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What Classes Should You Take Before the MCAT?

William Cohen
Published by William Cohen
Last Updated On: April 6, 2022

MCAT is one of the most difficult tests you’ll take in your student career. But, how do you know which classes to take before the MCAT?

I’ve taken the MCAT myself, and during my decade-long collegiate career, I’ve helped countless students get ready for the test.

Today, I’ll explain exactly which classes to take before you take the MCAT and everything you should know about each of them.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • Most medical schools require a high MCAT score. 
  • The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has six classes listed as a recommendation before you take the MCAT.
  • It’s highly recommended to take upper-level college courses, as these can help you prepare better.

MCAT Prerequisite Courses:

Studying inside the library

Officially, there aren’t any prerequisite MCAT classes you have to take. But, the Association of American Medical Colleges, which is the company behind the MCAT, does have some suggestions on pre-med courses you should take before trying the MCAT [1]. According to them, students should complete certain introductory-level courses.

“Research methods and statistics concepts on the exam are used in introductory science labs as well as introductory psychology and sociology courses. You are encouraged to reach out to the pre-health advisor at your institution who can help you determine the specific coursework you will need to meet your educational goals.” AAMC

The MCAT content is covered in introductory classes at the majority of universities. Research methods and statistics concepts you’ll encounter on the MCAT are covered in introductory science labs.

Here’s the lowdown on all courses you’re encouraged to take.

1. Biology

A microscope inside the lab

It’s essential to take general biology. Whether you’ll have to take General Biology 1 and 2, or if only 1 will be sufficient, depends on your coursework.

Some schools have Bio 1 course that covers all medically-related topics, while in others, you’ll need Bio 2 as well.

The best way to determine if you need both General Biology 1 and 2 is to talk with older medical students that went to your school.

You can also opt to take more advanced biology courses, such as immunology, cell biology, microbiology, genetics, molecular biology, and more.

Taking biology upper-level courses can be extremely significant for the MCAT, as biology is the highest tested natural science.

2. Organic Chemistry and General Chemistry

This will be well-known to chemistry majors, but pre-med students commonly take General Chemistry 1 and General Chemistry 2, and Organic Chemistry 1 and 2. To know if you should only take General and Ochem 1 or 2 as well, you can talk with older pre-med students and check if this is needed for a good MCAT score.

In general, both general chemistry and organic chemistry should cover:

  • Chemical bonds
  • Thermodynamics
  • Atomic structure
  • Kinetics
  • Equilibrium
  • Acids and basis
  • Electrochemistry
  • intermolecular forces

If your Organic Chemistry 1 covers all of these, you don’t need to take Organic Chemistry 2.

3. Physics

A pencil and physics topic written on notebook

It’s strongly recommended that medical school students take both Physics 1 and 2. Physics 1 covers topics such as Newtonian Mechanics, which influences fluids and waves, kinematics, and forces.

General Physics 2 covers electricity, magnetism, geometric options, electrostatics, and quantum mechanics.

Sometimes, you’re given the option of taking a calculus-based version of physics, that’s usually for engineering students or non-calculus for life-science majors.

Non-calculus is easier to pass, but the calculus version will prepare you for the MCAT exam more thoroughly.

4. Biochemistry

No list of recommended classes can be complete without biochemistry. Biochemistry is crucial for successfully taking the MCAT as it takes up about 25% of the topics on the exam. This means biochemistry is the second-highest-tested natural science on the MCAT, after biology.

The biochemistry topics you should know for the MCAT include:

  • Proteins
  • DNA
  • RNA
  • Enzymes
  • Carbohydrates
  • Lipids and membranes
  • Carbohydrate metabolism
  • Biochemistry lab techniques

5. Psychology

Even though neither the medical school nor the AAMC require studying psychology before you take the MCAT, it’s another of the beneficial pre-med courses.

Psychology topics you should cover include:

  • Neurobiology
  • Psychological disorders
  • Learning and memory

6. Sociology

A group having fun in the background

The final course to take before taking the MCAT is sociology. Most colleges will offer a soc course for at least one semester. However, many MCAT students take the exam without taking soc university classes. This is because soc is fairly easy to self-study. The choice is up to you.

Sociology topics you should cover include:

  • Social interaction
  • Social behavior
  • Social thinking
  • Social attitudes
  • Social structure

You can also opt to take an upper-level sociology class to get the best MCAT prep for this part of the test.

FAQs

Do You Have to Take Pre-reqs to Take the MCAT?

No, you don’t have to take the pre-reqs to take the MCAT. That being said, your university probably offers classes that can give you a head start on MCAT preparation as soon as your junior year.

What Gpa Do I Need for Medical School?

What GPA you need for medical school depends on the school you’re applying to. In general, schools advise students to aim for a GPA of at least 3.5 [2].

What Courses Should You Take Before the MCAT?

I’ve listed all the six classes you should take at your college before you take the MCAT. Most of these you can take for a full year or one semester.

Which classes you’ll take also depends on your knowledge level, grades, and how much help you think you need.

You can always talk with older students or hire an expert to help you prepare for the MCAT.

Check out our list of best MCAT prep courses that can help you get a high score.


References:

  1. https://students-residents.aamc.org/mcat-faq/mcat-faqs
  2. https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-medical-schools

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