Pre-health Competencies

In 2009, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and AAMC released the Scientific Foundations for Future PhysiciansExternal Link report, providing guidelines for the necessary competencies in pre-medical and medical education. In 2011, the Behavioral and Social Sciences Foundations for Future PhysiciansExternal Link report defined additional pre-health competencies.  These pre-health competencies were further defined for the next generation of the Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) and appear as scientific inquiry and reasoning skills and foundational concepts in Preview Guide for the MCAT2015 Exam (Second Edition).External Link

The image below shows how these competencies overlap. The Pre-health Collection will begin with a focus on the competencies that will be found on the MCAT2015 and will expand with the emergence of additional pre-health competencies. To learn more about pre-health competencies as they relate to medical school admissions, visit the Admissions Initiative.External Link

pre-health diagram

What is a Competency?

A competency is the knowledge, skill, and attitudes that enables an individual to learn and perform at a level that meets or exceeds the standards of the profession. For pre-health competencies, they are a combination of the Foundational Concepts (knowledge) and scientific inquiry and reasoning skills (skills).

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What are Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills (SIRS)?

There are four SIRS  that have been identified as an important part of the pre-health competencies. These are four skills that natural and social scientists rely on to advance their work that are important for medical students and practicing physicians. Learn More

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What are the MCAT2015 Foundational Concepts?

The foundational concepts are the "big ideas" in the sciences that provide the foundation for learning in medical school. Within those foundational concepts are the content categories, topics, and subtopics that are needed to understand foundational concepts. Included below is a high-level list of the foundational concepts and content categories. A detailed list, including specific topics and sub-topics, can be found in the Preview Guide for the MCAT2015 Exam (Second Edition).External Link

Foundational Concept 1

The unique chemical and structural properties of biomolecules determine the roles they play in living cells. The proper functioning of a living system depends on the many components acting harmoniously in response to a constantly changing environment. Biomolecules are constantly formed or degraded in response to the perceived needs of the living organism.
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  • Category 1A - Structure and function of proteins and their constituent amino acids.
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  • Category 1B - Transmission of genetic information from the gene of the protein.
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  • Category 1C - Transmission of heritable information from generation to generation and the processes that increase genetic diversity.
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  • Category 1D - Principles of bioenergetics and fuel molecule metabolism.
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Foundational Concept 2

Cells are the basic unit of structure in all living things. Mechanisms of cell division provide for not only the growth and maintenance of organisms, but also for the continuation of the species through asexual and sexual reproduction. The unique micro-environment to which a cell is exposed during development and division determines the fate of the cell by impacting gene expression and ultimately the cell’s collection and distribution of macromolecules, and its arrangement of subcellular organelles.

In multicellular organisms, the processes necessary to maintain life are executed by groups of cells that are organized into specialized structures with specialized functions ― both of which result from the unique properties of the cells’ component molecules.
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  • Category 2A - Assemblies of molecules, cells, and groups of cells within multicellular organisms.
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  • Category 2B - The structure, growth, physiology, and genetics of prokaryotes and viruses.
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  • Category 2C - Processes of cell division, differentiation, and specialization.
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Foundational Concept 3

As a result of the integration of a number of highly specialized organ systems, complex living things are able to maintain homeostasis while adapting to a constantly changing environment, participating in growth, and reproduction. The interactions of these organ systems involves complex regulatory mechanisms that help maintain a dynamic and healthy equilibrium, regardless of their current state and environment.
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  • Category 3A - Structure and functions of the nervous and endocrine systems and ways in which these systems coordinate the organ systems.
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  • Category 3B - Structure and integrative functions of the main organ system.
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Foundational Concept 4

The processes that take place within the human body follow the laws of physics. They can be quantified, in fact, with equations that model the behavior at a fundamental level. For example, the principles of electromagnetic radiation, and its interactions with matter, can be exploited to generate structural information about molecules or to generate images of the human body. So, too, can atomic structure be used to predict the physical and chemical properties of atoms, including the amount of electromagnetic energy required to cause ionization.
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  • Category 4A - Translational motion, forces, work, energy, and equilibrium in living systems.
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  • Category 4B - Importance of fluids for the circulation of blood, gas movement, and gas exchange.
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  • Category 4C - Electrochemistry and electrical circuits and their elements.
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  • Category 4D - How light and sound interact with matter.
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  • Category 4E - Atoms, nuclear decay, electronic structure, and atomic chemical behavior.
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Foundational Concept 5

The chemical processes that take place within the human body are readily understood within the framework of the behavior of solutions, thermodynamics, molecular structure, intermolecular interactions, molecular dynamics, and molecular reactivity.
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  • Category 5A - Unique nature of water and its solutions.
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  • Category 5B - Nature of molecules and intermolecular interactions.
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  • Category 5C - Separation and purification methods.
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  • Category 5D - Structure, function, and reactivity of biologically-relevant molecules.
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  • Category 5E - Principles of chemical thermodynamics and kinetics.
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Foundational Concept 6

The way in which we sense, perceive, think about, and react to stimuli affects our experiences. Foundational Concept 6 focuses on these components of experience, starting with the initial detection and perception of stimuli through cognition, and continuing to emotion and stress responses.
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Foundational Concept 7

Human behavior is complex and often surprising, differing across individuals in the same situation and within an individual across different situations. A full understanding of human behavior requires knowledge of the interplay between psychological, socio-cultural, and biological factors that are related to behavior. This interplay has important implications for the way we behave and the likelihood of behavior change. Foundational Concept 7 focuses on individual and social determinants of behavior and behavior change.
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Foundational Concept 8

The relationship between how people think about themselves and others is complex ― and most apparent when dealing with social situations. The interplay between our thoughts about ourselves, thoughts about others, and our biology has important implications for our sense of self and interpersonal relationships.
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Foundational Concept 9

Societal structure, culture, and demographic factors influence peoples’ health and well-being. Knowledge about basic sociological frameworks, social structures, social institutions, culture, and demographic characteristics of societies is important, as is the ability to understand how they shape peoples’ lives and their daily interactions.
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Foundational Concept 10

Social stratification and inequality affect all human societies, and shape the lives of all individuals by affording privileges to some and positioning others at a disadvantage.
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