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General Overview

Allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) physicians are health professionals who diagnose illness, prescribe and administer treatment, and advise patients on disease prevention and management. Physicians practice in diverse settings including small private practice, group practice, managed care systems, clinic, hospital, laboratory, industry, military, academic medicine, or government. Medicine offers diverse career options and physicians often practice in two or more settings MD and DO programs require four years of medical education followed by residency training of three to eight years. Residency programs (graduate medical education) in family practice, general internal medicine, and pediatrics take three years to complete; general surgery requires five years and subspecialty training in fields like plastic or neurological surgery may require an additional two to three years.

Choosing a Major

Pre-medical students typically obtain a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree while completing the requirements for admission to medical school. Medical schools do not require or prefer a particular undergraduate major. Admissions committees welcome students whose intellectual curiosity leads them to a wide variety of disciplines. Medical schools recognize the importance of a strong foundation in the natural sciences, social sciences, critical thinking, and the humanities. Applicants must complete course requirements and demonstrate proficiency in diverse disciplines as evidenced by the science GPA, overall GPA, and their performance on the MCAT.

Which JMU undergraduate majors are represented amongst successful applicants to allopathic medical (MD) schools ('02 - '12)?

Pre-Med Declaration and Progression Standards

Once you complete 13 or more credit hours in biology, chemistry, physics, and/or math (BCPM) courses at James Madison University, you will be subject to performance standard reviews twice a year. You must maintain an overall and BCPM G.P.A. of 3.00 or above to retain the Pre-Medicine Program declaration. Since medical schools consider all course attempts during the admissions process, the G.P.A. calculations for the Pre-Medicine Program will include all course attempts. If your academic performance standards fall below a 3.00 overall or BCPM G.P.A., you are at very high risk of not being admitted to medical school. Therefore, if you are unable to maintain an overall and BCPM G.P.A. of 3.00 or above, then your Pre-Medicine Program will be administratively dropped.


Pre-Professional Health Advising has developed requirements for the Pre-Medicine Program based on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), successful medical applicant profiles, and regional scans of medical schools’ pre-requisites. The review of pre-requisite courses to develop the requirements for the Pre-Medicine Program below was completed in spring semester 2017. Because these courses are pre-requisites to medical programs, medical school admissions committees will use your academic success in these courses as a metric of your ability to achieve success in medical school.

While courses outlined below are requirements for the Pre-Medicine Program, you should look at individual medical schools’ list of pre-requisites to assure completion of all pre-requisite coursework. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) prepares The Official Guide to Medical School Admissions (print or e-book) is a comprehensive source of information on preparing for and applying to medical school. Requirements for allopathic medical schools in the US and Canada are listed at the Medical School Admission Requirements website, which is updated annually by the AAMC. Admissions requirements for osteopathic medical schools are provided in the Osteopathic Medical College Information Book (print or e-book) published annually by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM). Because there is variability among medical schools regarding required and recommended coursework, pre-medicine students should incorporate school-specific information into their coursework planning.

If you have credit for any of the following courses by earning Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Cambridge International Exam (CIE), community college credit, or departmental test credit, please read the Non-JMU Coursework for Pre-Requisite Coursework below.

Biology Coursework

Students are required to complete 8 credit hours of General Biology with labs.

  • BIO 140: Foundations of Biology I (4 credits)
  • BIO 150: Foundations of Biology II (4 credits)

At least 12 credits of intermediate (200-level) and advanced (300- and 400-level) Biology coursework is strongly recommended to be a competitive applicant; therefore, it is required for the Pre-Medicine Program. Of these 12 credits, at least 4 credits need to be advanced Biology. When choosing 12 credit hours of intermediate and advanced Biology coursework, Pre-Professional Health Advising strongly recommends:

  • BIO 245: Microbiology (4 credits)
  • BIO 240: Genetics (4 credits)
  • BIO 304: Cell & Molecular Biology (3 credits)
  • BIO 370: Animal Physiology (4 credits)

You may want to explore the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems Section of the MCAT to choose additional, advanced Biology coursework.

Chemistry Coursework

Pre-Medicine students are required to complete 8 credit hours of General Chemistry with labs.

  • CHEM 131: General Chemistry I (3 credits)
  • CHEM 131L: General Chemistry Laboratory (1 credit) or CHEM 135L: Special General Chemistry Laboratory (1 credit; Chemistry majors only)
  • CHEM 132: General Chemistry II (3 credits)
  • CHEM 132L: General Chemistry Laboratory (1 credit) or CHEM 136L: Special General Chemistry
         Laboratory (1 credit; Chemistry majors only)

Students are also required to complete 8 credit hours of Organic Chemistry with lab. Please notice, Pre-Medicine students do not take CHEM 241L (1 credit), because CHEM 242L is a 2-credit laboratory that covers Organic Chemistry I and II laboratory learning outcomes.

