MCAT may be one of the most difficult exams you’ll take in your life as it determines if you’ll step into that white coat.
The MCAT largely influences whether the medical school admission committee will approve your application or not.
Even if you have an average GPA, medical schools will likely accept your application if you have a high score on the MCAT.
In my decade-long career of collegiate counseling, I’ve helped countless students get an excellent score on the MCAT.
Today I’ll give you all my tips and tricks so you too can get the highest MCAT score.
Perfect MCAT Score
- MCAT consists of four exam sections.
- MCAT is a scaled test, and the score ranges from 472 to 528.
- There are several factors you should take into account when studying for the MCAT.
MCAT Sections and Scoring
MCAT is the test you need to take to enroll in a med school.
Before we get into the study tips, it’s imperative that you know what the MCAT looks like and how it’s scored.
The MCAT has four sections :
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (CPBS)
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (BBLS)
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (PSBB)
Each of these sections is scored from 118 to 132. Once the scores for all four sections are added up, you can score between 472 to 528.
The perfect MCAT score is 528. MCAT scores from 524 to 529 are given 99 percentile, and even the medical schools with the strictest acceptance rate will accept applicants with the highest score.
Many students are especially worried about getting a good score on the CARS section.
However, with the right CARS strategy and working on your reading comprehension skills, getting an excellent CARS score is possible.
Another thing to note is that the MCAT is a scaled exam. It means the exam is graded to account for small variations.
For example, if one student gets a harder exam, this student could miss or answer a couple of questions wrong and still get the same score as a student who got an easier version of the exam.
So, if you miss a question, you still have a chance of getting a perfect MCAT section score and overall MCAT score.
Tips on Getting 520 on the MCAT
Now that you know what the MCAT test sections are and how the exam is scored, let's talk about some MCAT prep tips that all test takers should follow.
1. Make an MCAT Study Plan
I’ve found that most students make several mistakes in their MCAT prep, which result in them not getting the desired MCAT scores and getting accepted by med schools:
- Premed students who have already taken science courses needed for the MCAT and have a high GPA rely on their good results.
- These students mostly underestimate the MCAT. Once students realize how much more they have to cover, they’re out of time because they didn’t begin studying on time.
- Students create a MCAT study plan in the middle of the exam prep instead of at the beginning. This is often too late, as they’ve already missed out on a ton of valuable study time.
- Students jump from resource to resource in an attempt to cover everything in detail.
By making a study plan, students will know exactly how much time they have to cover everything, and they’ll focus on the AMMC material and primary resources without wasting time.
Here are my best tips on making a study plan :
- Make a study plan as soon as you decide to take the MCAT. It will help you psychologically. You’ll know there’s a plan, and if you stick to it, you’ll be mentally prepared for the MCAT as well.
- Take practice tests (more on those later). Decide how much time you’ll need to reach your goal score based on your current score.
- Include free days in the study schedule. This should be one to two days a week. It’ll allow you to catch up when life gets in the way and you fall behind. Also, this will give you time to relax and avoid burnout.
- Focus on relevant content and areas in which you need the most improvement.
One final tip: Don’t be lazy and put off spending several hours building your study schedule. You’ll regret it later on.
2. Take Full-Length Practice Tests
To get a good MCAT score, you must take full-length practice tests. Full-lengths can make a difference between getting an average MCAT score and a perfect one.
Even if you’re familiar with the content, applying your knowledge to the actual exam can be difficult.
Do as many MCAT practice questions and tests as you can find. There’s no better way to find areas you struggle with than by doing practice questions.
Start doing the tests early. There’s no need to wait until you’ve entirely covered everything you want to go over.
This will help if you’re not a standardized test taker. Doing practice tests will help you see the question patterns and get familiar with how Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) words questions.
Even if you’re a standardized test taker, keep track of the percentage of questions you answer correctly and your score.
There’s nothing more motivating than seeing your score go up toward the MCAT test date.
Several companies make MCAT practice tests out there, such as Khan Academy, Next Step, and AAMC themselves.
Pro tip: Keep track of questions you get wrong and focus on reviewing that area. If you’re unsure why you struggled with a particular question, consider getting a tutor to help you study.
Related Article: Best MCAT Prep Books
3. Simulate MCAT Test Conditions
Don’t let your good MCAT scores on the practice test mislead you.
Many students have high test scores on the practice test and then just an average MCAT score on the actual MCAT exam.
This is because they aren’t prepared for the test conditions. MCAT is a grueling exam, over 7 hours long. Imagine having to concentrate for that long.
“By simulating the test day situation as closely as you possibly can, you’ll be able to feel calm and confident. You’ll still feel stressed, which is OK. But, you feel panicked if you’ve taken time to really simulate the test day experience.” MCAT Self Prep Youtube Channel
You should prepare in advance for the real test:
- Do the test in a quiet environment, without any disturbances
- Start at 8:00 am, as this is likely the time the actual MCAT will start.
- Use every minute of every section, just like you would on test day.
- Take all the breaks you’ll take during the MCAT at the same time.
- You can also simulate what you’ll do the night before and the morning of the exam for a full experience.
4. Get Help if You Need It
I know this one may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised. It’s not always easy having enough self-awareness and knowing when to ask for help, especially for pre-meds.
Also, if you need a little push in terms of someone holding you accountable for how much you study, getting help can be a good idea, and it’ll guarantee your MCAT success.
You can ask for help from peer tutors, a formal tutor, or an academic support center. Choose an option that works best for you.
Pro tip: Choose a tutor that has a high MCAT score and a proven record of helping students get into med schools. Also, do the content review before each session with the tutor and have questions ready for them.
If you tackle the topics that are giving you the most issues, you’ll be able to make rapid progress. It will also be a great foundation for success at med school later on.
5. Have a Positive Attitude
A positive attitude will go a long way, both on the real exam and later on at medical school.
Going to med school will be challenging, so building your mental resilience now will help you later.
Nobody likes standardized tests, but it doesn’t mean you have to be miserable doing them.
Try to have a positive mindset: Repeat to yourself that you can and will do it.
To cheer yourself up, stay positive, and celebrate your progress every time you have a score increase on a practice test.
I also tell my students to walk into the test thinking they can answer all questions. You need to have the confidence to get a good MCAT score.
If you let a hard question rattle you, you’ll start to panic, and this can result in a botched-up test.
But if you trust your gut and think you can answer every question, a hard question won’t affect you.
How Can You Get 520 on the MCAT?
You, too, can get a 520 MCAT score and be accepted into your dream medical school. I’ve talked about how to get the perfect score, what you can find on the MCAT, and how the MCAT scores are graded.
Achieving a perfect score and getting into your dream school can be possible if you follow the tips I’ve outlined above.
Start by doing practice problems so you have a rough idea of your total score and what you need to improve on to get a good MCAT score.
Pay attention to all section scores, so you know which section to improve.
If you follow my tips, you will significantly increase your chances of getting a high MCAT score and being accepted into the medical schools you apply to.