What MCAT score do you need to get into medical school? How do you achieve a high MCAT score? Taking the MCAT is scary, considering all the stories you hear about its difficulty and influence on . And while it is possible to , we strongly encourage you to do your best to achieve the highest score possible. This article will explore what MCAT score you need to be a competitive applicant and how to get a good MCAT score!
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Let’s answer the most pressing question first: what do you need to score on the MCAT to get accepted to medical school?
The simple answer is that the ideal MCAT score is the one that gets you an acceptance letter to medical school. How do you decide what score is high enough to get accepted? First, take a look at the medical school requirements and admissions data of your target schools.
A good MCAT score is a score equal to or higher than the average accepted MCAT score at your chosen schools, or a score that surpasses their minimum MCAT score requirements at the very least. for will differ depending on the program. More competitive schools will not consider an applicant with a score lower than 511, while others may be considered .
“MSAR was a great resource as I built a list. I utilized the GPA and MCAT ranges to make sure my statistics were within the 25th-75th percentiles. I also noted the number of volunteer, work, and research experiences that accepted applicants had and focused on schools that had averages that matched my numbers.” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD.
The higher your score, the more competitive an applicant you’ll be, broadening your choices of where to apply based on your stats. Naturally, the ideal MCAT score is as high as possible to maximize your chances of acceptance.
“[MSAR] is a great tool for shortlisting medical schools based on the eligibility criteria (GPA, MCAT score), admissions statistics, research opportunities and background information on each school. I highly recommend this if you are trying to find out more information about a medical school but do not know where to start.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD, University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine.
Whether you’ve taken the MCAT before and have received your scores, or you’ve completed an and need to decide how much your score needs to improve, it can be tricky to determine how good your score really is.
First, we’ll go over how the MCAT is scored, and the evaluate what is considered a competitive MCAT score and what isn’t based on the data.
MCAT scores are listed one of three ways:
- Raw Score = The number of questions you answered correctly. You’ll likely see this score on any practice tests.
- Scaled Score = The score released by the AAMC when you complete your MCAT. The MCAT scores are scaled and equated so scores have the same meaning no matter when you take the test. The MCAT is NOT graded on a curve! Each of the MCAT sections have a scaled score range from 118-132. Your total MCAT is scored on a range from 472-528. The closer your score is to 528, the more competitive.
- Percentile Rank = How your score compares to other students who have taken the MCAT. A higher percentile rank means you score on par with or better than most test-takers.
Here’s a comparison of MCAT scaled scores and percentile scores:
Based on current data, the mean score for all applicants is approximately 506, so in essence any score above 506 would be “above average.” With a score of 506 or above, you have a fairly good chance of medical school acceptance to all but the most elite programs.
However, the AAMC also provides data based on matriculant scores, aka successful applicants to med school. This is, unsurprisingly, higher than the applicant mean – 511.7 to be exact, which is in the 81st percentile for overall test-takers. So, to be truly competitive with the students most likely to be accepted, this is the score range you should aim for.
What is an Excellent MCAT Score?
To get an excellent MCAT score means to score in the overall 90th percentile or higher, which currently means a score of 515 or greater. With an MCAT score of 515 or above, you have a significantly better chance of getting accepted. Anything above the score of 517 is considered outstanding.
“I got 97th percentile on the MCAT. Getting a high score broadened the number of schools I could apply to and increased my chances of admission to medical school.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD.
What Is a Competitive MCAT Score?
A score at or above the mean – or 50th percentile – for all applicants could be considered competitive. Why? The mean measures the overall average and would be the average of every student who has taken the MCAT and applied to a medical school. Even with a strong score, be careful in selecting which schools to apply to.
“[I scored in the] 85th percentile. My score did affect the choice of schools I applied to. I specifically applied to schools with listed scores close to my own.” – Dr. Tony Huynh, DO, Touro University Nevada.
What Is a “Good Enough” MCAT Score?
A less competitive score would be below the matriculant average but still above the applicant average, and in most cases sits at around the 75th percentile overall – so about 507-509. This category is among the most slippery in terms of application, as a 509 for many schools will be quite competitive, while it doesn’t even make the cut-off in highly competitive MD programs like .
“Each year, the MCAT score gets more and more competitive, and slowly, scores that used to be accepted in the past are no longer the scores that receive invites/acceptances in the present. My score is quite old now in retrospect, so take it with a grain of salt, but at the time, I was able to receive interviews with both Canadian and American Medical Schools with a [505 MCAT score].” – Dr. Shaughnelene Smith, DO.