  • CHEM 241: Organic Chemistry I (3 credits)
  • CHEM 242: Organic Chemistry II (3 credits)
  • CHEM 242L: Organic Chemistry Laboratory (2 credits) or CHEM 287L and 288L: Integrated Inorganic/Organic
          Laboratories (4 credits; Chemistry majors only)

Students are required to complete 3 credits of Biochemistry.

  • CHEM 361: Biochemistry I (3 credits)

Learn more about the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biology Systems Section of the MCAT to understand how Chemistry course content relates to the MCAT.

Physics Coursework

Students are required to complete 8 credit hours of General Physics with labs.

  • PHYS 140*: College Physics I (3 credits) or PHYS 240: University Physics I (3 credits; Physics majors only)
  • PHYS 140L*: General Physics Laboratory I (1 credit) or PHYS 240L: University Physics I Lab (1 credit; Physics majors only)
  • PHYS 150*: College Physics II (3 credits) or PHYS 250: University Physics II (3 credits; Physics majors only)
  • PHYS 150L*: General Physics Laboratory II (1 credit) or PHYS 250L: University Physics II Lab (1 credit; Physics majors only)

* Pre-Professional Health Advising recommends that you take the PHYS 140-150/140L-150L sequence rather than the 240-250/240L-250L sequence, unless your major requires otherwise. The PHYS 140-150/140L-150L sequence is the non-calculus sequence in general physics. The 240-250/240L-250L sequence is the calculus sequence that requires MATH 235-236 as co-requisites, respectively. Because it is not the calculus sequence of Physics, PHYS 140-150/140L-150L is able to cover more breadth within Physics than the 240-250/240L-250L sequence.

Learn more about the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biology Systems Section of the MCAT to understand how Physics course content relates to the MCAT.

Mathematics Coursework

Pre-Medicine students are required to complete 3 credits of a 200-level Calculus class and 3 credits of a 200- or 300-level Statistics. There are two considerations when choosing appropriate calculus and statistics courses.

  1. Double-Counting with Other RequirementsRefer to major and minor requirements in the Undergraduate Catalog to determine if there are specific calculus or statistics courses required for your major or minor requirements. Most of these classes will fulfill General Education: Cluster 3: Quantitative Reasoning, but this may also be a consideration.
  2. Your Math Placement Exam (MPE) ScoresUtilize the MPE Matrix to determine the appropriate calculus and statistics courses to take. You can find your MPE for calculus and statistics within the Student Center of MyMadison. You can watch a video to learn how to find your MPE scores.

Calculus: There are four 200-level Calculus options at James Madison University. There are two calculus "pathways"; the 231-232 sequence, 233-234 sequence, and 235 prepare you for more advanced calculus courses. MATH 205 does not prepare you for more advanced calculus courses. Your MPE - Calculus score may require that you take MATH 155 or 156: College Algebra beforehand, or that you take MATH 199: Algebra/Precalculus Gateway in conjunction with one of the following courses to be successful.

  • MATH 205: Introductory Calculus I (3 credits)
  • MATH 231: Calculus with Functions I (3 credits)
  • MATH 233E: A Modeling Approach to Calculus, Part A (3 credits)
  • MATH 235: Calculus I (4 credits)

Statistics: There are two statistics courses that Pre-Medicine students are encouraged to take at James Madison University. Your MPE - Statistics score may require that you take MATH 105: Quantitative Literacy and Reasoning beforehand to be successful in these courses.

  • MATH 220: Elementary Statistics (3 credits)
  • MATH 318: Introduction to Probability and Statistics (4 credits)

Behavioral and Social Science Coursework

Pre-Medicine students must complete 3 credits of Psychology, 3 credits of Sociology, and an additional 3 credits of Psychology, Sociology or Anthropology. This is a total of 9 credits of Behavioral and Social Science coursework.

Students are encouraged to utilize opportunities to take Psychology and Sociology coursework that will also count for General Education's Cluster 4: The Global Experience and General Education's Cluster 5: Sociocultural Domain.

