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A Brief Description of Science GPAs (SGPA), with Respect to Medical School

Allopathic (MD) Schools

  1. The primary arbiter of the SGPA for allopathic medical schools is the American Medical College Application Service, or AMCAS.  AMCAS serves all MD schools except those on public campuses in Texas, the University of North Dakota, and the University of Missouri- Kansas City School of Medicine (which have their own applications) as a common application, similar to that used by most 4 year colleges and universities.  The AMCAS website is here.
  2. AMCAS calculates SGPA using grades from courses that fall under the headings of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math (BCPM).
    1. The list of subject/department headings for courses that typically are classified under the BCPM rubric can be found within the AMCAS instruction manual, which in turn can be found through the link provided above.  By way of example, the list from a recent application cycle has been attached to this document.  However, please note that to be sure you should always check the current application instructions, as AMCAS details can change from one year to the next.
    2. In addition to these standard categories, students may also include courses that reasonably fall into BCPM categories based on their content.  The following criteria should be followed for doing so:
    3. 80% or more of the course material is BCPM subject matter, taught as such.  Thus Psych 230: Introduction to Biopsychology has course content that is practically all biology, taught as it might be in a Biology Dept. class, and so it can rightly be included in the BCPM/SGPA.  WS 220: Perspectives on Women’s Health, on the other hand, should not, because even though it makes consistent reference to biology, it does so more frequently from the perspectives of social, cultural, and political processes than from biology.
    4. Integrity matters! Do not cherry-pick the best grades from these non-standard courses.  If you are going to include one grade from a course that meets the 80% criteria, then you should include the grades from all such courses.
    5. In general, be conservative and scrupulous when you make such inclusions.  AMCAS relies on students to make the call, but they also reserve the right to question calls they deem doubtful and this might delay the processing of your application.  This can be a real detriment in a rolling admissions environment.  When in doubt, contact a pre-health advisor.
  3. Repeated courses:  AMCAS policy is that both the original grade and the grade from the repetition are included in the GPA.
  4. Medical Schools reserve the right to re-calculate your SGPA by their own standards.  Thus it is possible that grades from non-BCPM categories accepted at the AMCAS level as part of your SGPA will be removed from it by a given school, according to that school’s particular policies.

Osteopathic (DO) Medical Schools

  1. The primary arbiter of the SGPA for osteopathic medical schools is the Association of American Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service, or AACOMAS.  As with AMCAS, it is a common, primary application used by all DO schools.  The link to AACOMAS is at the top of the AACOM Home Page.
  2. The AACOMAS SGPA uses grades from courses with the subject/departmental headings of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics (note that Mathematics courses are not included).
  3. Unlike AMCAS, the AACOMAS SGPA should not include grades from courses with non-standard labels (e.g., Psych 230 would typically not be included as part of your SPGA for DO school applications, despite its extensive biology content).
  4. Repeated courses:  AACOMAS policy is that all grades will remain visible but only the grade from the repetition is included as part of the GPA.  However, this should not be viewed as an easy way to boost a sagging GPA, as admissions committee members find it very easy to spot and penalize a pattern of unnecessarily repeated courses.

AMCAS Course Classification (downloaded April 2016)

Each course must be assigned a course classification based strictly on the primary content of the course. The course classifications listed on the Course Classification Guide are bolded and are titled as they appear in the course classification drop-down list. The items beneath each bolded heading are examples of courses for which you should select that bolded course classification. You are responsible for selecting the correct course classification, but AMCAS reserves the right to change classifications if the assigned classification clearly does not apply. If you disagree with a change AMCAS has made to a courses classification you may submit an Academic Change Request.

AMCAS is not responsible for incorrect GPA calculations resulting from incorrect course classifications. In the event that you are unable to comfortably classify a course, AMCAS suggests that you refer to the description of the course on the school’s website.

Course classifications, in addition to describing the courses you enter, are used in the calculation of your AMCAS GPAs. Classifications that are highlighted in the "BCPM" grouping indicate that these courses will be included when calculating your BCPM GPA, which is comprised of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics courses. Classifications not grouped in "BCPM" indicate courses that will be included when calculating your AO (All Other) GPA.

The department offering the course is typically not a factor in the course classification. For example, a course should be classified as Biology if the primary content is biology, regardless of which department offers the course.