MCAT Score Range | What Percentile Will Get You into Med School
You have been preparing for this moment for years. You studied hard in school, made sacrifices, and it paid off eventually. Then, you bought all the best MCAT prep books or prep courses from princeton and other online companies, and studied even more while the rest of your friends relaxed and took it easy.
You finally completed your test, but you’re nervous. You were too busy studying for the test to study anything about it. What is the MCAT score range? How will your MCAT scores affect your chances of getting into a good med school? Where will you fall in the MCAT score percentiles, and what will those MCAT scores even mean?
This guide will help you navigate the MCAT scoring process. While you wait for your MCAT score to release, why not breathe a little bit and learn. The AAMC MCAT scores are pretty important, but they aren’t the end of your med school dreams – even if you don’t make the very top of the MCAT score range.
What’s a Good MCAT Score Range?
When you are thinking about your MCAT goal, it’s important to be realistic about your results.
Look at the minimum requirements for the schools you want to apply to, and shoot for scores that exceed those numbers.
Each section of the 4 part MCAT is scored between 118 and 132.
This makes both the median and the mean a 125. The total score ranges from 472 to 528, with a mean and median of 500.
The AAMC uses this scale to emphasize how important the central portion of the score distribution is. Most students will score here. This prevents undue focus from being placed on the ends of the scale. They use whole score scaling for their exam, and release the correlation between the scaled score and percentile.
Top Scores on MCAT
The top scores will put you in the top 10% of everyone who takes the MCAT. These scores will show people that you are highly competitive.
For a total MCAT score in the top range, you will need 514 to 528. Sometimes, you will be better at certain areas than others. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and different school programs of study may be more interested in strength at one of these specific scores. To attain top scores in these areas, you need the following:
1. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems should rank between 129 to 132.
2. Critical Analysis and Reading Skills should rank between 129 and 132.
3. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems should score between 129 and 132.
4. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior should score between 129 and 132.
Competitive MCAT Scores
Competitive scores will fall within the 75th percentile of all test takers in the country.
While you won’t be able to write your ticket to the absolute #1 medical school in the country, you can still get into nearly all of them, and since scores aren’t everything a score in this competitive range will still be impressive when combined with your resume, GPA, and experience and may still get you into your dream school.
The total score range for competitive scores will be between 508 and 513 points. Obviously, the closer you get to 513 the better you will look on your applications, so anything above a 511 shouldn’t feel competitive because they very nearly made the top 10% instead of the top 25% of scores.
Individual categories should attain the following scores:
1. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems should rank between 127 to 128.
2. Critical Analysis and Reading Skills should rank between 127 to 128.
3. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems should score between 127 to 128.
4. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior should score between 127 to 128.
How Do Your MCAT Scores Measure Up?
If your scores fall between 500 and 507 points, ad receive 125 to 126 points per category then you will, unfortunately, be less competitive and unlikely to receive scholarships. You are still ahead of the average score on the exam, so you won’t be in danger of being disqualified based on poor scores, but you also won’t look nearly as good when applying to extremely competitive medical programs. You will need to rely on strong GPAs, interviews, and other options.
Scores that fall below 499 points are below average. These scores may not meet the minimum requirements to get into certain medical schools, and will put you at a disadvantage when applying to schools because you have underperformed compared to the average test taker and medical school applicant. If you have received below a 124 in one category, you’re probably okay, but if all of them fall below the mark, or your total score does, then you may want to consider retaking your MCAT.
Med Schools Evaluate the Total Package
The good news is that medical schools evaluate more than just test scores.
They do look at a total package, so although high scores will be better for you, lower ones won’t necessary rule you out.
The exception to this is scores below 499.
Medical schools do look at your scores, and the number one factor most likely to keep you out of a good program is a low MCAT score, followed closely by a low undergraduate GPA. These factors were neck and neck for the biggest determining factor, so if one is very high it may balance out the other one and bring you back to a level playing field.
That being said, medical schools also consider your letters of recommendation, any research you did during your undergraduate studies, interviews you may have with their faculty members, and your personal essay. If you have a compelling story, and you show that you are able to work hard to overcome the odds, but just aren’t a great test taker, this may not disqualify you from being accepted into a great school. Win them over by showing your dedication to your work.
