Science Prerequisites – An Update

As you may or may not be aware, over the past year the Faculty of Medicine has been reviewing the science prerequisites for the MD program. The proposal is to remove all science prerequisites as strict requirements for the program.** To date, this proposal has been approved by a series of committees. However, final consideration by UBC Senate has been delayed and will not occur before mid-December. We hope to have a final update for you around that time. In the interim, what does this mean for those of you planning to apply in 2016 or beyond? You should continue to plan your degree with the assumption that we will maintain the current science prerequisites for the indefinite future. Why? Because if this proposal is not approved the current science prerequisites will still be required next year and the years following. Additionally, if the proposal is approved, the science prerequisites will still be strongly recommended and having knowledge in these subjects will help you in medical school.

Although we are hoping to remove our strict requirements around the prerequisites, the Faculty of Medicine is still deeply committed to science as a foundation for medicine. However, we know that many of you come to medicine from a variety of backgrounds— you attend schools where not all of the requirements are offered, or your program does not leave adequate room for you to fit all of the necessary courses in. Our goal is to provide you with the ability to take courses that are of interest, that challenge you, and that allow you to gain foundational knowledge in biology, chemistry, biochemistry and organic chemistry without compelling you to take a specific sequence of courses. If the proposal is approved, we hope to provide more information about what we are looking for in terms of a scientific foundation in December or January.  In the meantime, we are eager to hear from you – please leave us your thoughts, opinions, questions or concerns by posting a comment below.

**Please note that the proposal does not discuss changes to the English prerequisite requirements. English, as currently listed on our website, will still be a requirement even if this proposal is passed.

68 responses to “Science Prerequisites – An Update”

  1. Jas

    Hi there UBC,

    Would this mean if it passed that only having a minimum of 6 english credits and 90 university credits be the academic requirments? What will be the new metric for determining if an applicant has a strong enough foundation in science to enter the program? Will the mcat then be weighed more heavily?


  2. Johnson

    This makes sense as a variety of programs and backgrounds provide the necessary background and skill set that would be useful in a MD career.

  3. Ebod Shojaei

    If the proposal is to remove the science prerequisite courses, that’s pure lunacy. It’ll do nothing, but make this program more competitive than it already is. Secondly, if these courses are STRONGLY recommended, then keep them as prerequisites. This is a ridiculous proposal, as I have not heard of any other Canadian medical school having a program remotely similar to this proposal. Also if you’re withholding answers to certain questions, that’s not helping the pre-medicine student community, as many of us, including myself, want to stay informed regarding this matter.

  4. John Diallo

    If I was planning to do a general science course in Spring 2016 to fulfill science requirements for this year’s application, would the decision in December affect the 2015-2016 application cycle or it would only affect future applications like the 2016/2017 application cycle?

  5. TM

    I really appreciate this! As a student with two undergraduate majors, I was unable to fit in the specific requirements for this MD program, but I believe the breadth of classes I took have prepared me nonetheless! To understand and work towards healthy communities requires knowledge and training from a variety of fields, so this movement is definitely taking UBC in the right direction!

  6. Anon

    Will you differentiate between different programs when making final decisions? For instance – Biology vs Biochemistry vs Biopsychology

    These programs have very different course requirements where one of them may have an increased lab component leaving less time for students to participate in extra curricular activities. Additionally, how will this impact those students that have already completed their programs with the science prerequisites? Will you provide more lenient AQ/NAQ points?

  7. Aman

    I think this is very unfair to students who have already completed the pre-reqs. For example I spent an entire year completing pre-reqs before pursuing the degree of my choice and now its as if that money and time went to waste. Also, what about GPA calculation if those classes were used to complete pre-reqs but were not required for the students degree/major.

  8. Jessica

    I am in full support of this proposal. It’s great to see UBC coming in line with the changes other schools have been making. It’s really encouraging to see UBC recognize that I might have a lot to offer from my own background, which is in arts and computing, not the life sciences.

