Planning for the Upcoming Semester (2021-2022)

With the winter semester right around the corner, now is a perfect time to make a smart and realistic plan for a successful semester of classes!


Reflecting on Past Semester Grades

In any aspect of life, it is always good to have resilience. For us as pre-meds, this notion of resilience can be a bit tough to handle, especially when dealing with the stress of grades and the constant pressure that, to get into med school, you must get an A in every single class or have a certain GPA. While this is true to some extent, grades (and the MCAT) are not the whole picture and do not define you as a person, contrary to popular belief.


As seasoned pre-meds, we are here to tell you to fret not in the case of getting a “bad” grade(s)—whatever that may be to you. First, med schools look at your GPA as well as the trajectory of your grades as a student, meaning if you performed overall poorly as a freshman or sophomore but improved in the following years, med schools will notice this because it highlights your adaptation and resilience. Secondly, if you happen to do poorly in just one science class, again fret not because this can also be a prime opportunity to showcase resilience.

In both instances above, never elect to take a course pass/fail because med schools will look at this with a skeptical eye, wondering why you chose to cover a grade. Own the grade you got and then find a way to grow from it. We know it can be disheartening to receive a grade that is not “to the standards of med school,” but it is worth emphasizing again that this is not the end all be all. Rather, choosing to take a class again and receiving a higher grade would be a perfect example of showcasing one’s resilience and perseverance—something med schools look for, knowing that med school curriculum is demanding. On a different note, perhaps you experienced extenuating circumstances (e.g., covid) during a semester in which you performed poorly in a class. Med schools are not heartless; they will be understanding of these circumstances (especially during COVID-19 semesters) so long as you have something to show for it. In other words, if you are able to articulate, either in your application and/or at an interview, why you received that grade and potentially how you overcame the circumstances, this would be a big sign of resilience.


Many schools now pride themselves on a holistic review, and there have been plenty of instances where below-average-GPA-and-MCAT students end up getting into med school, so, as already stated, grades do not define you. Ultimately, med schools look for students who can acknowledge a failure, accept it, and shift to learning how they can change in order to grow from it.


Planning Your Upcoming Class Schedule

With all that in mind, to give yourself the best chance of doing well, we recommend you take no more than 2-3 STEM classes per semester, depending on the combination (for example, taking a lecture + lab). Taking three STEM lectures in a semester is technically feasible but will undoubtedly give you tons of stress. As everyone knows, STEM courses are nothing short of challenging; even taking 2 in the same semester is bound to cause some stress. Thus, balancing these courses across your semesters with other non-STEM courses that are of interest to you is the ideal way to ensure that you can devote a meaningful amount of time to your STEM classes while still enjoying your academic and social experience, minimizing stress, and avoiding burnout.


Speaking of other experiences, making sure to allot time for extracurricular activities is a crucial step in planning your semester. For instance, being a part of a research lab and/or clubs, having a job, tutoring, etc. are weekly commitments you should consider when choosing your classes. Those responsibilities take up time from your studying, homework, and other class assignments, which means taking multiple harder classes in addition to having other commitments can be tough to manage. A good rule of thumb is that every class credit equates to 2-3 hours of weekly work. For example, if you are taking a 3-credit class, you can expect it to take 6-9 hours of your week, which can include time spent in lectures, working on assignments, and studying the material. One of the most helpful exercises to do when planning your semester is to make a template weekly schedule on a calendar. Fill in lecture times, discussion sections (if applicable), labs, research, work, volunteering, and any other commitments you may have. Visualizing your week can give you a better sense of how much free time you have to complete assignments, study, and take a breather. Balancing your week with classwork, extracurriculars, and some necessary relaxing activities and self-care is the key to a good semester schedule.


Utilizing Rate My Professor and Atlas

When choosing classes and professors, we highly recommend looking at Atlas and Rate My Professor.  Atlas is an academic tool that displays a variety of information on each course: the workload based on past student experiences, final grade distribution, the past course instructors (the number of terms they have taught and their ratings based on preparedness, clarity, and respect), student enrollment per semester, and what school/degree program people in the class are currently enrolled in. The most popular feature of Atlas is to identify the median grade of a course and the workload.  However, the student enrollment per semester can help to identify whether the course is offered year-round and if it would be better for you to take that class during the spring or summer semester.  Rate My Professor is especially useful in courses where there are multiple professors teaching the same class. For some large pre-med classes, such as the Orgo or Physics sequences, often multiple sections are offered – each with a different professor. Looking at professor reviews may help to identify which professor would be the best fit for you and some tips/advice from previous students in the course.


Non-STEM Classes are Important for Pre-Meds, Too! 

