Department of Biology

Department of Biology

Pre-Med FAQ's

Here you can find answers to common questions.

Questions and Answers

What courses should I take to prepare for Medical School?

Prerequisites can vary on a school by school basis. Please check the prerequisites for schools to which you hope to apply.

The following courses are required by most medical schools in the United States as the minimum background needed for acceptance into medical school.

Medical School Prerequisites/MCAT 2015 Preparation

YORK Recommended Courses

General Biology 2 semesters

BIO 201 and BIO 202

Biochemistry 1 semester

BIO 412 OR CHEM 412

General Chemistry 2 semesters

CHEM 108/109 and CHEM 111/112

Organic Chemistry 2 semesters

CHEM 231/232 (Org. Chemistry I/Lab and CHEM 233/234 (Org. Chemistry II/Lab

College Physics 2 semesters

PHYS 113/115 and PHYS 114/116

English 2 semesters

ENGL 125 and ENG 126

NEW* Psychology 2 semesters

PSY 102 and PSY 200 OR PSY 214

NEW* Sociology 1 Semester

SOC 101

Required and recommended coursework can vary by school Some schools require one or two semesters of mathematics or one semester of mathematics and one semester of statistics. Additionally, some schools require two semesters of English. The Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) provides information on course requirements and recommendation, by the school, for these as well as the acceptability of AP, community college, and online coursework. The MSAR can be found at .

Any undergraduate major is appropriate for medical school assuming the applicant has completed the basic pre-med requirements. Nonetheless, the majority of students applying to medical school have undergraduate majors in the biological or physical sciences. It is very important to do well in science courses.

What GPA should I shoot for?

As you know, medical school is very competitive, so you should aim for the highest GPA you can! A 3.5 would be a generally acceptable target, however, many schools have an average GPA for accepted students in the 3.6 - 3.7 range. A GPA of 3.0 would be the absolute minimum for any chance of being accepted into a U.S. Medical School. As with prerequisite coursework, the GPA range also varies school to school. Information including average GPA for applicants and accepted students can also be found in the MSAR book from the American Association of Medical Colleges ( AAMC).

Medical schools will break down your GPA into Science (BCPM - Bio, Chem, Phys, Math), AO (all Other) and Overall (Combined BCPM and AO). The AO GPA would be expected to be a tad higher than BCPM, based on the difficulty level of the science courses. Again, a high science GPA is a must!

Average MCAT/GPA for matriculated US Medical Students by School

What is the MCAT, when should I take it, and how do I prepare for it?

Up to date information regarding the MCAT is available at Most medical schools require applicants to take the MCAT.

The MCAT is given many times a year. In most cases, you should take the MCAT exam in the calendar year prior to the year in which you plan to enter medical school. For example, if you are applying in 2016 for entrance to medical school in 2017, you should take the exam in 2016).

If you can't decide whether to take the exam early in the year or later, ask yourself two questions:

  • Will I take the exam just once, or is there a possibility I might want to take it again?
  • Have I mastered the material or do I need additional coursework or study?

If you think that you will take the MCAT exam more than once in a given calendar year, you might want to make your first attempt early in the year. This should allow you sufficient time to receive your scores, make a decision about your second attempt, and find an available seat later in the testing year.

If you have coursework to complete, additional studying to do, or if you have a major conflict that won't allow you to be in the right frame of mind for the exam, we suggest that you wait until you are better prepared. This may mean you make your first attempt later in the year. That's okay, too. You're the best judge of your preparedness.

Additional information regarding preparation for the MCAT and practice tests may be found at Some students find that it is helpful to take a preparation course for the MCAT.

What is a "good" MCAT score?

The Medical College Admission Test(R) (MCAT(R)) is a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess your problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine. In April 2015, the AAMC launched a new version of the MCAT exam. Scores are reported in four sections:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

Almost all U.S. medical schools and many Canadian schools require you to submit MCAT exam scores. Many schools do not accept MCAT exam scores that are more than three years old. Here's a link going over the new (2015-) scoring scale and understanding the percentiles:

Should I consider Caribbean/International Medical Schools?

This is a personal decision that must be considered on an individual basis. Here is a good article that may answer some of your questions. We occasionally have guests from various Caribbean Medical Schools here at York to answer your questions regarding medical education in the Caribbean.

How do I apply to U.S./Canadian Medical Schools?

The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS)

Students applying to medical schools must submit application materials through AMCAS. Information regarding the AMCA application process can be found at

What are Medical Schools looking for?

Medical schools are interested in applicants with excellent academic achievements (as shown in grades and MCAT scores), strong interpersonal skills (often demonstrated in volunteer, leadership and employment situations), a clear motivation for a career in medicine (as shown by significant involvement in medical settings), and demonstrated compassion and concern for others.

When should I apply to Medical School?

You should apply to medical school when your application will be at its strongest. This means good grades, good MCAT scores, and good healthcare related or non-academic experiences. This comes at different times for different people. Many students, if they have completed the pre-requisite coursework, have good grades, and have taken (or plan to take) MCAT exam, will apply immediately after their Junior year (late spring, early summer). This will allow them to begin medical school (if accepted of course!) in the fall immediately following graduation. Many other students, choose to wait until after graduation to apply. This allows them to improve their credentials during their senior year. These students will have a "year off" between graduation and the start of medical school. This time could be used to further enhance their credentials or spend time doing interesting things such as such as research, travel, community service, teaching, etc.

Your pre-med advisor can help you make this decision, but generally, if there is a weakness in your application, it is a wise strategy to take some time to correct it, rather than to go ahead and waste your time and money applying.

When you do decide you are ready to apply, it is best to do so EARLY in the cycle. You can submit your AMCAS application in early to mid-June, and that is what you should aim for, no matter when the actual medical school deadlines are. Most schools evaluate applicants on a rolling basis, so naturally, it is best to have your application complete when there are many seats to fill. Also, you will find it easier emotionally to be one of the first to have interviews and acceptances, rather than one of the last.

How does the application process work?

You submit your AMCAS application and have all your transcripts sent to AMCAS. They process your application and then send it on to the schools that you indicate. When they receive your AMCAS application, most schools will automatically send you a secondary application, which should be completed and sent back within 2 weeks. A handful of schools only send secondaries to applicants who make it through an initial cut. Once schools have received your completed secondary application, your MCATs, and other information, they will evaluate your application and decide whether to invite you for an interview. After the interview, they will accept you, reject you, or put you on "hold" or on a waitlist. This may happen within a few weeks, or you may not hear anything at all for months.