In the medical school admission process perhaps no facet of one’s application carries as much weight as the MCAT. Of course, the MCAT is only a piece of the pie, with one’s GPA, experiences, and personal statement also carrying significant weight. Nevertheless, the MCAT is unique in that it enables admission officers to objectively compare one applicant to all others, as it is a standardized measure. Specifically, it enables admissions officers to assess an applicant’s knowledge of scientific facts and principles, logic and reasoning skills, and even language skills – all of which will be important in enabling students to tackle to rigorous coursework and demands of medical school. That being said, in this post I will discuss a couple of the important questions that many students agonize over: How the MCAT is scored, what’s considered a high MCAT score, and what score one should aim for in order to get accepted.
To start let’s go over how the MCAT is scored. There are 4 sections of the MCAT, each with a possible minimum score of 118 and maximum score of 132. That means that the combined MCAT score ranges from 472 – 528. The test is standardized, meaning that your performance is relative to the performance of all others. In other words, the scoring accounts for the difficulty of a section. For a particularly difficult section, all test takers will have lower raw scores, meaning that you need to answer less questions correctly to get a higher scaled score. It is also true that on a particularly easy section, you will need to get a higher raw score (more questions correctly answered) in order to receive a higher scaled score (Note: chart provided is an extremely rough estimate, assuming that the section of of “average” difficulty). A point to take away from this – do not panic if you are given a particularly difficult passage or section; the majority of test takers will also be having a hard time, and you just need to keep powering through to the best of your ability.
MCAT scores can be interpreted by the percentile that they correspond to. A combined score of 528 is in the 100th percentile, and a score of 500 corresponds approximately to the 50th percentile (according to the AAMC). Furthermore, the average score of successful medical school applicants us around 508 – 509 (approximately 80th percentile). These scores have been standardized by the AAMC through a process of assessing the performance of thousands of students on that specific passage and question. The practice MCAT tests provided by various MCAT prep companies (such as Kaplan, NextStep, and Princeton Review) are good practice and can be an important element of studying for this test. Nevertheless, try not to place too much weight on the scores you receive from these tests, as they haven’t gone through as extensive of a standardization process as your actual MCAT will have. Students tend to score lower on the practice tests provided by MCAT prep companies than they do on those provided by the AAMC, and in general the scores received from the latter are more reflective of one’s score on the actual test. This is one reason that we recommend prioritizing the AAMC-provided practice materials.
To suggest a number or range for a good or high MCAT score is difficult, as each individual has a unique background, academic record, and set of goals. For example, individuals applying to DO medical schools will likely have different score goals, as the average MCAT score for DO schools is lower than that of MD medical schools. An individual’s goals may also depend on his/her GPA. Specifically, an individual with a lower GPA should aim for a higher MCAT score range in order to compensate for this. Putting aside these individual differences, a good score range for the average medical school applicant to aim for (specifically for MD schools) would be 510 or above. This score would put you in approximately the top 40-50% of all medical school applicants. That being said, applicants hoping to gain acceptance to more prestigious and more highly ranked schools (top 10 or top 20 medical schools, for example) should aim for a higher MCAT score. The AAMC MSAR is an extremely helpful tool that enables you to view the median, 10th percentile, and 90th percentile for all successful applicants to a specific medical school. If you have an idea of which school(s) you are interested in, use this guide to get a rough estimate of the score you should aim for.