It is a common misconception that non-STEM classes are not an important component in medical school admission considerations. Unfortunately, this means that many pre-med students are not aware of the opportunity to tell a story through their chosen humanity and social science courses. We know that medical schools appreciate applicants who have studied and demonstrate a commitment to topic(s) outside of the natural sciences. After all, in your training to become a doctor, you will not only be studying hard science-related subjects but also how to be an empathetic and understanding physician who can connect and learn from their patients. One of the easiest ways to prepare for this aspect of your training is by taking a few (or many!) relevant social science and humanity courses. Some students even decide to major in a social science or humanities field, which medical schools have stressed is 100% okay! You do not have to major in natural science.


If you are lost on what non-STEM classes to take, fear not. We have some suggestions! First, sociology courses are always a great option. This field essentially studies human interaction, which is obviously important in the medical field. Some classes for next semester (Winter 2022) that may be of particular interest to pre-med students are: SOC 302: Health and Society, SOC 346: Sociology of the Body, or SOC 347: Drugs and Society

Ethnic studies courses are also extremely beneficial for pre-med students. As a doctor, you will treat patients from many different backgrounds. These classes help to expand your understanding of identity and social issues that disproportionately affect certain populations in the United States–many of which are very relevant in the medical field.


Finally, women’s studies courses are a great resource for learning more about the experience of gender, which is again highly relevant in the medical profession. Some classes of particular interest may be:

WGS 220: Perspectives in Women’s Health, WGS 324: Childbirth & Culture, and WGS 323: Black Feminist Thought Practice.


These courses can also play a large role in improving your writing skills, which is relevant in constructing your personal statement. Being able to tell a concise and interesting story in your primary application and later in your secondaries is absolutely imperative to successful admission. If you do not consider yourself a particularly strong writer, it may be worth it to enroll in a humanities or social science course that fulfills a writing requirement. The most obvious way to improve your writing skills is to actually practice writing, and if you are only taking science courses (which you will likely do some scientific writing, wh is a very different style) then your non-scientific writing will likely not be as strong. Receiving constructive feedback is one of the easiest ways to improve, which is abundant in humanities courses.


Planning Around the MCAT + Application Cycle

When thinking about planning classes, it’s important to take into consideration first when you plan on taking the MCAT, but also which cycle you are planning on applying to. The core classes that are recommended to take prior to your MCAT are:

General Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Intro Bio Sequence, Biochemistry, Physiology, Physics I and II, and a Psychology/Sociology class

If you are planning to take your MCAT sometime during the Winter 2022 semester, it’s advised to take a much lower course load so you can dedicate more time studying for the exam. Some may even decide to be a part-time students during the semester their exam is scheduled, to allow for more studying flexibility. Planning for your MCAT also depends on when you plan on applying, and which test day aligns best with your schedule. It’s important to note that the AAMC doesn’t offer any test dates in February or October – December. If you plan on applying in the 2022 – 2023 application cycle, we recommend taking your exam in January or March, to allow for time after you get your exam score back and before you submit your primary applications, since scores are typically released a month after you take the exam. Another option is to take the MCAT the summer before your senior year (if you are taking a gap year). This allows you to dedicate about 3 months to study, which is the typically recommended time frame for an optimal score. It could also be helpful to spend some hours of your week volunteering, working a part-time job, or partaking in research while studying to give you a bit of a mental break. However, those “breaks” should not be a source of added stress; if you feel overwhelmed, take a step back and think about whether your volunteer work, job, or research is negatively affecting your studying or focus.


All of these components can be overwhelming to think about at once, which is why it is so important to break down these pre-med components into separate categories. Set realistic goals about what you can accomplish during your semester classes, plan your weekly schedule ahead of time, and think positively! Starting a new semester with an optimistic mindset is a great way to set yourself up for success.

Transitioning from Online Learning (Part 2)


Asking for Help is a GOOD thing!

There is no doubt that pre-med courses can be challenging. The typically fast-paced schedule, amount of studying required, and difficulty of material sometimes results in gaps in your learning. Luckily, there are many resources available through UM and elsewhere that can help you bridge those gaps and improve your performance in a class! The most beneficial resource to utilize is your professor or GSI’s office hours. Not only are they an opportunity to meet with your professor in a smaller setting, but office hours are especially helpful in answering specific questions and clarifying details in lectures that you may have missed the first time. In terms of transitioning from virtual to in-person office hours, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

    • Prepare your questions ahead of time! That way, you won’t be scrambling to remember what you wanted to ask.
    • Write down the professor or GSI’s responses to your questions to reference later.
    • Pay attention to the types of questions other students ask! Sometimes, students will ask questions that you didn’t even know you had! It’s also a good habit to see if you can answer other students’ questions in your head or write them down for practice at a later time.
    • Use your time during office hours wisely by asking as many questions as you need (while also being conscientious of the professor and students’ time). It should be comforting to know you are walking out with a better understanding of the material than when you walked in!


If you can’t make it to office hours, email your professor to see if they are available to meet another time or ask them your questions via email! Most professors are very accommodating and willing to answer your questions. Piazza is another tool some classes offer that can give you answers directly from the professor or GSI. On Piazza, you can ask questions anonymously as well as read other students’ questions and the professors’ answers. Checking on this website daily can help keep you up-to-date on your understanding of the material.