    As someone who has been trying to juggle taking prerequisites for the last two years while also working full time, it is incredibly stressful to see this change be implemented on such short notice. It has cost me thousands of dollars, both in tuition and in lost wages, to try to get the prerequisites so far. And not knowing whether I need to take the remaining classes in January is making it really difficult for me to plan the rest of life, or even give my employer a clear answer about when I can work. Of course, I would be very happy to see the prerequisites change in my circumstances. But I’d like UBC to know that this is a really terrible way to implement it.

  9. Wes

    I think this is a good idea in some ways. I am currently taking my Bachelor of Science in Nursing, because I did not want to take a regular bachelor of science. I think anyone entering the Medical Program should have a strong passion for caring for patients, not necessarily just have great grades in sciences. I have always wanted to become a M.D. through UBC, and I chose nursing knowing that I would need to take extra courses to fulfill the pre-requisite requirements, however my passion and desire to care for people outweighed the extra two years of school on top of my nursing degree. I understand why sciences are a pre-requisite and why they will be encouraged if the pre-requisites change, but as the website said “we know that many of you come to medicine from a variety of backgrounds” and I think having more flexibility around these courses will be great. I personally know many RN’s or BSN students who would love to pursue medical school, and this would make the transition easier.

  10. John

    I also think this is very unfair – you may encourage students to take scientific backgrounds, but without strict requirements, students will take the easiest courses that lead to the highest gap averages. I am 28years old, have volunteered for over 10years, and have a overal average of 84.5 – this is my life and I have invested a very significant amount of time, stress and money with the goal of recouping these investments later in life when in medicine (and financial investments is only part of it). This is especially sensitive to me because I come from a poor background and don’t have parents to bail me out. This will drive the overall gpa average up significantly, and will lead to me being saddled with significant and devastating losses. I signed into medicine when I believed the requirements were what they were – you can’t change the requirements and compare applicants equally – that creates a significant bias toward new applicants, and leaves us old stock applicants in the dust – I hope you are thinking very carefully about this because these are peoples’ lives in your hands.

    1. Aman

      Completely agree with this.

    2. Samantha Marie Fischer

      On the other hand, people from disadvantaged SES backgrounds, who decide to apply after they’re finished their degrees/a number of degrees, may now actually be able to afford to apply.

      The courses are expensive, and they are often not offered in the evening. I wish I could have a full-time job, and take 1.5 hours out of every day to attend classes/labs, but I can’t; I have to work part-time, and I have needed to ask for help from my partner/parents (which I recognize I am in a position of privilege to do in the first place, and that other people may have given up when they saw the cost of the courses/the time slots of the courses). Even if medical school never wants me, I want the doctors who are providing me care to come from diverse backgrounds; this change will help ensure that.

      UBC – if these courses do remain a part of the curriculum, is there any chance you could discuss a way for the pre-reqs to be held at night, or a way for the chemistry courses to be completed in a year for mature applicants (eg. having the summer schedule – where you can take 2 courses in one term – in place all year for mature applicants)? This would minimize lost wages, and increase access to the program. Yet, I think many people still wouldn’t be able to do this.

  11. SP


    It was great to see that new changes might be implemented with respect to science courses. However, why are two semesters of English required? For some faculties like engineering, with 6 courses a semester, adding an extra english course would be detrimental. Another point is that many applicants applying to UBC medicine are applying to other schools, and some of them prefer you to take courses at the grade level you are in, so for example, if I am taking a full load and one elective, I am only able to fit 1 english course in year 1, and I will be forced to take another Engl-100 level course in 2nd year.

    Shouldn’t having a Canadian degree, with a half-semester English, with MCAT(s) written be enough to prove English ability to practice Medicine?


