How Is the MCAT Scored | You Will Benefit from Getting to Know the Exam Scoring
“How is the MCAT scored?” is a question many aspiring medical students have. The MCAT is a 7.5 hour long exam that plays a big role in medical school applications and requires months of preparation beforehand.
There are many factors for the MCAT score and by understanding how it's scored, you can understand what a good MCAT score is and how to prepare for it. With an understanding of the scoring system and the top MCAT prep books, you’ll get an idea of how you should study and a good chance at improving your score with awesome prep.
How is the MCAT Scored?
The score you receive 30-35 days after taking the MCAT isn’t the number of questions you got correct on the exam. Every participant receives a different set of questions and takes the test at different times, so in order to account for these and many other factors, the scores are processed and calculated into the MCAT score scale, ranging between 472 and 528.
Many often ask how many times can you take the MCAT and if the MCAT is curved, but there is a slight difference. While a curved score depends on when the test was taken, the scaled score doesn’t depend on other participants and the scaled score is meant to reflect the same performance, no matter when the test was taken.
Furthermore, the scaled score is compared to scores of participants in the past 3 years and given a percentile ranking. The number from the percentile ranking represents the percent of students you scored above. For example, if you receive a percentile of 80, then your score was better than 80% of participants in the past 3 years.
Therefore, when students ask what a good MCAT score is, there is no precise answer, but medical schools recommend that you aim for at least the 80th percentile. Once you take the MCAT, the scores can be used for medical school applications for the next 3 years. After 3 years, you would have to retake the MCAT in order to apply to medical schools again.
How is the New MCAT Scored?
In 2015, major changes were made to the MCAT. Scores expire after 3 years, so any medical school application since 2018 requires scores from the newer version of the MCAT.
Changes in the MCAT
In addition to increasing the number of questions for each section, the AAMC also added a new section, Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior, on top of the existing three.
The reason for this change is because with the diversity of the world, the AAMC felt that physicians must be more culturally competent and be able to understand people along with a solid foundation for natural sciences.
Changes in the Scoring System
With a complete re modification of the test, how is the MCAT scored? Giving this new test the same scale would cause confusion when making comparisons, so the new MCAT adopted a new scoring system as well.
The old MCAT had scores ranging from 3 to 45 while the new score ranges from 472 to 528. The range is completely different, but both scoring systems have the same purpose of scaling test scores within the same range, no matter when the test was taken.
With huge updates to the test and the scoring system, a direct comparison between the two scores is difficult, but you can get an idea of the conversion using the MCAT score percentiles.
How Is Each MCAT Section Scored?
The MCAT consists of 4 sections: Biology and Biochemistry, Chemistry and Physics, Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, and Psychology and Sociology. While there are all diverse subjects in the test, the questions in each section relate back to biology and natural sciences.
Questions in the MCAT can be categorized as either a passage or discrete question. Passage questions follow after a passage that describes a scientific situation related to the subject while stand alone questions directly test your scientific knowledge. The questions are also distributed to cover a ratio of specific topics as well.
Here is a breakdown of the structure of each section and the topics covered.
Number of Questions
Type of Questions
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems(Bio/BioChem)
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems(Chem/Phys)
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills(CARS)
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior(Psych/Soc)
What is the Scale for Each MCAT Section?
Each section of the MCAT has the same scoring range of 118-132, which adds up to the total score range of 472-528.
Each section has 53-59 questions meaning that the average weight of each question is around 2 points, which can be used as a reference when keeping track of your improvements during your study.
In addition, wrong answers and blank answers do not penalize your score, so it’s best to fill in all unanswered questions.
What are Confidence Bands
When the scores are scaled, there are many different factors taken into account and just one number may not fully represent your performance. As a result, the confidence band received with every score gives you the range in which your true score lies and provides more clarity.
The confidence band can also help identify if you’ve made significant improvements when taking the MCAT test again. Even if your new score is higher than your old one, if it lies within the old confidence band, then it’s possible that you may have performed similar to your old test. On top of your scaled score, medical schools also take your confidence bands into consideration, so it’s best to show that you’ve made significant improvements to your score when re-taking the MCAT.