In addition to office hours, the Science Learning Center (SLC) offers study groups for many STEM classes. Study groups are led by students who have succeeded in the course and are able to explain concepts and material in a more casual setting. They help reinforce lecture material through application questions and problem-solving with other students in the class. Study groups take place for 2 hours/week and are great collaborative supplements to your studying. The SLC also offers one-to-one tutoring for select classes, usually on an appointment basis.


Time is of the essence.

Now that in-person classes and activities are returning, it may be a bit overwhelming at first to readjust to the stressors of managing time. With online classes, you could squeeze as much as you want into a matter of a few hours because, conveniently, your laptop was your transportation. That is no longer the case, as most of us will be walking through campus to get to the places we need to be, which is great in its own right. No more do we have to sit for 8 hours a day staring at a screen; we now have a reason to go outside and get some fresh air each day, which is a pretty subtle joy that we tend to take for granted.


Onto more technical terms, balancing classes and extracurricular activities as a pre-med student can be quite overwhelming and often mentally taxing. It’s stressful!–and that is 100% okay to admit. However, the way in which you manage your time can be the key to greatly reducing these stress levels. Namely, create a schedule that fits your daily routine, or namely, when you are most productive. If you’re a morning person, knock your work out in the morning; if you’re a night owl, do it at night; and so on. There is no perfect way to manage time, but if you can designate a few hours each day to be extremely productive, it can make things much easier. Moreover, space out your studying! It is cognitively proven to enhance long-term retention of knowledge. Although cramming has been shown to be sufficient in getting you a good grade, spacing is certainly less stressful in that it makes you feel more confident and saves you time in the long-run when you have to return to these concepts for the MCAT. In a more general sense, balance your studying between courses so that you don’t experience burnout. The fresher a topic is, the more receptive you will be to learning it as opposed to feeling that it is a drag, so do not study a certain subject for more than maybe an hour at a time. Lastly, to combine this with extracurriculars, make sure that you do not overload yourself. 


As pre-meds, we all understand the competitive nature of the application process, but this does not mean we need to drown ourselves. First, overloading yourself is absolutely no fun at all. Of course, we all have the goal of getting into med school, but we also only have one undergraduate experience. Med school should not be the doom and gloom that constantly forces us to miss out on what should be an enjoyable experience. Second, more does not always mean better. If you try to subscribe to too many extracurriculars and too much volunteering, this can surely be overwhelming during your application and especially the interview process. Choosing just a few extracurriculars that you are very passionate about and committing to them highlights your character traits rather than engaging in a bunch of activities but not being able to articulate why you participated in them or what you got out of them. Overall, time management for pre-med requirements and activities is necessary but, as will be further addressed in the following section, should be balanced with aspects of enjoyment and self-care.


Self-care is crucial to success!

As we transition back to in-person learning, you might be feeling more fatigued with your college schedule. You might not be able to find the time to just relax and take a breather. College can already be a stressful time but being a pre-med just adds more pressure. To get through these next couple of years, you need to find time for self-care. We can’t be our best selves if we aren’t giving ourselves time to relax.


First of all, we need sleep! With classes, volunteering, research, and extracurriculars, we need as much energy as possible to get through each day. By getting our 8 hours, we can feel recharged and ready to tackle the busy days. As we all learned in psychology class, sleep is the optimal time window for memory consolidation. Sufficient sleep (about 7-8 hours) enables better learning, thinking, and memory. Staying up all night to study for an exam may be counterintuitive as you might not even properly learn the information for the exam and the lack of sleep will impair your performance when actually taking the exam. Lack of sleep can also influence mood and emotional reactivity, which may negatively impact our mental health. In other words, always prioritize sleep!


One popular self-care activity is exercise! Whether that be lifting weights at the gym, going for a walk, or doing yoga, exercise is an awesome way to release stress and tension. Exercise has been known to improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood. So, spending some time each week on exercise might be a great way to take care of ourselves.


While binging Netflix shows and movies is a great way to relax and take our minds off of everything, we should take some time away from our screens. Extended hours of screen time have been associated with lower psychological well-being and less emotional stability. You can use this time to catch up on reading some novels of your favorite genre, hang out with some friends, or take a nice nap. Technology can be addicting, but you will see a noticeable difference in your day-to-day life by getting away from the screens. Maybe even do a no-tech day if you’re up for the challenge!


Another activity for self-care is reflection! We want to be the best versions of ourselves, but we can’t do so if we aren’t examining what is going well and what needs to change. What I find helpful is taking some time each week to reflect on the past week. You can write, type, or just think. Think about what you thought went well last week, like if you thought that the studying techniques you used this week worked, then keep using them. Then, look back and think about the negatives. If you felt overwhelmed with your class/extracurricular balance, think about what you could do to alleviate the stress. Taking some time to reflect will allow us to cultivate the pre-med lifestyle that is perfect for ourselves, which will help in reducing the pressure that we feel.