  12. Samantha Marie Fischer

    As a non-traditional applicant, I appreciate these changes. I’m a self-directed learner, and nobody is going to do well on the MCAT without some degree of sound knowledge in the basic sciences (which I think is important for everyone, in every academic field, to have… not just those in medicine).
    I’ve been working on the pre-req courses, but this change would give me the option to study it on my own. This is awesome — the problem I encountered with the Chem courses was that they had to be taken in sequence… so, even though the rest of my application might be considered acceptable, and even if I had the knowledge base from these courses, it would take me 2.5+ full years (taking one chem course each term) to meet the pre-reqs. 🙁 By that time, I’ll be around 30. I want to get my career going so I can have a family, and – as I’m sure non-traditional applicants know – it’s no fun knowing you want to leave a field you’ve been in for 5 or 10 years, but being stuck there until you can work through a long sequence of chemistry courses.

    Also, I feel like it is realistic to expect many applicants need to apply 2 or 3 times to get in (even if you have a strong application); a lot of people want these spaces. So, from deciding to switch fields to getting in, it could take up to 5 years.

    This change will allow me to put it a (hopefully) competitive application much sooner, and it will break down barriers for other applicants who did not decide, in their first year of university, to become a doctor.

    On the other hand, I can understand why people in my situation (who have done more pre-reqs than I have) are upset about the changes, and how this resulted in lost wages/lots of effort/lots of sacrifice/ect when self-study could have been a good alternative for self-directed learners. I’d encourage all of the people who are upset to consider the fact that, if these changes are put in place, other people like you will not need to go through this. But, I get why some people are upset. I would be, too.

    Thank you, UBC, for considering these changes. They seem to line up with the ideology present in your new curriculum (which I’m also really excited about). Additionally, I’m excited to possibly have the option to stay in BC; this has been my home for years, and I’d really disrupt my family if we had to move back to Ontario (since I can submit hopefully competitive applications there).

    🙂 I think these changes break down a lot of SES barriers, and a lot of barriers non-traditional applicants face when applying.

    I hope they get approved!
    (by the way, is there any chance the CASPer will be a part of the new application process? I like the ideas behind the CASPer, and I wonder if it lines up with the ideas behind the new curriculum/the reason the science courses may be removed as pre-reqs?)

  13. JMB94

    I was just wondering, does this mean that every course is now treated equally? I know that currently, the school looks at the applicant’s academic average, and then takes the prerequisites into special consideration? Unfortunately, I did quite poorly in one of my prerequisites, despite a generally good academic average, and have been quite concerned that this one poor mark could do serious damage to my application.

    Any clarity would be greatly appreciated, thank you.

  14. Mike

    This really seems like an unnecessary change, applicants are already encouraged to demonstrate diversity in non-academic sections. If course availability is an issue, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to limit perquisites to lower-level courses and encourage the higher-level ones? Removing the perquisites may actually discourage applicants who have a science background from applying due to competition. I really hope the proposal doesn’t go through…

  15. Lin

    Is there an indication of whether or not this will be determined on a specific date?

  16. Anonymous

    As a current medical student, I just want to bring up the fact that a science background (particularly anatomy and physiology) will help tremendously although it is not required. So even if the prerequisites were removed, a background in science will definitely ease the transition into medical school.

  17. Fernando Villasenor

    This change is a little stressful as I have been working hard to maintain a high pre-requisite GPA. My experience will probably be atypical from most people here, but I have some lower grades from my core degree and I had really been working hard to make sure my pre-requisite GPA would help me stand out and give the admissions panel reason to look at my transcript.

    Will UBC still be looking at grades for pre-requisites separately from the rest of the applicants transcript?

    Thank you for your time.

  18. Sara

    In the interest of providing feedback, I for one am very pleased to hear of the proposed prerequisite changes. I am a Saskatchewan student in the Dietetics program and will only have 4 open electives. I plan to complete general chemistry ii as well as a full year of physics during the summer sessions in order to prepare for the mcat, but completing organic chemistry ii would be very tricky with the rest of the dietetic program’s workload and might prevent me from applying to the medical program at UBC. This would be very unfortunate because I spent almost 3 years in Vancouver and would be delighted to return to BC. I feel that the combination of physiology, biochemistry, pathology, microbiology as well as clinical experience included in my program would prepare me very well for medical school and it would be a shame to not be able to apply or have to wait an extra year to apply to UBC because of one course that ideally I would be able to do some self-studying for as well during mcat prep. I’m sure there are students in the other various health sciences programs who feel similarly.

