Academic Expectations

The Duke University School of Medicine strives to attract, educate, and nurture students who have extraordinary compassion, humanism, and intellect.  Our students must be dedicated to the commitment of service to others and their communities. We have consistently encouraged our applicants to have a broad and balanced undergraduate academic education in addition to a wealth of productive life experiences. To accomplish this growth and maturation process, a rigorous, challenging, and interdisciplinary academic preparation in the sciences and humanities is of paramount importance.

Both the clinical and basic science faculty of the School of Medicine require our medical students to have fulfilled “academic expectations” based on competency-based, cross-disciplinary training in the traditional biomedical sciences such as biology, chemistry, and physics. Students need to appreciate the links the basic sciences have to formal training in medicine. Additionally, in conjunction with the traditional preparation of the biomedical sciences, the need to understand the larger psychosocial context in which medicine is increasingly practiced requires significant exposure to the social sciences.

Duke University School of Medicine acknowledges the constant evolution of the biomedical sciences and the challenges that socially-driven disparities in medicine present. Those aspiring for clinical and research careers in medicine must be prepared in a much different manner to expertly address the ever-changing healthcare environment. The faculty of the School of Medicine, prompted by these new challenges, has created modifications to the curriculum to align our expectations for pre-medical preparation with this evolving academic environment of medical school.

Coursework Expectations & MCAT Examination:

For those who are planning to apply to the School of Medicine at Duke University, our "academic expectations" include multidisciplinary coursework in a number of areas and completion of the MCAT examination.  Due to the pandemic, we will accept MCAT scores from 2018.

While the courses below are not required, the School of Medicine clinical and basic science faculty agree the courses denoted below would be helpful in your preparation for the MCAT and for the first year medical school curriculum. 

Please note: with our fast-paced curriculum we would expect that applicants have a minimum MCAT of 500 to be reviewed and evaluated by our committee.

These courses are considered a component of the ‘academic expectations’ as part of more formal training in undergraduate or post-baccalaureate programs.

Biochemistry: May be fulfilled by a single course in Biochemistry, or through coursework which incorporates principles of Biochemistry as part of an interdisciplinary course in Cell and/or Molecular Biology and/or Genetics.

Cellular Biology: May be fulfilled by a single course in Cell and/or Molecular Biology and/or Genetics.

Statistics/Biostatistics: An understanding of the application of statistical methods in the analysis of data is expected given the increasing reliance on current biomedical and healthcare research as part of the curriculum.

Physics: An understanding of the correlation of basic physics to human physiology and anatomy (e.g. physics and/or biophysics) should be completed. Labs are optional.

Sociology: An introduction to the principles of social organization, with particular emphasis on the social determinants of healthcare is expected.

Psychology: An introduction to the basic principles of psychology with emphasis on the biological basis of behavior are recommended.

Expository Writing: Experience in expository writing across the humanities, including but not limited to formal courses in English, is a fundamental element in the preparation for medicine. This may be accomplished through coursework in a number of disciplines, including but not limited to Philosophy, History, Public Policy, Political Science, Religion, etc. and may be accomplished through an Honors Thesis or completion of a major research paper.

The preliminary coursework leading up to the cross-disciplinary courses, e.g. Biochemistry, Cell/Molecular Biology, etc., will vary among colleges and universities, therefore the academic expectations as listed represent a sample of the courses we hope to see in our matriculants to the School of Medicine.

Any courses taken at community colleges and are accepted at your home institution will also be accepted by Duke. In addition, Duke will consider AP coursework if approved by your undergraduate institution.


We recognize that students have been impacted in complex, diverse, and unique ways during COVID-19. Please remember that Duke uses holistic review of applicants for fairness and thoughtful review.

Grading: For the upcoming admissions cycle (2023) Duke will accept course on a Pass/Fail, Pass/No Pass, and Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis. In addition, Duke will also accept online courses, however, we prefer, especially for science and laboratory classes that they are conducted in person and for a letter grade, if possible.
Duke requires the MCAT test, however, your application can be reviewed and you can be invited for an interview without your score. If your application was reviewed without an MCAT and a decision was not made, we will re-evaluate your application once your MCAT is submitted. The MCAT test is required for acceptance consideration, therefore MCAT scores from January 2018 through September 2022 test dates will be considered.