As a pre-med student, I have finished essentially all the requirements for medical schools in United States with the exception of Biochemistry at this point. Biochemistry is a course that is becoming required by more and more medical schools in United States. All the other courses I will discuss in this article are all prerequisites by most medical schools in United States, however. These courses are: 1 year of general biology, 1 year of physics, 1 year of organic chemistry, 1 year of general chemistry, and 1 year of English. Although you can find the list on internet, I am about to personally explain how these courses were to actually go through based on my own experience.
1 year of general biology
Textbook: Biology by Reece, Campbell, and other authors, 8th Edition
I used this textbook for both semesters of my general biology, and this textbook is a commonly used book for introductory biology in many colleges and universities. The first semester surveyed eukaryotic cells, cellular processes like photosynthesis and cellular respiration, major classes of macromolecules, Mendelian genetics, virology, and molecular genetics. The second semester devoted its time to evolution, developmental biology, anatomy and physiology of humans and other organisms, behavioral biology, and ecology. While it was true that many of concepts in the second semester had their scientific bases from the first semester, two semesters were vastly different in the presentation of materials and the level of details. Personally, I found the first semester to be more interesting when I took those courses because it was easier to see “why” certain processes happened. For instance, I was particularly fascinated by all the detailed steps involving glycolysis and citric acid cycle, particularly with the enzyme phosphofructokinase.
On the other hand, the second semester seemed to be more of memorization and regurgitation to me, but looking back, I felt like I could have enjoyed it more if I had approached it in systemic method instead of regional method. In other words, when I was learning about the reproductive processes like oogenesis and spermatogenesis, I simply tried to memorize the time periods like trimesters and focused on the events happening just in that organ. Hence, I looked at the topic in the regional method without considering the entire system. So, upon more careful consideration later, reproduction would have been a lot more interesting if I saw it as a part of system that was heavily influenced by other systems instead, particularly via hormones like follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH) and luteinizing hormones (LH) through the release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) from anterior pituitary by hypothalamus of brain.
Like any other science course for pre-med, labs for general biology were crucial in terms of assimilating the concepts from lectures and playing a role in the final grade of the course. I had to do lab reports for both semesters of my general biology courses, along with quizzes and readings to prepare for three-hour lab each week. Because of my interest in the lecture portion of the first semester, I also found the labs for the first semester to be more interesting. The second semester labs were tough because of anatomy, and let’s just say that my dissection mimicked more of Pablo Picasso than Raphael.
Final Word of Advice
If pre-med is an option for you, then it is imperative that the student takes two years of biology in high school, and AP Biology, if possible. I entered my biology courses with strong background in cellular biology and weak knowledge in anatomy and physiology. These backgrounds certainly played a role in my studying and difficulties of the course, explaining how the first semester was more interesting than the second partly because I knew the basics beforehand. It is doable, but biology at college-level is a lot of reading, memorization, and integration of concepts.