As pre-meds, we all feel the stress and the pressure that comes from this path. So, we need to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves. Becoming a physician is a long road and if we don’t focus on ourselves now, then we will burn out before we even get there. It may seem like you have to get 4 hours of sleep, study all day, join every single club, and take no breaks to be a competitive applicant, but you don’t. So, take that nap when you are feeling exhausted from looking at cyclohexanes all day. In a couple of years, you’ll look back and be grateful that you did.


No matter what stage you are in your college career, we hope these tips can be useful for you! Being pre-med is a long haul, so building good habits now will continue to help you in the future!

Transitioning from Online Learning (Part 1)


After several long semesters of logging onto Zoom and watching recorded lectures, transitioning from online learning has not been easy for anyone. But don’t worry, we’re here to help! Here are some tips and tricks that we’ve dusted off from our past in-person college experiences that we’re glad to share! 


Maximizing your learning during class:

You may have heard this one before but sitting close to the front of your lectures is one way that many students have found helpful in eliminating distractions and maintaining focus on what is in front of you. By sitting close to the front, students often pay attention to their professors more and find it hard to doze off. Another way to encourage learning is to participate during discussion (and/or lectures, if you’re up for it!). Oftentimes, discussions are one of the only ways to get a more individualized rundown of the course material, so definitely take advantage of it by asking your GSI questions and engaging with others, if you feel comfortable in doing so! If you don’t yet feel too comfortable, test the limits of your boundaries. Ask a question here and there, respond to someone else– be as involved with your learning as you can be.


Taking notes:

Now, attending lectures is only half of the story; although going to class is important, it is also important to be able to recall, and even more importantly apply, what you just sat through at some point later in time. When you go home after a long day of classes, having a good summary of each of your lectures is important to effectively understand and keep up with all of the content you learn throughout the day. This is why taking efficient notes is the first step you can take in studying your course material. There are two different strategies that students will generally use in college: 1) taking notes by hand (either on a tablet or on paper) or 2) taking notes digitally (by typing on a computer). 


One of the ways many students have found in promoting learning during class and/or when reading assignments is to take notes by hand. This is supported by research, which has suggested that physically writing down the words requires more mental processing than typing, which promotes retention of the material. This is not to say that taking notes by typing on a computer is not effective for some people, but rather that if you find yourself struggling to retain information from your classes, switching to handwritten notes may be in your best interest. Some classes may be better suited for handwritten notes than others, so it is truly up to you to decide which strategy you would prefer for each of your classes. For instance, in classes where memorization is not required such as some writing classes, typing notes might be easier and quicker. On the other hand, if a course is memorization-heavy, physically writing out the words may be a way to help you to memorize what you’ve learned in class more efficiently.


Another important thing to remember is that you will often not be able to take note of everything that your professor says, which is totally normal! So, it is important to use abbreviations, write short-hand, and focus on main ideas rather than writing/typing what the professor says verbatim. Having concise notes will also be beneficial to you when you look back at them so you can efficiently remember the most relevant information.


Now once you have your notes, it is also equally important to make sure that you organize them in a way that is easily accessible to you. Most students that handwrite their notes have a notebook (or a section in their notebook) for each class, or they use loose-leaf paper and organize these notes into separate folders/binders for each class. On the other hand, students who use tablets to take notes often use apps such as Noteworthy or OneNote and create folders within these apps for each class, and students who prefer to type their notes often find it useful to use Google Docs or Microsoft Word and create digital folders for their classes.


Everyone is unique!

As much of a cliche as it is, everyone’s preferences are different. In other words, the note-taking process your peer uses may not be the one that is best for you, which is totally okay! Some students love to use stationary, colorful highlighters and pens, and aesthetically pleasing notes. Others would rather write out the content as quickly as they can or type it out. Exploring different methods of note-taking is personal, so I would encourage you to not feel intimidated by others’ studying habits. This also applies to learning strategies; some people feel best when they participate more in class and are sitting at the front of the room, while others like to process the information on their own. Your learning preferences are independent of those of your friends and peers, so I would encourage you to remain open to possibly making adjustments and most importantly to be patient with yourself as you try out different study strategies!


In-Person Exams

Don’t worry, you are not alone if you have found in-person and closed note exams to be a bit more nerve-racking than normal. It can be challenging to transition back to in-person and timed exams when you have spent more than a year taking tests remotely. Science classes that are required and recommended for pre-med students tend to weigh exams heavily in their grading scale, which means it is important that we remind ourselves how to prepare for exams effectively so we feel prepared and confident on test day! 


You have heard this one before: avoid cramming at all costs. 