What Is a Poor MCAT Score?
A poor MCAT score is any score that doesn’t get you into a medical school, but statistically this would be a score below the overall mean or average, so a score of 505 or less. A poor MCAT score could also be considered anything below the 50th percentile for recent test-takers, which is approximately 501. While there are some schools that will accept an MCAT score this low, they’re uncommon. If you score too low, weigh your options – and remember, your MCAT score is only part of your application to med school.
“[I scored] 498. I looked at schools with lower MCAT averages, but before my last-minute acceptance, I was planning to retake my MCAT for a higher score.” – Dr. Noah Heichel, DO, WVSOM.
Would you rather watch a video to learn how to ace your MCAT exam?
Your MCAT score matters. It is not the most important component of your medical school application, but it is one of the first to be reviewed by the admissions committee. And while your , application essays, and paint a bigger, detailed picture of your journey to medical school, your MCAT score may be that one component that either allows or prevents the admissions committee from continuing their review of your application.
“MCAT and GPA are important as screening tools. They won’t be the end all for you to get in or be rejected from a school, but they are often that first look. Doing well in undergrad, maintaining a solid academic record, and a high MCAT score shows schools that you can handle rigorous academics. However, the other pieces of your application are what differentiate you from a crowd and will ultimately be why a school chooses to accept you.” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD.
A competitive MCAT score will get your foot in the door of med school admissions—but even a perfect score isn’t a guarantee of admission. One of our students, Rishi, maintained a 3.9 GPA and scored a 523 on his MCAT and he STILL faced medical school rejection his first cycle!
“The things that really I think prevented me from getting in the first time around is I was just very delayed with my secondaries … that was really what held me back on the first time and getting that corrected helped me a lot the second time around.” – Rishi, former BeMo student and current student at the Carver College of Medicine.
Whereas another one of our students, Kannan, scored far lower on his MCAT and still received medical school acceptances by approaching his medical school application from a more balanced perspective.
“The first [MCAT] was a 497 so not too hot but then when I took it [again] I took some time off and … I was able to jump 13 points to a 510.
“I read online about how important the personal statement and the activities and also like writing the secondaries [were] … at a certain point like stats they can get you so far but making sure you can present yourself a certain way as well ultimately helps you land acceptance.” – Kannan, former BeMo student and current student at Western University of Health Sciences.
Scoring well on the MCAT is certainly an important part of cracking medical school admissions, but scoring high alone isn’t enough, either. So while preparing for the MCAT and earning as high a score as possible is important, remember it is just one piece of the puzzle.
“Unfortunately, there is no simple formula for who gets in and who does not. I have seen many students over the years with perfect GPAs and MCAT not get in, while those with less impressive statistics get in … Although there is no set formula or algorithm for what makes a successful medical school applicant, certain factors play a bigger role than others. In addition, each school is unique with respect to what they value and what they put more emphasis on … This means not just having a stellar GPA and MCAT, but also being thoroughly involved with research, extracurriculars, and leadership experiences, along with awards and scholarships. Most medical students tend to have a stellar performance in all aspects.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD.
How do Medical Schools Evaluate My MCAT Score?
Certain medical schools will consider only your most recent MCAT score or your highest MCAT score if you’ve taken the exam more than once. Other programs will consider the average score of all your MCAT attempts. Some schools will share this evaluation information with you, and you can check how schools evaluate your MCAT score using MSAR. This can help you decide whether it’s in your best interest to retake the test.
It's also important to achieve not only a high overall score, but consistently high scores in each section of the MCAT. While some schools will privilege specific sections – only considers CARS scores, for instance – most schools will want to see well-rounded performance throughout the exam. Additionally, many schools will have individual section cut-off scores.
Getting a score that matches or exceeds the expectations of your chosen schools can eliminate the chance that your application will be tossed aside in the initial stages of the selection process and increase the likelihood that the admissions committee will move on to review your other application components.
MCAT Section Scores
How do you prepare for the MCAT to achieve the highest score possible? The secret is knowing what’s on the exam, learning its format, and then taking as many practice tests as you can.
#1 Know What is On the MCAT
First things first, you need to understand what to expect from the MCAT. Knowing what’s on the test is the first step to learning how to conquer it. And it can help reduce the anxiety many premeds feel when faced with this difficult test. This is also why we recommend starting with an MCAT diagnostic test.
