Calculus anyone?

I am a Bio major as I never got that first degree. I can get a BA with my current math level of college algebra, but everyone keeps saying I should really go for the BS degree which requires two sem’s of calc or one of calc and one of something like stats, or Biometry. So, now I have a dilemma on my hands. Taking two more courses I did not plan on taking will put me in a crunch to graduate when I want to. Not to mention, I am SO trepidatious about taking Calc. It’s been a long time since I took any math. I’m doing just fine in Chemistry, but calc?! I don’t even remember if I had precalc in h.s. I don’t think so, though. I don’t want to take calc and mess up my GPA or have it interfere with my other classes, but if getting my BS will make me that much more competitive than a BA will than I guess it’s worth it so long as I keep on top of my game and keep the grades high.

Lots of med schools, including the one I have my eye on, don’t require calc, but maybe I should take it anyway? A good doc of mine said he never took it and didn’t want to. Said he “hit a wall” with math at the calc point so never went further and said that when he went to med school it didn’t seem to matter that he didn’t take it. But, he says, as does everyone else I discuss this with, that I seem like the type to take a drink from the fire hose, so why not? I can think of a gazillion reasons why not! BUT, I am trying to keep my eye on the future and what will make me stand out. Taking calc at 35+ and getting the BS degree may be a way to stand out, but there are other ways, too. Any of my fellow OPM’ers esp. 1st degree science majors care to weigh in?

Any thoughts on fabulous web based calc prep out there is welcome as well if I do decide to take the plunge! I have Khan Academy and Brightstorm in my faves, but will those be enough to prepare me I wonder?

Thanks in advance!


I am currently a 1st year Post-bacc and I am taking Pre-Calc. I will also take Calc in the spring semester. Here are two cliches to ponder, “math is not that bad” and “age is nothing but a number” I am 31 years old and there is a guy that is 34 years old in my class; we are both doing pretty well. Math is mostly repetition and memorization.

Regarding your debate about “BS vs. BA” will come down to the schools to which you are interested in applying. Some schools REQUIRE a semester each of Calculus I and Statistics. Check the MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements) book and school websites for further details.

Hope this helps!


All the schools I’m applying to “strongly recommend” having calculus, so I’m biting the bullet and taking it. Nervous because I haven’t had math in 8 years, but I’m reviewing all the math I can before it starts. It’s the only class I’m worried about for the spring, so it’ll be fine :slight_smile:

There are a large number of schools from what I have seen that require 1 full year of calc. It is really not that bad once you get going. I am now 37 and jumped back in for a B.S. last year, I took college algebra and a business calc with no trig and the pre calc w/trig to help refine my math skills. I am now in calc 1 and will finish calc 2 in spring. I found it very helpful to know some calc when I was in chem 2 (rates of decay, etc). If you have not yet taken physics,which is usually required for BS bio, you will most likely need to take calc as a pre-req or cor-req.

hope this helps


Taking calculus will open doors and allow you to major, minor, or take upper-division or graduate courses in physics, math, chemistry, and engineering. With that said, only take calculus if you have the time and the desire to do well. You can get into medical school without it.

Calculus Made Easy by Silvanus P. Thompson was printed over a 100 years ago. It’s a great book. I basically used the Thompson book in place of my calculus textbook for the first 1.5 semesters of calculus. Because it was printed over 100 years ago, the copyright has run-out. It is legally and readily available on the internet: sy

I took AP Calculus BC in high school and got a 5 on the AP exam, but most med schools do not accept AP credit. So I am also taking calculus this semester, plus statistics next semester.

I personally recommend the “Demystified” series for a math review. I reviewed “College Algebra Demystified,” "Precalculus Demystified, AND “Calculus Demystified” before embarking on any math, and found it really helped me. There is good teaching in the books, lots of practice problems, plus “exams” to test your comprehensive knowledge. As I said, I found the series really helpful.

As others have said, many med schools either highly recommend calc or require it. It all depends on where you want to apply. If you don’t have it, DEFINITELY buy the most recent version of the MSAR (medical schools admissions requirements) book from the AAMC. It gives you a breakdown of all the requirements for each med school, and this should help you make your decision.

Best wishes to you!

Shannon - do not fear the math. “Fear is the mindkiller.”

I bombed math in highschool, and hated it all through my education. When I went to start my pre-reqs 5 years ago I tested so poorly in math the university didn’t offer a class that remedial - I had to take something at the 082 level at community college.

But by the end of my 3rd year at ASU I had taken both pre-calc and calc, and kinda thought derivatives were fun.