Yes, we all know the people who claim to “work well under pressure”. However, research has found time and time again that cramming the night before, or even a couple of days before an exam is not the most effective way to study. In-person exams mean you are going to have to be able to recall more information on your own, instead of having to just vaguely remember where an answer may be found in your notes. Try to begin studying at least a week before the exam, even if it is just reviewing a little material each day. This not only helps you more effectively retain the information long-term (because chances are, you will need it for the MCAT eventually!), but you will also have time to go to office hours to ask questions about topics you are unsure about, talk through concepts with classmates, do plenty of practice problems/exams, and generally avoid unnecessary panic. Remember, you can no longer rely on your notes, only your brain. 


Focus on topics that you are struggling most with.  

Sometimes we feel better about our understanding of a subject if we focus our study-time on a topic area we already understand well. However, your time is more efficiently spent if you identify the areas that you are unsure about and work to further your understanding. During online/open note exams, if there was a topic you didn’t understand too well you could refer back to similar practice problems/notes fairly easily. During in-person exams, this option is not available. Instead, take a practice exam and/or look back on notes to identify problems/areas that you got wrong or spent quite a bit of time on. Then, rewatch a part of a lecture, read from the book, ask a GSI/classmate/professor, or do some more practice problems that relate to this topic. This is a good strategy if you are in a bit of a time crunch and only have time to study a little bit of the material. 


Use practice exams wisely. 

Usually, in biology and chemistry courses, professors will provide one or more practice exams from previous years of the material. When taking these exams, do so in a simulated test environment. No matter how big the temptation is to look at your notes or google a question–don’t! Becoming reacquainted with the traditional testing environment is essential. You will not be able to use outside materials during the actual exam and training your brain to realize this is important. By looking at your notes during an exam, you put yourself at risk of creating a false sense of understanding. 


Collaborate with classmates, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

“Teaching” someone material is a great way to practice active recall and strengthen your conceptual understanding of a topic. Find a friend and talk through the main concepts on the exam. Don’t be afraid to elaborate on each other’s reasoning, make corrections, and ask questions. If there are multiple practice exams available, it may be helpful to take one of those with one or a group of classmates (but remember to save one exam for yourself to sit down and take in a timed, quiet, test-like environment!). This way you can talk through the answers and have topics explained in ways that work for your classmates. Sometimes all it takes for a topic to “click” is hearing it explained in a slightly different way. 


Most of all, remember that test grades do not define you. You are smart and more than capable! This year has been a challenge for everyone, and chances are it may take a while to get back into the groove of in-person learning. The Pre-Med Hub is here to support you! 


Part 2 (discussing office hours and self-care) is linked here!

In our latest blog , we bring you an update on how several common premed requirements: biochemistry physics, organic chemistry and physical chemistry have been changed due to COVID 19. We recommend using this alongside the Choosing the Right Class (Class comparison chart), to help you chose your classes.


CHEM 230

(3 credits)

  • There are still 5 exams (4 midterms and 1 cumulative final); none dropped
  • Exams are taken on Canvas at home, 90 minutes, open-note
  • Class is still a flipped classroom (lectures at home, zoom for team problem solving)
  • There are homework and mini-quizzes with every module
  • PREPP (past exam problems) worksheets are the main study material, like the orgo coursepacks – solutions are provided. Homework modules are not necessarily a good representation of the exam.
  • Zoom class occurs 3 days/week for team problems (recorded)
  • Attending class is still technically optional
  • If you opt-out, your grade will only be based on exams rather than exams, homework, and class attendance 
  • This is the only “live” instruction, so we would recommend attending
  • You still switch team members three times/semester for in class assignments. 
  • Discussions are optional and not recorded. Typically you will go over module worksheet and questions that other students have
  • The class has a modified grading scale (>90% = A; >85% = A-) and there is also an improvement curve on exams ((highest grade-lowest grade)/2)
  • CHANGED DUE TO COVID: no weekly office hours (neither Gottfried or GSIs hold office hours outside of class time or discussions)
    • Dr. Gottfried is available for questions ~20 minutes before and after class. 
  • Personal note: Although there are not many structural changes due to covid, adjusting to a flipped classroom style with limited time for questions before and after class has made online learning difficult. I would recommend attending review sessions, asking questions before/after class, and going to optional discussions.
  • Joining SLC Study Groups can also be helpful to get more study materials and talk about the class info with other students! SLC study groups are happening virtually in the Winter 2021 semester.


 CHEM 130

(4 credits)

  • All lectures posted as recordings and you can watch
  • discussions are optional
  • 4 exams all online– can use internet, notes, and other resources but all canvas resources are erased at noon of the exam day and appear the next day
  • Weekly homework assignments
  • Optional quizzes for practice
  • 2 grading criteria: one includes homework or the other just averaging exams. The one that leads to the higher grade will be used.

