving methods are commonly developed in composition and literature courses.
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