So, my advice is 1) you can totally do this 2) Use Khan Academy and it will be so much easier 3) statistics and calc could give you the extra points to nudge out competition for an interview at several schools that merely “suggest” them

Ah, the wonderful OPMer advice! So, that settles it. I’m taking Calc! Thanks for the important responses. Pixie-I will soooo try not to fear this! It’s hard, but I keep reminding myself to remain positive. If we are nothing else, OPMer’s are tenacious. I know I can do it. In a way, I was hoping someone somewhere would give me that one “excuse” to not take it. Which I would glom onto and use as a reason not to go for it. Of course, that isn’t right, and I need to face this head on, listen to all of you and everyone else and take the darn calc! I already have a ton of the Demystified books “ordered” from my library and I’m hitting Khan Academy and Brightstorm this weekend in between “real” studying. How do you know you’re an OPM? When your daughter is off to your parents house all weekend and you are relishing the thought of cozying up with the school books and the instructional videos ALL WEEKEND LONG! Woohoo.

I approve of your post, particularly the word ‘glom’

I am just waiting for an excuse to use that in a conversation.

Seriously though, if I can do calculus anybody can. And now I’m tutoring teens in algebra and even geometry. It’s so bizarre.

Pixie: You are a true inspiration!

That made me laugh. Thanks!

Edit - No tea was actually spit on my monitor.

Make sure you have a solid base in the math leading up to calculus. When I was in high school I passed the AP calc test with flying colors, then 6 years later an adviser told me to take a calculus course as a refresher and got murdered, literally my worst grade of college.

I interviewed at 4 schools and got in at all 4. No school seemed to care one iota that I bombed it. I also have found that it hasn’t mattered that I struggled. The class that I’d really recommend is statistics. Stats is the class that really comes up all the time in med school.

Interesting thoughts. I can take Calc, but be prepared (that I planned on) and maybe just maybe not do stellar, but it may not hurt my chances at med school. That makes me feel better. Of course, I will be diligent and do my best.

Everyone tells me Stats, stats, stats! Not just for med school, either. Just about every prof I’ve had since starting back up in 2010 has emphasized that stats is THE class to take. So, there is certainly a trend here. I am fairly certain I am going to take the Calculus 211 “survey” course with the one semester Biometry course to get my BS vs BA in Bio. I could also take two sems of Calc, but I think I’d rather have one of Calc and one of Biometry. It seems this may be more to my advantage anyway.

Hi Shanport

I am not sure if what I am about to say is relevant, but I will say it anyway.

I would like to add things that relate to my own experience although a lot has already been said.

Last week I took CLEP calculus (CLEP and AP are kind of comparable). Now I must also say that right at the start of this semester (in which I am taking Eng 1 and A&P 1), I decided to CLEP the entire math sequence. In fact I CLEPPED algebra (77/80), then pre-calculus (78/80) and then calculus (73/80) at a rate of 1 CLEP every two weeks, for a total of about 10 to 12 Credit hours. Now I will say the following:

1- If you take calculus make sure your foundations in algebra and pre-calc are solid

2- I decided to CLEP, knowing that many universities won’t accept these. My top choice do and that’s good enough for me. Besides, I will make sure to discuss my scores in my essay as scores in CLEP are not part of the GPA. Perhaps this is why they are usually not accepted.

3- In my situation, and for me, it made sense to CLEP, because my coursework being foreign, I need 90 Credit Hours. While CLEP should not be attempted for required courses, getting these for non required courses help getting toward the 90 CR limit (at least at some universities that I target).

4- I still took Statistics (in class) to satisfy that requirement in Fall 2010

5- CLEP credits also help me enroll in more advanced classes. For instance, I can now enroll in Calculus 2 instead of painfully going to Algebra and waste my time.

Finally, and about my situation. I am the father of two of who I care for during the day. I teach at night and take classes in between. It would be fallacious to think that I can simply go and take classes at will. This is a way for me to compensate for a difficult situation, with all my obligations as a father (or a full time mom), and putting bread on the table. Finally I also have terminal degrees and many scientific publications. So my situation is probably different than yours.

I am bringing in CLEP into the picture to say that 1) Calculus is not hard if you have strong basis. 2) If you do, perhaps you can attempt a CLEP to allow you to enroll in more interesting and challenging classes 3) CLEP are generally not accepted for the purpose of satisfying requirements, although I do think they will be included in the 90 CR. Hour requirement 4) Before doing anything, it is good practice to check with your top choice schools.

Good luck with your Calc class.

Thought I’d weigh in since I have some background here

1.) You should take stats. Period. Reading, understanding, evaluating, and doing research REQUIRES a fundamental understanding of statistical analysis, and a good teacher can make the subject unbelievably intuitive. Not sure if biometry covers it all, but if that’s a subject you’re interested in, by all means, take the class.

2.) If you can, take calculus. If you haven’t taken physics already, an understanding of calc lets you MacGyver equations from string and bubble gum if you blank on the test – and you’ll usually be right. Physics can’t and won’t actually make sense without calc . . . which is why I think calc-based physics will be easier for many folks than the purely memory-based trig-based version. But again, if you want to rely on hours of rote memorization to get a decent grade on the test, that’s fine – I just get bored too easily

Just my two cents. Hope that helps!