  BIOMEDE 221 (Gen Chem 2 for BME majors)

(4 credits)

  • Pre-lectures 
  • Normal courses hours are used for discussions where you can ask questions and do practice questions.
    • Must attend discussion once a week and participate (i.e. answer a question in the chat) to receive participation points
  • 3 remote exams that are open-note, open-book
    • No cumulative final exam
  • Homework assignments due once a week
  • 2-3 Labs (format varies, could be a presentation, completing a lab simulation, etc.)
  • Extra credit questions available (on exams or separate assignments)




(4 credits)

  • 4 midterms, all multiple choice
  • No final
  • Grading: Exams (80%)
  •   Untimed pre-lecture online quizzes 
  • all lectures recorded
  • Mandatory discussion sections
  • 2 different professors
  • Extra credit for answering piazza questions
  • The first half of the class is calculation heavy and the second half is focused on molecular genetics
  • Median Grade: B

MCDB 310

(4 credits)

  • Lectures are posted weekly (about 3 hours worth of lectures/week)
  • 1-2 Lecture “quizzes” are due each week (that you get unlimited tries on) 
  • 3 midterms, 1 final (one midterm can be dropped, final cannot be dropped)
  • Questions on exams are more conceptual, not just simple recall questions
  • Exams have no free response, instead have multiple choice, fill in the blank, and “select all” type questions 
  • Open-note, open-book exams
  • Have to attend discussion sessions every week, where you have to complete a discussion short answer/response (should do even if using one of absences). It is used in place of typical free responses on exams.
  • Newly created projects related to each exam (total of four). Very application based and is related to current events. You can do projects by yourself or form a group of (maximum) four. The people in your group must have the same GSI. 
  • Exams are worth much less as there are projects, lecture quizzes, discussion quizzes, and cell map as well


CHEMISTRY 210/215/211/216

(210: 4 credits    &     215: 3 credits)


  • Lectures posted weekly for asynchronous learning, but the exams administered synchronously online
  • The faculty-led scheduled synchronous course meetings will be used for optional problem solving and responding to student questions, and will also be recorded and available for streaming.
  • GSI-led discussion sections will give students a chance to ask questions and collaborate on problem-solving. These sessions will be held synchronously over Zoom and recorded for later viewing.


  • Lectures will be recorded and made available asynchronously for both sections
  • Weekly GSI led discussions will be held synchronously online and recorded
  • 4 major exams will be held at their regularly scheduled times on Canvas
  • Surveys will be held for accommodations/ to address time zone differences
  • Weekly quizzes via Canvas will be offered during regular class time on Fridayys



There are weekly, recorded lectures (typically last 1-2 hours) and synchronous office hours with the professor or GSI

Every week, students turn in one assignment. The assignments take 3-4 hours to complete.

You can choose to be remote or in person/hybrid, in which you will attend the laboratory sessions every three weeks. Remote students will still require some synchronous activities to be held with the GSI.


Lecture will be held online

Most sections will be held in-person, however an online option is available

      • This online section will be synchronous


Physics 135/235

(both are 4 credits)

  • Most common physics sequence taken by pre-med students. Life sciences based, learn applications of physics to the human body (blood flow, lifting objects, etc.). Some content in 136/236 (labs) overlaps with 141/241 (labs). 
  • Algebra based. 
    • Physics 135There are no midterms in the course, but there is one final exam.
    • There are 12 weekly quizzes that account for 60% of your grade. Students are allowed to drop their lowest score.
    • Lectures are completely asynchronous and there are 2 per week (1-2 hours each)
    • There is weekly homework (1-2 hours)
    • Quiz review sessions with ULAs and GSI
    • Physics 235: 
    • New format of studio sessions. The studio sessions are just incorporating some previous part of the physics 235 material and blend them into application based setting
    • Studio preparation will be similar to lecture preparation with a reading quiz (done before class) and a short presentation from the professor at the start. Then the rest of the class is doing a quiz with other people in break out rooms which is due at the end of the studio. 
    • You will attempt each studio question twice. Both individually and as a group. You will not get jeopardized for individual answers but will be for group answers.
    • One live studio session per week (in replace of one of the lecture) , and three recorded lecturer in canvas quiz format (quiz questions as clicker questions) 
    • The exam will have studio-styled questions while they present some new scenarios to you and you have to apply what you learned to solve problems related to that.
    • Both courses have non-cumulative midterms and a final that is ½ cumulative, ½ material learned after Exam #3. Both courses allow 1 index card of notes for Exam 1, 2 notecards for Exam 2, and so on.
    • Physics 136: 
    • Students use Loggerpro to make graphs and analyze the given data.
    • Given pre-lab manual/protocol to read before the lab and for the mini-quiz.
    • Mini-quiz every week before starting the experiment.
    • Labs last for 2 hours, with a lab report due at the end and an individual reflection due at midnight.
    • Lab groups change every week.
    • Personal note: Make sure you read the lab manual and watch the videos before class. It is very useful for the mini-quiz and for doing well on the lab reports.
    • Physics 236:
    • Data is given so you don’t actually perform any experiments – you use the data to plot graphs and answer questions 
    • 5 question quiz before each lab *lowest score will be dropped
    • You work with different group members via zoom breakout room for each lab
    •  You need to write an individual reflection for each lab, which is due by the end of the day for your lab (worth 7 points); the lab itself is worth 33 points, with a total of 40 points per lab
      • Lab report is due at the end of class (the lab is two hours long) 
      • Your group changes every week and is assigned randomly
  • Median grade: A- for all 4 courses

    physics 240

    ( 4 credits)