    Thank you for taking the time to review my feedback, and best of luck with the proposal!


  19. Paula

    Thank you for advancing this proposal! I am in full support of it, as I believe that it will help increase the diversity of the UBC medical program and of the medical profession. Not requiring the pre-requisites will allow individuals who, for many reasons, did not have the chance to take these pre-requisites but are motivated and hard-working to do well on the MCAT and extracurriculars. I watched a few of the videos posted by current students sharing their stories of how they initially didn’t think medicine was for them but managed to complete all the requirements and be accepted. I think making the pre-requisites voluntary but strongly recommended would encourage more applicants who come from rural areas, other disciplines, and less privileged backgrounds.

    I can understand why some people may feel this proposal is unfair to them, as they have spent considerable time, effort, and money in completing the pre-requisites. However, the education is not wasted and I would encourage those people to consider that the courses they took will still help them tremendously with the MCAT and in med school. Someone that does not have those pre-requisites will have to spend more time and effort studying, oftentimes after a full day or week of work. This proposal is about helping to level out the playing field for those who have not had the advantage of taking the pre-requisites.

    Lastly, I want to commend UBC for advancing this proposal to increase the diversity of the medical profession. It will greatly benefit patients to be cared by professionals who can better relate to the multiplicity of life circumstances from which patients come. I very much hope that it goes through.

    1. Mike jones

      What does being from a rural area have to do with completing pre-reqs?

      Every single prereq for UBC can be completed online through TRU or AU.

      Many of the complaints and arguments made on the blog post are, at the basis, unfounded. As a nontrad and current medical student myself- I keep reading “lost wages”, ” scheduling issues” etc etc with the better alternative of self-studying being preferred. No one is saying you have to complete prereqs in person. Take them online, and it would be no different(aside from cost) than self studying outside of your full time job.

      The rebuttal I see some people making is that “I can’t learn through online courses vs in person”-/but then that is the same issue as self-study, how are you going to do that?

      In short, if you’re worried about scheduling, or not offered locally, or lost wages etc – take them online. Many of my current classmates took the prereqs online and got in just fine.

      If you dont put in the little bit of extra work now to get the prerequisite knowledge (in addition some anatomy and physiology, maybe even histology) you’re going to have a very difficult time when you start at UBC. The curriculum assume some fair amount of knowledge, and us nontrads have had to work a lot harder just to scrap by compared to science grads who can build from their already strong foundations.

      1. jd

        As a student who has studied online to get several prereqs, I can tell you from personal experience that it’s not about being unwilling to ‘put in the little bit of extra work.’ I am sure you’re right that not having the prereqs could mean a lot more legwork when you actually start at UBC – but this seems like a reasonable trade off for nontrads who would are otherwise unable to even apply under the current rules because of the hurdle.

        Your claim that self study is equivalent to online courses is flawed and incorrect. First of all, not all course can easily be completed online. For example, each of the 2nd year organic chemistry labs for TRU OL have to be completed in person in Kamloops over a 1 week period – this is time and travel that some people really can’t afford when they have families and/or full time jobs. Second, TRU OL is not just a little bit more expensive than UBC – it is prohibitively more expensive. For example, the cost for completing the equivalent of UBC Chem 121 and 123 through TRU OL is close to $3000, which is more than double the cost of taking the same courses at UBC. Why should it cost students twice as much to get the prereqs to apply for medical school simply because they chose to study a non-science discipline their first time through university?

        As someone who got basically all the prereqs the hard and expensive way while working a full time job, I fully support this proposal and I agree completely with the original poster. There are lots of paths to becoming a great doctor, and this proposal will make it possible for a lot more people to do so. I really hope it passes!

