Medical School Requirements: What You Should Know

Written by: Alex Brown
Published on: Aug 19, 2021

Medical School Requirements

Are you considering medical school? Are you prepared for what is required?

Medical schools often have unique requirements for coursework, lab experience, volunteer experience, “shadowing” experience, and more. Be certain to check with your target schools to find out specifics. But for now, let’s dig into many of the common medical school requirements you should be aware of.


Medical schools require the completion of a four-year degree from an accredited institution, but the premedical coursework requirements can vary from school to school. For example, some accept advanced placement (AP), online, and community college courses while others do not.

Some schools are moving to competency-based admissions and not requiring students to complete a particular list of courses. However, most medical schools currently require the following science courses:

  • Biology with lab
  • General chemistry with lab
  • Organic chemistry with lab
  • Physics with lab

Some also require the following prerequisites:

  • English
  • Math (calculus, statistics, or college math)
  • Social sciences
  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics

You can major in a non-science discipline as some med schools also seek applicants who are intellectually curious and diverse, not simply focused on biology and chemistry. (Learn more about medical school acceptance rates by major here.)

Ideally you’ll want to major in the discipline where you can earn the highest GPA. The Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) is a database you can use to search for specific med school prerequisites.

Learn how to use MSAR here.

Grade Point Average

Your grade point average (GPA) will be broken down into three categories on your medical school application.

Total premedical GPA

  • Total – Average GPA for all courses

Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math GPA

All other GPA

  • AO (all other) – Includes all courses not considered BCPM

The majority of medical schools don’t disclose minimum GPA requirements. However, the average GPA for all medical school matriculants in 2020-2021 was 3.73 overall and a 3.66 BCPM. The general ballpark minimum medical schools use is an overall GPA of 3.5.

Keep in mind that if you have an upward grade trend, medical schools may be willing to forgive a poor performance early in college. But for the really competitive schools, they’ll expect academic excellence throughout college.

Research Activities

Most medical schools want applicants to have research experience. Many students engage in basic science or clinical research, but some schools will accept research in other disciplines.

Medical schools are placing more value on the importance of scientific inquiry, analytical skills, and the ability to apply knowledge practically. Therefore, research experience will be more important for acceptance in the future.

Letters of Recommendation

Although each medical school’s letter of recommendation requirements may vary, you can cover your bases by asking for letters from the following people:

  • Medical school committee (if your school has one)
  • Science professors (one to two letters)
  • Math professors
  • Liberal Arts professor
  • Research principal investigator (if you did research)
  • Shadowing physician/community service leader (used mostly as character reference letters)

MCAT Score

Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) scores allow med schools to compare applicants from different undergraduate colleges. The maximum score a student can earn on the MCAT is 528, and an outstanding MCAT score is 518 or above. A composite score of 510 is typically considered the minimum score to gain admission to allopathic medical schools. For osteopathic medical schools, the minimum MCAT score is lower (506). But keep in mind, higher you score on the MCAT the better.

Learn more about the MCAT here.

Medical Student

Core Competencies

You’ll need to show multiple core competencies, which fall into four categories: Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Thinking and Reasoning, and Science.

Interpersonal Competencies

  • Service Orientation
  • Social Skills
  • Cultural Competence
  • Teamwork
  • Oral Communication
  • Intrapersonal Competencies
  • Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others
  • Reliability and Dependability
  • Resilience and Adaptability
  • Capacity for Improvement

Thinking and Reasoning Competencies

  • Critical Thinking
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Scientific Inquiry
  • Written Communication

Science Competencies

  • Living Systems
  • Human Behavior

Learn more about core competencies here.

Clinical Experience

Clinical experience is highly valued by admissions committees. The most common hands-on experience in a clinical setting and one that helps boost your application profile is shadowing a doctor. Med schools understand that there is no better way to test drive your career as a physician than by tagging along as a physician completes routine and non-routine daily tasks.

Community Service

A capacity for altruism is necessary as a doctor, and this quality can be expressed in the form of community service. Putting others before oneself is why many decide to become doctors in the first place, so admissions committees will look for individuals who demonstrate a passion for serving others through acts of selflessness service.


Both allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) medical schools are increasingly requiring applicants to take the Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics (CASPer) test. The CASPer evaluates how you will respond to various – sometimes high-pressure – scenarios. So you’ll want to review medical ethics and practice multiple scenarios to prepare for this exam.

Learn more about the CASPer here.