    • 6 quizzes, bi-weekly
      • Lowest score dropped
      • Open-book, open internet
      • Cannot go back on Canvas Quiz to change answer, so cannot change answer once you go back
    • Regular final exam
    • Pre-lecture assignments (about 2 per week) and usually ~20 minutes long
    • Homework assignments (two units per week typically)



In our latest blog series, we bring you a comparison between similar classes that satisfy common premed requirements: biochemistry, microbiology, genetics, sociology, physics, and  physiology, and physical chemistry. Keep in mind that not all of these classes are required for medical school, and that certain medical schools may accept only specific classes for a certain topic. However, if you are in the tough spot of choosing between two courses for the same topic, we hope our comparison chart can help you pick the right class for you.

We also suggest checking out the Umich Grade Guide and the LSA Audit Checklist ( if you are in LSA) when choosing your classes! Good luck scheduling!


CHEM 230

(3 credits)

  • More heavily chemistry/premed based (more aligned with the MCAT)
  • advisory prerequisite of CHEM 215/216
  • Flipped class, watch videos at home and team-based problems in class, weekly quizzes and online homework (you only need to get a certain percentage right and the professor will make it a 100% at the end), PREP course pack similar to an orgo course pack that has a ton of practice exam problems 
  • 72.5% of your grade is based on exams and the rest of your grade is based off of participation and homework OR you can have your grade solely determined by exams scores
  • Median grade: B+

CHEM 260

(3 credits)

  • More heavily math based 
  • advisory prerequisite of  CHEM 210/211, MATH 115, and prior or concurrent enrollment in PHYSICS 135 or 140 or 160.)
  • Get to use notecards
  • Covers one unit of quantum
  • Most of the grade is composed of exams but there are weekly problem sets taken for a grade.
  • Median grade: B+

BME 221

(4 credits)

  • For BME students- More engineering focused and Calc based
  • 9 homework assignments (36%), 4 exams each 15% of grade (this semester was take-home exams)  80% of it is the take-home, 20% team exam… lots of extra credit (up to 7%) 1 presentation (4% of grade)
  • Median grade: B+



(4 credits)

  • 4 midterms, all multiple choice
  • No final
  • Grading: Exams (80%)
  • Weekly* online quizzes
  • No lecture attendance taken, all lectures recorded
  • Mandatory discussion sections
  • 2 different professors
  • Extra credit for answering piazza questions
  • The first half of the class is calculation heavy and the second half is focused on molecular genetics
  • Median Grade: B



(3 credits)

  • 2 midterms, short answer + long answer
  • 1 final
  • Grading: Exams (89%)
  • Weekly* homework
  • No lecture attendance taken, all lectures recorded
  • No discussion sections
  • 1 professor
  • Fewer calculations and math than in BIOLOGY 305, but more talk about diseases outcomes and family level genetics
  • Median Grade: A-


SOC 100

(4 creds)

  •  For freshmen and sophomores 
  • 1.5 hours 2 times a week plus 1 hour discussion section per week
  • General sociology
  • Grade is heavily based on the work/projects your GSI assigns
  • Median Grade: A-


SOC 300

(3 creds)

  • For juniors and seniors
  • 1.5 hours 2 times a week
  • No discussion section
  • General sociology
  • Median Grade: A-


SOC 302

(4 creds)

  • Health-professions based
  • Specifically designed once sociology was added to the MCAT
  • 1.5 hours 2 times a week plus 1 hour discussion section per week
  • Exams are M/C and free response
  • Memo assignments (essays) 
  • No lecture recordings
  • Median Grade: A-



(4 credits)

  • 3 hours of lectures each week 
  • 3 hours laboratory session each week
  • Recorded lectures 
  • Grading: 75% exams (3 or 4 exams, multiple choice and short answer), 25% Lab.
  • Median grade: B+


(3 credits)

  • 3 hours of lectures each week
  • No lab, but many students choose to elect MICRBIOL 350 (1 credit) in addition which is a 2 hour section once a week
  • Non-recorded lectures
  • Grading is entirely based on 4 exams
  • Median grade: B+


MCDB 310

(4 credits)

90 min, 2 times a week + 1, 90 min discussion per week

  • Usually in the afternoon/evening (around 4 PM)
  • Have to go to lecture because iclickers,  optional discussion 
  • Exams are multiple choice and short answer, final isn’t cumulative
  • Relatively more bio-based, BIO 171/172/225 -esque, not as much like orgo/pchem
  • Offered in the summer and more SLC study group supported
  •  Other project/hw grades to buffer if you’re not an exam person
  • recorded lectures
  • Median grade: B



