I’m having some trouble deciding which pre-med classes to take together! I have Orgo 1, Orgo 2, Physics 2, P Chem, and Biochem left. I preferably want to fit these classes into 3 semesters, so I finish them before taking the MCAT. Which classes should be okay to take together?
In short: any combination of these classes together would be pretty difficult just because of the work each class requires outside of lecture. Buckle up, it’s going to be a rough ride.
Briefly, a more detailed take the courses: organic chemistry I is not that difficult in terms of material, but the change in thought process can be challenging—I think of learning organic chemistry as similar to learning a new language. Both physics II and p chem are also difficult due to the logic required. I found that organic II and biochem (I loved both classes) just take lots and lots of practice and therefore lots and lots of time spent doing practice exams, coursepack, attending office hours, and going to study group. While biochem does not require orgo II as an enforced prerequisite, taking orgo II either at the same time or before biochem definitely helps with comprehension of the material.
In the context of the MCAT, it’s not uncommon for students to take physics II and pchem after taking the MCAT. All that matters to medical schools is that pre-med classes are completed before students matriculate. This doesn’t mean that these subjects aren’t on the MCAT, it’s just that they make up less of the test material (some years there are very few questions from these classes). It’s obviously more ideal to take all of the pre-med classes before the MCAT for the purposes of covering your bases, but self-studying is a viable option if your schedule is looking particularly daunting.
If you have the ability to take these classes over the spring/summer semester, this would also significantly lighten your courseload in the regular year. Though I personally don’t have experience taking classes outside of the regular school year, many students say that despite the faster pace, it’s nice to only have to worry about and study for one subject. Don’t forget that with both of the orgo’s and physics you have to take the associated labs for these requirements to be considered complete.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider is the huge time commitment that is studying for the MCAT. It’s recommended that students start studying ~3 months before their test date, and the average time students spent studying was 300 hours. If you know that you’re not a good test taker (me!) you’ll likely need more time studying than this average. For the sake of your mental health and the quality of your studying, please take a light schedule the semester before you take the MCAT (12-13 credits).
Lastly, because biochem is maybe the most important subject to medicine and the MCAT, we recommend you take biochem as close as you can to your test date. It’s a lot of memorization, which means that re-studying for it is the closest you’ll get to feeling like you’re just taking the class all over again.
Okay. Deep breath.
After all these considerations, here is my tentative recommendation if you’re limited to 3 regular school semesters, and don’t have time to take the labs after you take the MCAT (I would again like to emphasize that this is a very difficult schedule any way you slice it):
Semester 1: Orgo I + Lab, Physics II
Semester 2: PChem, Physics II lab
Semester 3: Orgo II + Lab, Biochem
If you can take spring/summer classes:
Fall semester: Orgo I + Lab, Physics II
Winter semester: Orgo II + Lab
Spring/Summer: PChem, Physics II Lab
Fall semester: Biochem
Winter semester: study for the MCAT
For more personalized help, come visit us during open office hours! We have also posted two of our former advisors’ exit tickets, which detail their schedule and will give you a better idea of how other people chose to complete the requirements.
Best of luck with scheduling and your courses!
Anni (PMH advisor)
I mostly agree with Anni. Her tentative suggestions for class plans are exactly what I would suggest. Other than that, I would just like to echo what Anni said about pchem timing. Folks who take CHEM 230 or 260 prior to their MCAT often express that they were very glad they obtained the knowledge via a class as opposed to self studying. As in the class prepared them particularly well. Nevertheless, there are folks who feel confident that they can self study and do not regret postponing pchem until after their MCAT. But it’s hard to say whether one is truly better than the other since no one person can experience and report back both accounts.
Also, though taking more than one intense science/math class is typically quite difficult, it is something you’ll have to do sooner or later, and it is something all of us have been able to get though (if that’s any consolation). Furthermore, it’s important to keep showing medical schools that you can manage a vigorous course load, which often means taking a few science/math classes simultaneously. It’s tough, but you got this! 😊
Additionally, I agree that it is probably best to go down to 12-14 credits while studying for the MCAT, I would even consider dropping down to 8-9 credits if you can afford to be part time. The reason I say this is that though it’s possible to take 4-5 easy classes and stay at low full time status, 3-5 classes is still more to keep track of than 2-3 classes. And fewer exams/papers will be stealing time away from your MCAT preparations.
Best of luck, and we hope to be of service in person as well.
Thank you for the detailed response! I think I’m definitely going to opt for spreading my classes out and maybe take Physics 2 after the MCAT. Not sure if Physics 2 and Orgo 1 is the best option for me though; do you think Orgo 2 and Biochem would be doable?
Orgo 2 and Biochem are doable together, but only if you take two other classes that are VERY light in workload—you could try to knock out some of your other area requirements in this time. The key to doing well in both of them is to join study groups, attend lecture, and make sure know what’s going on the end of each week. I didn’t take these classes together, but when I did take them, I would sit down for about a hour on Fridays to just quickly look over the slides, complete any unfinished notes, and write a list of terms/ideas I wanted to go over either in office hours or study group. This method really helped me direct my more intensive studying before tests.
I cannot emphasize enough how diligent you will have to be with your studying if you take these two together. They aren’t impossible classes, but they are two of the most applicable and important to a medical career.
I hope you’re having a good spring break! Good luck.