“Because this exam is a significant barrier to medical school entry, people often feel external pressure and can perform out of their norm. Having familiarity with the exam and what it feels like to have that kind of endurance makes actual test day feel a bit more durable–if anything, even just having familiarity with what the layout will look like … can go a long way!” – Dr. Shaughnelene Smith, DO.
#2 Take Practice Tests
To prepare an MCAT study plan, you must first know where you stand and how much you already know; that is, you need to establish your baseline. You should take a full-length MCAT diagnostic test to identify your strengths and weaknesses in the disciplines and areas covered in the exam.
It’s recommended to practice with the official AAMC tests, as they provide a scaled score. You will get results with feedback and answers to all questions, as well as the percentage of your correct answers in each section. AAMC test materials are available for purchase. They are most reflective of the actual exam, so they are a good investment.
It's important that you take at least one full-length exam in one sitting. This way, you will know what taking the actual exam will be like. The exam, and it can easily exhaust you if you neglect to practice your , too. Try to recreate the exam environment to feel more prepared when you walk into the testing center. To do this, know the test day's schedule, items allowed in the test center, check-in procedures, duration of breaks, and so on. Recreating the real MCAT conditions and experience and rehearsing it will help you improve your score and banish any nerves.
#3 Focus on Your Own MCAT Goals
If you’re wondering “?”, the answer is as soon as you’re 100% ready. Plan for at least a 6-month to give yourself enough time to prepare. Some students may need more time to study and some may prefer less. The key to is a personalized study plan and approach.
“Be realistic, and don't compare yourself to others. This is probably advice more for those who are still currently in undergrad, and it feels like everyone else around you in the premed game is living and breathing these elements – I hate to say it, but many people exaggerate, lie, or downplay what they are doing, so always take what those around you are saying with a pinch of salt and just focus on your personal goals.” – Dr. Shaughnelene Smith, DO.
“Don’t rush and prioritize. The requirements for medical school are all tough! Don’t overload yourself on classes trying to knock out requirements as you don’t want to be spread too thin. Try and spread out requirements over the 3-4 years of undergrad so that you can do your best.” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD
Lastly, if you decide to use professional MCAT prep help, such as an or , don’t compare yourself to those who aced the test with only . Every student is different and has different studying needs. Use the resources that work best for YOU and the MCAT study timeline that fits your schedule.
1. What is a good MCAT score?
Typically, a good score means that your score meets or exceeds the MCAT expectations of the school to which you are applying. For example, if your chosen school’s matriculants had an average MCAT score of 513, your score should not be less.
Try not to compare your score to others. This can hinder your study habits and prevent you from reaching your full potential when it comes to the MCAT.
2. What is a perfect MCAT score?
Anything above 517 is considered excellent. Remember, the highest possible score is 528. While you do not have to get the perfect score to get accepted, it never hurts to strive for the highest score possible!
3. What is the average MCAT score of accepted students?
MD matriculants have the average MCAT score of 511.7, while DOs have an average MCAT of 504.6.
4. ARE THERE SPECIFIC COURSES I CAN TAKE TO PREPARE FOR THE MCAT EXAM?
Yes, there are some that can help you prepare for the MCAT subjects. All the content on the MCAT exam is usually covered in your introductory science classes that are part of your undergraduate degree.
5. WHAT IF I DO POORLY IN ONE SECTION OF THE MCAT AND OK ON OTHERS?
You should know that schools look for consistency and balance across MCAT section scores. If one section has a much lower score, medical schools typically will assess the student as lacking in an area of scholarly competence.
6. WHEN SHOULD I TAKE THE MCAT?
Consider scheduling your MCAT test date once you consistently score in the 90th percentile in your practice tests. Remember to take the test when you feel 100% ready.
7. How long are my MCAT scores valid?
Generally, medical schools will accept MCAT scores from no more than 2 or 3 years ago. Check the MCAT score requirements of each program on their website for the most up-to-date information.
8. How do I release my MCAT score to medical schools?
Once you’ve written your MCAT and your scores have been released, you can release your scores to your chosen medical schools on your own through the AAMC online portal. Log into your AAMC account, and under the My Reports tab you’ll be able to click on “Send Scores Electronically” and choose your program from there. Just make sure to release your scores well before the medical school application deadline. You can check to find out when your scores will be released to you, based on the day you wrote the test.