(4 credits)

1 hour, 3 times a week

  • Usually in the morning (around 9 AM)
  • Lecture isn’t required (no iclickers), new  required discussion 
  • Exams are 40 multiple choice questions only, 5 non cumulative exams (90% of grade)
  • Relatively more bio-based
  • Combined class with graduate students 
  • Recorded lectures
  • Weaknesses: Too early in the morning for some people
  • Median grade: B


CHEM 351

(4 credits)

  • 1 hour, 3 times a week
  • Usually in the morning (around 10 AM), has a discussion
  • Exams involve problem-solving questions (multiple choice, true/false, short-answer, matching and fill-ins, mechanisms, chemical drawings, etc.)
  • Relatively more chem-based
  •  Some majors require this one, precursor class to CHEM 451, more in-depth knowledge of biochem if you plan to continue in either the minor, major, or field of study (might help for the MCAT, talk to an advisor)
  •  Bigger time commitment than the other two, notoriously “hard”
  • Median grade: B


CHEM 352

(2 credits)

  • 4 hours lab + 1 hour lecture
  • Scheduled for 4 hours, but can often end early. The remaining time can be used as office hours to ask instructors for help writing the reports.
  • Lectures are not required and recorded, but recommended for lab report help
  • Frequently there is quite a bit of work  to get done at home (lab reports and prereading) unlike some labs that only span the 4 hours and you never think about it until the next week
  • Median grade: A


CHEM 353

(3 credits)

  • Exact same lecture and lab as CHEM 352, but contains an extra discussion
  •  ULWR
  • 4 hours lab + 1 hour lecture + 1 hour discussion weekly
  • Learn to write a scientific paper
  • Median grade: A



(3 credits)

  • 2 hours twice a week
  • Grade based on written laboratory reports, homework, preparation for the lab session, and a final paper focusing on an individual experiment or technique
  • No lecture, only lab
  • Median grade: A


Physics 135/235

(both are 4 credits)

  • Most common physics sequence taken by pre-med students. Life sciences based, learn applications of physics to the human body (blood flow, lifting objects, etc.). Some content in 136/236 (labs) overlaps with 141/241 (labs). 
  • Algebra based. 
    • Physics 135: 3 midterms and a final, can drop any of the 3 midterms not the final. Grade breakdown is each exam is worth 20% (60% total), remaining 40% composed of weekly Mastering Physics problems, iClickers, and Daily Canvas quizzes.
    • Physics 235: 3 midterms and a final, can drop any exam including the final. All exams for both courses are 20 multiple choice questions. Grade breakdown is each exam is worth 20% (60% total), remaining 40% composed of iClickers and weekly Mastering Physics problems.
    • Both courses have non-cumulative midterms and a final that is ½ cumulative, ½ material learned after Exam #3. Both courses allow 1 index card of notes for Exam 1, 2 notecards for Exam 2, and so on.
    • 136/236: Only one credit. Grade is based on in-class lab reports and weekly quizzes on the manual. Overall, the courses are curved depending on GSI averages.
  • Median grade: A- for all 4 courses


physics 140/240

(both are 4 credits)

  • Mainly taken by engineers and individuals interested in pursuing a professional career in Physics. 
  • Calculus based. 
    • Physics 140: About half the class is graded on participation and hw, the other half is graded based on exam performance. Each midterm is worth 12% and the final is worth 16%. 
    • Physics 240: No midterms. Every two weeks there are in-class quizzes. Class participation is also recorded with clickers for accuracy. 
  • 141/241:Grade is based on in-class lab reports and weekly quizzes on the manual. Overall, the courses are curved depending on GSI averages. 
  • Syllabus and grading scheme can and does change based on professor and the term it is offered in. 
  • Median grade: B/B+/B/A- for the 4 courses



BIO 225

(3 credits)

  • Human and Animal physiology
  • Grade is determined exclusively by 4 exams, all multiple choice, point-based, depending on the semester an A is 94% or 93%, 
  • 1 hour 3 times a week
  • 2 different professors
  • Recorded lectures 
  • iClicker points are used as extra credit at the end of the year, so attendance is not mandatory but highly encouraged
  • Median grade: B+





(4 credits)

  • Grade is determined by exams, homework assignments, extra credit assignments
  • Attendance in class not required, lectures are recorded
  • 1.5 hours 3 times a week  and optional discussion section
  • Only one professor
  • Class is held in the medical school, so may be further away from other courses on central campus
  • Median grade: B



BME 419

(4 credits)

  • Quantitative Physiology
  • 70% of the grade are based on exams, while the rest of the final grade is based on homework 
  • Each system is taught by a different professor each with different teaching styles (2-3 lectures per professor)
  • 8 system sections total
  • There is some matlab coding involved in the homework
  • Homework and exams are more math focused
  • Class sessions not recorded
  • Median grade: B+