What are my chances of getting accepted into medical school?
There are too many factors that go into medical school admission to determine your chances of acceptance based just on a score range, even if you score in the top 10% of test takers. In general, if you have a very high test score combined with a very high GPA and solid recommendation letters, your chances of getting into your dream school are very high, unless you completely bomb your interview.
If you have a high test score and average grades, with a good personal letter, research under your belt, and you do very on your interviews, you are also very likely to get into the school you’re hoping to attend. Competitive scores with high grades will also fall into this category.
If you have average test scores and average grades, it will start getting harder to gain acceptance into the high ranking medical school. It won’t be impossible, because they do take personal essays, research, and recommendations into account, but unless you have an instant connection with your interviewer and make a very favorable impression, you may want to apply to a few safety schools as well.
If your test scores or your grades are low, you will need to work very hard to ensure that your personal essay is compelling.
You may also need to offer to work with a very highly qualified alumni of the school you’re applying to for a while to ensure a strong and solid letter of recommendation.
You won’t necessarily be disqualified, but you’ll have a much harder road to get there.
If you have low test scores and low grades, and haven’t spent any time studying under a lauded alum or doing research with a well known professor, then you are probably going to have a difficult time getting into medical school.
It might be better for you to take a couple years going towards a Masters in Biology or Anatomy instead, retake your MCAT for a higher score, take an internship with a prestigious alum of your desired school, and apply as a transfer student when you have a higher GPA, better scores, and more experience under your belt. Your personal essay can sway them in your favor by showing the maturity and foresight to wait until you were prepared to handle medical school before applying.
If you want to analyze some statistics, then the AAMC has put out a chart detailing acceptance rates for medical school applicants that directly compares their MCAT scores with their GPA, pairing applicants with acceptances.
Medical School Requirements: MCAT Scores and GPA
Each school has a different requirement when it comes to MCAT scores and GPAs. Keep in mind that the minimum requirement is just that… a minimum. It is not meant to guarantee acceptance if you make that score. Instead, it just says that any applicant who does not meet the minimum requirements is not going to be accepted into the program. This saves you some money if you’re not meeting those numbers.
Here are some of the requirements for the top schools in the country:
- Stanford – 3.89 GPA and 518 MCAT
- Harvard – 3.92 GPA and 518 MCAT
- Columbia – 3.87 GPA and 517 MCAT
- New York University (NYU) – 3.9 GPA and 520 MCAT
- University of Chicago – 3.9 GPA and 520 MCAT
Here are some very solid medical schools that take less competitive scores:
- University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) – 3.79 GPA and 508 MCAT
- Florida State University – 3.74 GPA and 505 MCAT
- University of Arizona Tucson – 3.0 minimum GPA and 3.67 average, 498 minimum MCAT and 506 average
- Drew/UCLA Joint Medical Program – 3.0 GPA and 498 MCAT (with potential transfer to UCLA)
- University of Texas Rio Grande Valley – 3.64 GPA and 504 MCAT
MCAT Scores as a Function of Question Types (Approx. %)
The MCAT is not graded on a curve. Scores are scaled and equated in such a way that scores have the same meaning no matter when you take the test.
First, they count the number of correctly answered questions in each of the four MCAT sections. This is the basis for scoring each section. There is no penalty for wrong questions, so unlike the SATS it is worth it to answer everything.
Next, they convert the correct answers to an MCAT scaled score. These scores range from 118 to 132. So correct answers ranging from 46 to 48 may have a scaled score of around 128, and so forth. This score shows how much you understand based on the total amount of knowledge covered. Finally, they add the scaled scores together to calculate your scaled total score.
Scales are used because there are several different versions of the test that get handed out. These are designed to measure the same concepts and skills but raw score conversions compensate for small varieties in difficulty between questions sets. This means that two students of equal ability who take different tests are expected to receive the same scaled score even though their raw scores may be different.
MCAT Scores Release
Scores take a month to be calculated and released. This is a long time for anxious students, but it allows for the process of grading, scaling, and equating each form after a test day. This also allows time for students to address concerns they may have had regarding exam conditions and test questions so that AAMC can review and investigate these concerns before scores are released.
Once they are released on the designated date, you can access your score report through the MCAT Score Reporting System on the AAMC website.