Do You Need Anatomy and Physiology for Med School? (It Could Destroy Your GPA)

Working out whether you need anatomy and physiology (A&P) for med school can be a dilemma. On the one side you know it would probably benefit you. On the other you worry it could harm your GPA.

So what’s the right answer?

For most U.S. med schools, taking anatomy and physiology before applying is not a requirement. You don’t need to major in it at college, nor do you have to have studied it in high school.

But there are some exceptions here. So this article will cover:

  • The few cases you actually need A&P before med school
  • The pros and cons of taking it before studying medicine
  • What other students recommend you do

Let’s go.

Do You Need Anatomy and Physiology for Med School?

To apply and get accepted to most med schools you don’t need anatomy and physiology. There are some U.S. med schools that do require it as a prerequisite however. Be sure to check beforehand – you can use the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) website to do this.

Rare examples of schools that ask for it include Oklahoma (OSU) and Creighton School of Medicine

In European med schools (including those in Bulgaria – where I attend) you definitely don’t need anatomy or physiology.

If You Don’t Need A&P, What Do You Need?

Outside of North America, you’ll usually need high school sciences or the equivalent. These are usually biology, chemistry and physics (again, they depend on what each University asks for).

Related: Doing A-Levels In One Year: 10 Top Tips (How I Got Into Med School)

Do You Need Anatomy and Physiology for MCAT?

In the U.S., anatomy and physiology is often only “recommended” as a pre-med course. Instead, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) lists the following courses as “hard” prerequisites in advance of the MCAT (the med school admissions test):

  • General Chemistry (full year)
  • Organic Chemistry (full year)
  • Physics (full year)
  • Biology (full year)
  • Psychology (one semester)
  • Sociology (one semester)
  • Biochemistry (one semester)

Most people suggest that physiology can be very important for the MCAT. Likewise microbiology and biochemistry…

Should I Take Anatomy and Physiology Before Med School?

Deciding whether to take A&P before med school, now you know it’s not a requirement, is entirely up to you. Here are the key pros and cons you might want to consider when making a decision:


  • Seeing anatomy and hearing names for structures etc can be an advantage.
  • You’ll get a better understanding of how best to study anatomy (the process that works for you etc).
  • It can be good to become comfortable with cadavers (assuming you have access) before med school.

Related: How to Prepare for Cadaver Lab (A Med Student’s Guide)


  • It’s probably better to focus on getting as high a GPA and MCAT score as possible (than worrying about anatomy). This seems to be what med school admissions board’s value most.
  • Anatomy is hard. Physiology is harder still. Taking them before med school could damage your GPA and make your application less attractive.
  • You learn A&P in the pre-clinical years of med school anyway. Maybe it’s better to explore other educational interests first as you won’t get much of a chance (or free time) in med school.

My personal opinion is to finish your basic prerequisites for med school first and then choose an upper division science class other than anatomy and physiology.

Trust me, you’ll be spending a lot of time with both later.

Tips for Taking Anatomy and Physiology Before Med School

Despite my advice, maybe you want to take A&P anyway. Here are two good tips if that’s the case:

  1. If you can, take both during your last semester of study. Having them as fresh in your mind as possible will make the advantage bigger when you get to med school.
  2. Don’t enroll on the course but sit in on the lectures instead. That way you’ll get all the benefits of familiarizing yourself with the content without running the risk of it damaging your GPA.

I’ve also got some good recommendations on the best YouTube anatomy website channels for beginners. You can learn a lot there.

Should I Take Anatomy in High School?

Taking anatomy in high school can be a great way to work out if studying medicine could be something right for you. It’ll be basic compared to what you’ll be expected to know, but that’s all you’ll need at this point.

If you do find yourself enjoying it maybe take some other science courses too.

Undergrad Anatomy Vs Med School Anatomy

Another reason to not take anatomy and physiology before med school is that maybe it won’t prepare you that much. 

Undergrad anatomy is very basic compared to med school anatomy. You often won’t get access to a cadaver or learn enough to really make it worth your while.

Do I Need To Take Anatomy and Physiology for Med School: Reddit’s Opinion

To round this discussion off, let’s take a look at what other med students think about the question. Here’s some of the best input from Reddit…

Some physiology is present on the MCAT, and some schools require anatomy for you to matriculate. I’d say take it.


You understand that most of your first year of medical school will be you swimming in a torrent of anatomy and physiology, right? Enjoy your time off!


If you’re going to take a class, take immunology. Based on the med students and faculty that I’ve spoken to, immunology is what people struggle with the most. Anatomy is totally doable. You’ll be learning the map of the body and this won’t be nearly as difficult as immunology. That being said, having A&P will help.


A&P was incredibly helpful for my MCAT. I took it my senior year because I ran out of classes to take for my major and it was one of the best classes I did during undergrad. Having a bit of exposure to muscles and bones can’t hurt.


Definitely take physiology because it will be helpful for the MCAT, but you don’t need the lab. You can take anatomy if you want to, but it’s not needed. Histology is absolutely unnecessary, unless you want to take it for yourself.


Taking A&P as an undergrad will put you in a really good spot when you take it again in med school. I’d highly recommend that you take it. Remember that the goal for applications is to apply broadly all over the country. Even though local schools don’t require it, it doesn’t mean that others you look at down the road won’t.


Final Thoughts: Do You Need A&P Before Med School?

You don’t need anatomy and physiology for med school but it can bring some benefits when taking both courses in your first couple of years studying medicine. 

Repeated exposure is one of the best ways to master a subject!

Image Credit – @aggergakker at Unsplash