  • PSYC 101: General Psychology (3 credits)
  • PSYC 160: Life Span Human Development (3 credits)
  • SOCI 110: Social Issues in a Global Context (3 credits)
  • SOCI 140: Microsociology: Individual in Society (3 credits)

Pre-Professional Health Advising recommends that you take additional Psychology, Sociology, and Anthropology than these minimum requirements to prepare for the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior Section of the MCAT. For additional MCAT preparation, students are encouraged to take upper-level courses, such as:

  • PSYC 308: Health Psychology (3 credits)
  • SOCI 375: Medical Sociology (3 credits)
  • SOCI 385: Sociology of Mental Health and Illness (3 credits)
  • ANTH 360: Medical Anthropology (3 credits)

English, Literature, and Writing Coursework

Pre-Medicine students must complete 6 credits of English, literature, or writing. Typically, students complete this requirement while completing General Education's Cluster 1: Writing and General Education's Cluster 2: Literature requirements. Courses that can fulfill the 6-credit pre-requisite that many medical schools require can include:

  • WRTC 103: (3 credits)
  • any ENG course (3 credits)
  • HUM 200: (3 credits)

Critical Thinking Coursework

While not required to complete the Pre-Medicine Program, students are strongly encouraged to take critical analysis and reasoning coursework to prepare for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Section of the MCAT. The course at James Madison University that most strongly aligns with this section of the MCAT is PHIL 120: Critical Thinking. Therefore, when completing General Education's Cluster I: Critical Thinking requirement, students are strongly encouraged to select PHIL 120.


Students are strongly encouraged to seek volunteer and/or employment opportunities in a healthcare setting such as; shadowing physicians, volunteering at a clinic or hospital, providing community service, or completing an internship or pre-health enrichment program. In addition to providing a valuable service to the community, these experiences demonstrate motivation, commitment to serving others, knowledge regarding the profession and an opportunity to develop and hone skills that will assist students with patient care. While often not stated as a prerequisite, admissions committees expect a candidate to have exposure to a variety of healthcare settings. 

Undergraduate research experience also plays a significant role in clarifying interests! Because physicians regularly use critical judgment when reviewing clinical research literature, applicants must be proficient in their understanding and application of scientific inquiry and reasoning skills. Some pre-med students even decide to apply to dual-degree programs (MD or DO with PhD, JD, MPH, or MBA).

Admissions Criteria and Academic Record

Medical admissions committees assess the biographical information provided by the applicant and the academic record from the undergraduate school(s) attended. Of particular importance are grade point averages (GPA), scores on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), health-related experiences and service activities, letters of evaluation, and interviews. Admissions committees assess academic performance in light of cumulative and science GPAs, subjects and credit hours completed, rigor of the baccalaureate program, and upward trends in performance. For example: a weak first-year followed by strong performance in advanced coursework is preferred over variable or declining performance. A competitive academic record is expected as evidence of excellent ability and motivation!

Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is required for admission to US medical schools. The MCAT is a multiple-choice exam administered multiple times in the year at test sites in the US, Canada, and around the world. Many schools do not accept MCAT exam scores that are more than three years old. The MCAT is an extremely important factor for medical school admission. What are considered “competitive” MCAT scores vary among schools and with applicant populations, therefore, it is important to consult the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) for up-to-date school-specific information. You can find the MCAT Testing Calendar and Score Release Dates online.

MCAT Preparation Resources

The best study plan is one that is tailored to your personal learning style and schedule. To that end, AAMC provides a five-step guide, developed by the MCAT team at the AAMC, to help you create your own study plan.

AAMC also encourages you to prepare fore the MCAT exam with official test prep resources written by the test developers at the AAMC. These resources are centrally organized on the AAMC Parepare for the MCAT Exam website. Two of these resources are free:

  • What's on the MCAT Exam? Learn about the exam with this free online tool. Explore the four exam sections to learn more about what is tested by reading content lists, watching videos, seeing how questions test skills, and more.
  • Khan Acadmy MCAT Collection. The collection of over 1,100 free videos and 3,000 review questions was created by Khan Academy with support from the AAMC and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Preparation Timeline

Candidates for the MCAT should have completed pre-requisite courses in biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, physics, psychology, and sociology. The application process requires 12-15 months. Thus, if a student’s goal is to obtain a baccalaureate degree after four years and matriculate in medical school upon graduation (“direct-entry” applicant), then the MCAT and the AMCAS and/or AACOMAS application(s) need to be completed during the summer following the third year. A pre-med student who chooses to pursue this timeline will experience a highly structured and demanding program. Many students choose to extend their preparation timeline so as to strengthen all of the elements of their application.

Letters of Recommendation or Evaluation

All medical schools require submission of letters of evaluation (LOE) as part of the application. JMU students and alumni are encouraged to utilize the PPH Evaluation Service to assemble an LOE packet that will fulfill the requirement of all U.S. allopathic and osteopathic medical schools (for information please contact us at pph@jmu.edu).

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