Do ad-coms consider course difficulty?

OK, I’m starting a post-bacc program next fall, but I’ve been doing a ton of research to see how my grades stack up against other pre-meds. I’ll be starting volunteer work soon, and taking the MCAT April 2008, so all I have to go on so far is my college experience.

So here are the numbers:

B.S. Nuclear engineering 2002 GPA 3.82

M.S. Nuclear engineering 2004 GPA 4.0

My question is: do ad coms consider the difficulty of the courses you take when they examine the grades?

For instance: I have a mathematics minor with my B.S. My minor GPA is somewhere around 3.5 because, while I aced Calculus 1, 2, and 3, I got B’s in Differential Equations and Math Modelling.

Another example: my school offered calculus based physics for engineers and scientists, and non-calculus physics for liberal arts. I took the first track, got an A in physics 1 and a B in physics 2.

So is an ad com going to look at my application and see “B’s” when they calculate my PCBM GPA, or will they consider that the B’s were in upper level courses while taking 18 hours of engineering credits? Especially courses that are taken at a school where the “average” truly is a “C”?


Tracia -

I don’t have a definitive answer for you, but to a certain extent, I believe that they do. For example, engineering majors, as a group, tend to have lower GPA’s due to the difficulty/grading of engineering courses compared to other majors. I have heard anecdotally that most schools take that into consideration.

Most schools don’t have a strict GPA cutoff and would look at your overall courses and note the difficulty of them in making their decision to interview/reject you (in addition to looking at the rest of your application).

Hope that helps.


I graduated from Purdue, and I’ve a fair idea how hard the upper-level engineering classes are (lots of really bright engineer friends tell me their horror stories). I’m pretty certain that most, if not all, adcomms possess a variety of methods for handicapping GPAs for various majors and institutions [statistics based on performance of previous classes, shared intelligence between schools, sheep entrails, etc.] I won’t say that they don’t make bad decisions every once in a while, but it really isn’t in their best interest to overlook candidates with potential.

From the look of your GPA alone, I don’t think grades will be anywhere near your biggest issue. If I had your stats, I think I’d probably be focussing on doing as well as I can on the MCAT, and accumulating some experiences that demonstrate that I’ve given this some thought. I’d definitely want to show that I am at least as concerned about other human beings as I am with abstract mathematical modeling of complex systems. Grades are important, but most medical schools seem to want some reassurance that there is a decent human being attached to that massive brain. If I had your GPA, grades would be the last thing to produce anxiety.

Have a great weekend!


I got a couple of “high fives” for doing better in PChem than either Physics or Chemistry!

If the low part of your GPA is the 3.82, you don’t need to worry about how your grades look. Relax, study for the MCAT, get good letters of recommendation. If there’s more to this picture and your basic sciences grades average out a bit ( or a lot) under 3.5, let us know. Otherwise, go celebrate your grades and relax.

Hehe, thanks guys. Apparently I need to quit reading Student Doctor Network.

  • Tracia Said:
Hehe, thanks guys. Apparently I need to quit reading Student Doctor Network.

Too many SDN forumites believe you can only get into medical school with a 3.99 and a 35+ on your MCAT....oh don't forget your prereqs have to be from an Ivy league school. Forgive the hasn't kicked in yet.

Well, to be fair, people with VERY GOOD grades from VERY GOOD schools and VERY HIGH MCATs sometimes don’t get into medical school. But that doesn’t mean the grades weren’t good enough. You need some volunteer experience, clinical experience, good letters of recommendation, a clear, well-thought-out reason for wanting to go to medical school, and the ability to present yourself on interview day as someone people want to see in their hallways every day.

So much of what you do as an undergrad is about numbers that it’s easy to get obsessed with the numbers and forget about the soft skills that make a good physician and a successful applicant.