Applying to Medical SchoolGap YearPre-Med Academics

Overall and BCPM GPA

BCPM stands for Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Math. The courses under these categories are usually pre-requisites for life science majors. Usually these pre-requisites are also the requirements for medical school. Nevertheless, many upper division classes fall under these categories as well. Many people mistake the BCPM GPA to simply be the science GPA. In essence, they are the same thing but people define science GPA in different ways depending on what kind of graduate school you are applying to. If you are hoping to go to medical school, in order to be accurate, you’re better off just thinking about BCPM rather than science GPA.

||Read: Five Steps To A Better GPA||

So what classes count towards the BCPM? It sounds self-explanatory and it is (kind of). The AAMC has a list of the type of classes that count and do not count. The categories that are part of the BCPM GPA are listed here.

Biology (BIOL)

-Cell Biology
-Molecular Biology

Chemistry (CHEM)

-Physical Chemistry

Mathematics (MATH)

-Applied Mathematics

Physics (PHYS)


||Read: Story of a Non-Science Major Premed||

Some popular categories that people think count but actually don’t are:

1. Psychology
2. Public Health
3. Nutrition
4. Pharmacy and Pharmacology

You can see the rest of the categories that are not BCPM on the AAMC link provided above. However, just because these classes don’t count towards your BCPM doesn’t mean that they are not important. Remember that AMCAS calculates two GPA’s. Usually it is best to have balance, meaning your overall and BCPM GPA are similar. It can be a red flag if your BCPM GPA is very low while your overall GPA is high (something like 3.2 vs 3.7). That could mean that you are not well equipped to do well in sciences classes (meaning you probably won’t do well in medical school) or that your overall GPA is inflated by “easy” classes. If you have a high BCPM GPA and low overall GPA, that suggests you may not be very well-rounded or that you did not take your non-science classes seriously.


The interesting factor in calculating BCPM GPA is that when you apply, you assign your classes as BCPM (not AAMC). For example, if you took a biomedical engineering course but you do not know if it counts towards the BCPM, while you are filling out your primary application for medical school, you can classify that class as a biology course. If it is not clear if a course falls under the BCPM category, especially when the class is interdisciplinary, the general rule is that if the course content is 60% or more biology, chemistry, physics, or math, it is BCPM. Obviously, the 60% is subjective since there is no way to quantify that percentage. You will have to look at the course description, syllabus, or consult with your pre-health advisor to make the best judgment. It is very possible that AAMC challenges your classification so be ready to defend your case if the time comes.

So keep this information in mind when you are picking out classes or even a major. If you had a lower BCPM GPA your first two years, it is probably best for you to stay as a life science major so that you have a better opportunity to raise your BCPM GPA. From my experience, many upper division sciences classes can be easier than the lower division classes. If you have a high BCPM GPA your first two years but you don’t necessary want to be a life science major, you have the flexibility to be a non-science major. That means your BCPM GPA is safe and all you have to worry about is your overall GPA. However, keep in mind that you might simply do better in science classes than non-science classes.

||Read: Getting Into Medical School – Get Help Early||

Next time when you are planning out your schedule, please don’t take the nutrition class because you think it’ll raise your BCPM. It will help your overall GPA but if you want to raise your BCPM, unfortunately you’re going to have to take those harder pre-requisites for medical school.

Finally here are some BCPM courses that are historically easier than your typical biology, chemistry, physics, and math class.

1. Biostatistics/Statistics
2. Astronomy
3. Ecology
4. Entomology
5. Zoology

Edward Chang

Edward Chang is the Co-founder and Director of Operations of He graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is currently a urology resident at the University of Washington. He also attended UCLA as an undergraduate, graduating with a major in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. If you are interested in contributing to, please contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @EdwardChangMD and Prospective Doctor @ProspectiveDr.

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