Everything To Consider When Retaking A Class For Med School (Premed Guide)

So you did poorly in a class and now you are debating whether or not you should retake a class for entrance into med school. 

No problem, lots of premed students have been in this boat. Before you make any decision about retaking a class, I recommend you read this post. We will go over everything you should consider when retaking a class for med school.

If you are already committed to retaking a class, I still urge that you read this post so that you understand how retakes will affect your med school application.

Without further ado, let’s dive right in. 

How Does Retaking A Course For Med School Affect Your Cumulative GPA?

It’s fairly common for colleges to replace your first grade with the retake grade when calculating your GPA. However, medical schools will factor in all your grades. This includes the class you did poorly on and the grade that replaced it. 

If you are applying to D.O. schools as well, you should know that the AACOMAS application also includes both grades when calculating the cumulative GPA. 

Even though both grades are factored in, there are still good reasons to retake a class. I just want to make sure you know that your old grade won’t be replaced just in case you were counting on that. 

Further Reading: Can you get into medical school with an F on your transcript?

Should You Retake A Class If You Got a “C”? 

Every time you retake a class in undergrad it’s a missed opportunity to do something med schools like to see. Therefore, we highly recommend you DON’T retake a class that you received a C in. 

It’s a lot more impressive to med schools to take an upper-level class than to retake a class you got a C in. 

Your 4 years of undergrad go by fast. Every time you retake a class you are taking away another 3 or 4 hours a week plus study time with something redundant. Therefore, you should only retake a class when it is absolutely necessary. 

Make Sure You Retake The Class At The Same School

Your college might let you get away with retaking a class at another school. However, classes can only be counted as repeats to the AMCAS if they are taken at the same college.

Even if you could take the repeated course at a different school, how does this look to med schools? If I was an admission committee member for a med school, I would be thinking that this student couldn’t perform well at his or her original university and had to find an easier school. 

Considering that med schools are notoriously difficult, you don’t want to give the impression that you can’t handle a tough workload. 

When Should You Retake A Class For Med School?

At this point, you might have gotten the impression that retaking classes for med school is not such a good idea.

However, sometimes it’s necessary to retake a class for med school. You should always talk to someone like your premed advisor for your specific circumstances, but here are the two most common reasons that make retaking a class necessary:

  1. You received a C- or worse on a med school prerequisite. Most med schools require a C or better for your prerequisites in order to count that class. That means even a C- will require you to retake the class. 
  2. You took the prerequisite a long time ago. Some non-traditional students might have taken a prerequisite 5+ years ago. Some medical schools have requirements for how recently the course must have been taken. 

Is Retaking A Class For Med School The Right Move For You?

As I mentioned earlier, sometimes it is absolutely necessary to retake a class. If it isn’t absolutely necessary, we don’t recommend retaking. It’s better to focus on other aspects of your application or take an upper-level science course. 

Personally, I ended up retaking general biology 1 my senior year of college. The reason why I retook this class was that I got a D- in freshman year and it would not have been accepted by medical schools. 

I ended up getting an “A” with no problem. I did so well on all the exams I didn’t even have to take the final. 

It was interesting to see how much I had improved over the years. During freshman year that class was extremely frightening to me. 

The point is that I had to retake the class in order to get into med school. If I had scored a C or better, I would have taken something else. 

Differences In The AACOMAS Application And AMCAS Application When It Comes To Retaking Classes

For the most part, the rules designated by the AMCAS and AACOMAS applications is the same when it comes to retaking classes. For these applications, retaken courses are called repeated courses. 

I wanted to make something clear. Although the AACOMAS application used to replace retaken classes with the new grade, as of 2017 they stopped doing that. So if you have heard otherwise, don’t be fooled. 

Both the AMCAS and AACOMAS will count both attempts of a class when calculating GPA.

However, there is one major difference between the two. The AMCAS requires you to take the repeated course at the same university. The AACOMAS application is okay with you taking the repeated course at another college as long as it’s an equivalent class. 

How You Should Approach Retaking A Class

So you have made the decision to retake one of your premed classes. You definitely want to make sure you are successful the next go around. 

Here is what you should do.

Plan Ahead

Don’t wait until a month or two before the semester starts to plan on taking the retake. 

Courses are not necessarily offered every semester. Sometimes classes are taught by different teachers during different semesters. You may need to plan your retake a year in advance in order to take the course under the right conditions. 

Here is something to consider, when you failed the class, did you take it with a teacher you didn’t resonate with? If that’s the case, taking the course again with a different teacher might be a good idea. 

Why Did You Get The Bad Grade? 

If you are planning on retaking a class for med school, you need to make sure you know exactly why you got the bad grade in the first place. It’s essential that you don’t make the same mistake again. 

Retaking a course and getting an “A” proves to medical schools that you are capable of overcoming failures. Retaking the same course and getting a lousy grade shows the opposite. 

Most of the time, the reason for the bad grade was the lack of experience with studying at a higher education level. Hopefully, you have improved your ability to study and take notes so that the second time you take the course it’s a piece of cake. 

Other Ways To Enhance Your Med School Application Without Retaking A Class

As I mentioned before, retaking a class as a premed student takes time away from other activities you could be doing to impress medical schools

Here are 5 other ways you can enhance your med school application without retaking a class:

  1. Take an upper-level biology course. Your prereqs for med school are really just scratching the surface as far as scientific knowledge goes. Taking classes like genetics, microbiology, and immunology really helps you develop a deeper understanding of medical sciences. Med schools love this.
  2. Clinical experience. There are so many jobs you can get that offer great clinical experience. My personal favorite is scribing because it offers a tremendous amount of relevant clinical experience without having to obtain a certification. But there are plenty of others. For example:
    1. EMT
    2. Medical Interpreter
    3. Hospice worker/volunteer
    4. Certified Nursing Assistant
    5. Medical Assistant
    6. Medical Technician
  3. Shadowing. In my opinion, shadowing is one of the best experiences you can have as a premed. It’s one of the only opportunities you will have to see what the day in the life of a doctor is like. Med schools love this experience because you are demonstrating that you have an understanding of what you are getting yourself into. 
  4. Volunteering. Demonstrating your willingness to help others through volunteering looks great on your med school application. There are tons of opportunities. The easiest way to find volunteering opportunities for a student would probably be through some kind of pre-health club. 
  5. Join on-campus organizations. Being active on your campus opens the door for great leadership opportunities. Med schools are constantly looking for students who have demonstrated leadership attributes. 

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