As a premed student, it's normal to feel confused about whether or not you should retake a class. But when exactly should you do it? The reality is there's no definitive answer to this question. However, in this post we will try to lay out some general guidelines that can help you make your decision.
If you received a C- or lower, it is probably a good idea to retake the class. That's because some medical schools won't even consider that credit for the subject, so you'll need to retake it if you want to satisfy their admission requirements. Additionally, a C- or lower does not show proficiency in the topic.
If you get a C, then it is more in a grey area. You can retake the class, but you do not absolutely have to. You can get into medical school with a C in orgo on your transcript. You won’t be the first and you won’t be the last. However, if you got a C and you feel like you can do a lot better and turn it into an A, then it might be worth retaking the class. Try to avoid turning a C into a B- or even just a B because you're not showing significant improvement. So if a class is one you really struggle in and you are not confident you will do well, it may be worth avoiding the retake doing well in other classes you’re strong in.
Many students retake classes because their school has a grade replacement policy in which they state they will only put the higher grade on the transcript. However, this policy doesn't apply for the GPA that's going on your medical school applications. These applications require you to list every grade you've received, even if your school has this policy. So both grades will show up, and sometimes it’s better to just show you did well in upper level classes such as biochem, then retaking bio 1. This saves you time and credit hours.
So when exactly should you retake classes. You can either retake while still enrolled in undergrad, or retake while doing a postbac. A special circumstance would also be if its been so long that the medical schools will not accept the class as credit. Each school has their own guidelines for this so make sure to check before applying.
In summary, there's no definitive answer to whether or not you should retake a class as a pre-med student. However, Dr. Nessim provides some best practices that can help you make an informed decision. Retake a class if you received a C- or lower. If you received a C it can go either way, and a B- or higher and it's generally not worth retaking. You can always, consider taking upper-level science courses to demonstrate your academic ability to medical school admissions committees.
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Adam Nessim, MD