      2. Anon

        Hi Mike!
        I was looking at the UBC prerequisites and trying to determine which of the TRU online courses qualify. I didn’t find any BIOL courses that according to bctransfer were equivalent. Would you be able to tell me which ones are the correct BIOL courses?

  20. HelloKitty

    If all the science prerequisites are removed, does this mean that you will only look at our english marks for the admissions!!?

    1. Admissions

      To date, final consideration to remove all science prerequisites has been delayed so we are unable to confirm what the prerequisite requirements will be. If the proposal is passed, English could potentially be the only prerequisite requirement. We hope to have a final update in the early new year so stay tune!

  21. Tom

    Do online english courses count for the prerequisite?

    many thanks

  22. DP

    Why are histology, anatomy, and physiology not emphasized over organic chemistry, chemistry and biology? Each subject has its own importance but from speaking to medical students currently and just seeing general trends, it seems a lot more important to have physiology and anatomy covered than chemistry and biology for success in medical school and beyond. Essentially a physician should have basic knowledge of chemistry, etc but what is practically applicable seems to be physiology and anatomy. However, these seem to be absent from pre requisites altogether.

  23. Applicant101

    I was wondering when the final decision regarding the proposal would be posted? Thank you.

  24. Matias

    Hi there,
    I’m wondering if a decision has been made yet on this matter. Like probably many others, I am registered in one of the science prerequisite courses this semester, and whether or not I decide to drop that course depends on whether or not I need these prerequisites. If you haven’t come to a conclusion yet, I understand. These things take time, of course. But if you have decided already (or will in the next few days), I would very much appreciate your posting a notification as soon as possible so that those of us currently registered in courses can drop them without financial/academic penalty.
    Thank you,

  25. Bob

    Will courses be looked at equally then? For example, an A in wine tasting will be considered better than a B in microbiology.

  26. Brian Kim

    Hi, I’ve been informed that the senate has passed this proposal.

    Could you please elaborate on a few potential “issues” that may arise from this as well as questions asked by others above?

    1) grade inflation. Aka GPA boosters. How will you be selecting strong applicants from the ones who took “easier courses” (taking courses with class average of 90+ only)

    2) NAQ, AQ weight. I’d imagine without prerequisites, it will be more difficult to standardize the grades for applicants from different schools and fields of studies. Will the AQ and NAQ weight be changed? ( ie 50-50 to 30-70?).

  27. ainslie

    Hi there,

    I was just wondering if there is any talk about this change occurring within the DMD program as well? They have (or had) very similar prerequisite courses as the medical application.

  28. L. Stoffman

    Support the proposal. However, the English pre requisite needs to be more creatively applied.. Some universities outside BC allow for a full undergrad degree and English requirements met a variety of ways: interdisciplinary studies; writing courses; essay based coursework etc. Is there a way one’s transcripts can be evaluated to see if an application is worthwhile? (This query from a prospective student with a completed Phd in medicinal chemistry).

  29. Frankey

    Is there any plans on allowing SCIE 113 to be allowed as credit for the english requirement?

  30. Miranda

    Has this been passed? Is there an updated prerequisite chart?

  31. Adam

    Quick Question! Sorry if this isn’t the write place to ask–if I could be redirected that would be great. I wanted to ask if there is any opinion from admissions on elective courses taken online? I am a science major and I have my science courses but I’m intending to do some “gpa boosters” online. Does the admissions committee recognize typical UBC online gpa boosters and dislike these on applications? Thanks so much!

    1. Admissions

      If you intend to apply to UBC’s MD Undergraduate Program, you should consider that as applicants are required to demonstrate their academic ability to determine their suitability for the rigorous MD curriculum, taking easy GPA boosters may not be a helpful indicator in the selection process. We also have a blog post that touched on taking easy courses.

  32. Sam

    Some schools offer the option to have “Personal Interest Credits” and I was wondering if UBC would accept a full year of English (Ex: English 100) although it is listed as a Personal Interest Credit on one’s transcript and would not therefore contribute to their GPA.