Academic Expectations


Duke University School of Medicine strives to attract, educate, and nurture students who have extraordinary intellect, compassion, humanism and service to others. We have consistently encouraged our applicants to have a broad and balanced undergraduate academic education as well as a wealth of 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.

Aligning with the recent discussions of the appropriate preparation for medicine (as described in the two part AAMC-HHMI Foundations for Future Physicians) and the changes made to the 2015 Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), undergraduate expectations are now different than they were previously.

The new "academic expectations" are the result of extensive discussions among both the clinical and basic science faculty of the School of Medicine. The foundation of these expectations is based on competency-based, cross-disciplinary training in the traditional biomedical sciences-biology, chemistry, and physics as well as their link 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 rapid 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 the following areas and completion of the MCAT examination. If possible, applicants should arrange to take the MCAT as early as possible in the year that 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 2016-2017 application cycle must be from the August 2016 examination.

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 expectation 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. Applicants considering the use of online coursework should contact the Office of Admissions at Duke University if there are any questions about the suitability of online coursework for DukeMed.