Biology Core Curriculum

College of Letters & Science

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to take all 4 semesters?

It depends. Some majors require only 3 of 4 semesters or 2 of 3 lab courses. Refer to requirements for major and consult with your advisor.

Can I take Biocore as a freshman?

Yes, in special cases, and if you have taken AP Bio, Chem and Calc. See freshman application and contact us to find out more.

Can I take Biocore if I study abroad?

Yes. Many students take the first two semesters (Biocore 381 & 383) as sophomores, go abroad for one or two semesters as juniors, and then complete Biocore as seniors.

How is Biocore different from Bio/Zoo 151/152 or Zoo 101/102/ Bot130?

Biocore is a sequence of intro to intermediate honors courses at 300-500 level that progress at a challenging pace. Biocore courses go to greater depth and focus on problem solving, critical thinking and scientic reasoning. Limited enrollment (140 each fall) allows for high instructor/ student ratio and work in a small learning community of honors students.

Do graduate or med schools recognize Biocore?

Many schools know Biocore. In addition, students describe the nature of Biocore in applications and letters of recommendation. Consult with the school directly if you are concerned.

Is Biocore a Pre-Med sequence?

Biocore is an honors biology curriculum designed for students with diverse interests. Course work includes study at many levels of organization from molecules to biosphere- including but not limited to humans. Biocore welcomes premeds and has received high praise from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and from former Biocore students in schools across the country who say that Biocore provides excellent preparation.

How will I know whether I got in?

Regular application students are notified in late March prior to spring registration. We continue to accept applications after the regular deadline and notify students on a rolling basis, even as late as the first week of class.

Will my GPA suffer if I take Biocore?

All of our courses have set grading scales, not curves. This means that you are not in competition with anyone for a grade and that everyone can get an A if everyone does excellent work. Our past experience has been that a large number of students do earn As and are not at a GPA disadvantage (see Grade Comparison report). However, you will not do well in Biocore by simply attending lectures and reading the book. Assignments, class discussions, and recommended problems give you opportunities to extend your studies, apply/synthesize/integrate what you have learned in novel situations or challenging problems. This process goes way beyond mere memorization. Likewise, exams are directly related to concepts emphasized in a particular unit or course, but often ask you to deal with a new situation. This is a challenging process, but most rewarding when you achieve a higher level of understanding. In short, you will get out of Biocore what you put into it.

What if I have taken AP Biology in high school?

Biocore is appropriate for students who have taken AP Biology because its increased depth means that you will go far beyond what you learned in high school. The University allows you to count your AP credits toward graduation (as electives) in addition to your Biocore credits. But do not worry if you have not taken AP Bio. Biocore is an introductory to intermediate biology sequence and the faculty realize that student's experience and preparation differs. We do not expect student to have had an accelerated biology course in high school, and it is not a prerequisite for doing well in our courses. We cover the basics and then go into more in-depth topics as courses and students' knowledge progress over the 4 semesters.