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.

MCAT Examination and Coursework Expectations:

For those who are planning to apply to the School of Medicine at Duke University, our academic expectations will include multidisciplinary coursework in a number of areas and completion of the MCAT examination. If possible, applicants should arrange to take the MCAT as early as possible in the year they plan to apply. MCAT scores dated earlier than four years prior to the year for which an applicant is seeking admissions will not be considered. The latest examination scores accepted from the MCATs for the 2020-2021 application cycle must be from the August 2017 examination.  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.  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.

Understanding that the preliminary coursework leading up to the aforementioned cross-disciplinary courses, e.g. Biochemistry, Cell/Molecular Biology, etc., will vary among colleges and universities, the academic expectations as listed represent the absolute courses expected of matriculants to the School of Medicine. The preliminary courses may be acquired through traditional university courses and/or approved online course work if those courses have been approved by your undergraduate institution.