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What is a Good Score on the MCAT?
6 Things You Need to Know

Last Updated On: April 2, 2021

If you are applying to med school, then you know all about the onerous MCAT. It is one of the most difficult standardized tests that medical school applicants must take before they get into a program.

For this guide, we spent hours pouring over MCAT scores, reviews, and talking with test takers to see what constitutes a good MCAT score. This guide should arm students with the information they need to appeal to medical school admissions councils and ace the MCAT exam.

What is the MCAT?

Logo of MCAT

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) was designed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). It is required for entrance into a US MD or DO program.

The MCAT exam is used to test your knowledge of science, math, physics, and reading comprehension. [1]

The MCAT exam is 6 hours and 15 minutes long. That’s without the optional questions and breaks included. It has about 230 questions including passage-based questions.

You should expect to spend an entire day at the test center.

How is the MCAT Scored?

You will receive an MCAT score for each section of the exam, and there are four sections on the MCAT exam. Your MCAT section scores range from 118 to 132. The MCAT total score is the sum of all your section scores.

Your total score will range from 472 to 528. When the AAMC created the new MCAT in 2013, they eliminated the writing part of the MCAT.

MCAT Raw vs Scaled score

Your MCAT raw score is determined by the number of questions you answered correctly on the exam. You will receive your MCAT scores in their scaled form. Your MCAT score will be scaled based on the difficulty of the questions.

What Concepts Will Be Tested on the MCAT?

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Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

This part of the MCAT will have 59 multiple-choice questions, which you will have 95 minutes to complete. The biological and biochemical foundations of living systems section will test students on their knowledge of basic biology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, and inorganic chemistry.

You will find questions related to the function and structure of biomolecules, the interactions of molecules, cells, and organs to create living organisms. Students tend to find this section similar to other sections in terms of difficulty.

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

For this section of the MCAT, you will have 59 multiple-choice questions that you have to complete within 95 minutes. The chemical and physical foundations of biological systems section will test your knowledge of basic biochemistry, general chemistry, biology, and physics.

You should expect to find questions about molecular biology and physics. Some questions will revolve around physics, such as force and related laws. You will also be tested on motion, equilibrium, and fluid dynamics. Many students found this section to be the hardest of the science sections.

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

This part of the MCAT has 59 multiple-choice questions, which you must complete in 95 minutes. The psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior section will test your knowledge of psychology, sociology, and behavioral science.

You should expect to find questions about basic psychology and sociology. You may also find some questions related to sociological statistics. You will encounter questions about perception, sensations, behavioral change, and social influences. Most students found this section to be the easiest of all the science sections.

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

This part of the MCAT has 53 multiple-choice questions, which you will have 90 minutes to complete. This section is also known as the MCAT CARS section. It is similar to most reading comprehension sections on other standardized tests.

You will find passages about social science and humanities as well as hard sciences. Most test-takers found this section to be the hardest out of all the sections on the MCAT. We recommend you study for it daily during your MCAT prep.

The critical analysis part of the MCAT seems to be hard for students because they studied hard sciences for their undergraduate degrees. You should focus on the critical analysis questions by taking a practice test every day.

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

 

John Dewey

What is Considered an Acceptable MCAT Score?

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If you are currently studying for the MCAT, then you might be thinking, how do I know if my MCAT scores are good enough to get me into the med-school of my dreams?

You might be wondering how your MCAT scores compare to the rest of future medical school students. There is no doubt your MCAT score is critically important.

Before you take the MCAT, you should have a target score in mind. Your target score should be based on the acceptance rate at the school you want to apply to.

You should review the accepted student’s MCAT scores to get a gauge of how well you need to do on the MCAT.

The average MCAT total score for 2020 was 504.6. [2] The average MCAT score for the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems questions was 126.8.

The average MCAT score for the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems portion was 126.5. The average MCAT score for the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior portion was 127.2.

The average MCAT scores in the 90th percentile and above are 515 to 528. Less than 1% of test-takers get a perfect score on the MCAT. The average MCAT scores in the 75th percentile are around 508.

The average scores in the 50th percentile are 504. If you score anything below the 50th percentile, then it might make it more difficult for you to get into medical school.

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What MCAT Scores Are Medical Schools Looking For?

A close up image of a person writing answers on the MCAT

In this guide, we wanted to include some information about what MCAT scores medical schools are looking for. We will include some of the top medical schools and some of the mid-range schools and what they expect when it comes to your MCAT scores.

Many medical schools will look at your whole school application before making a decision. American medical school admission councils put a lot of weight on your MCAT scores, but they also look at other factors as well. Applicants should be prepared with a well-rounded application for all the schools they plan to apply to.

Keep in mind, the most competitive medical schools will require a good MCAT score, letters of recommendation, personal statement, a high GPA, and extracurricular activities. Let’s start with the number one rated med school in the US.

Let’s dive into the best medical school in the United States, Harvard University. This med school boasts some of the most successful alumni in the world. They also require a high MCAT score and GPA. The average GPA for Harvard Med School is around 3.9 and the average MCAT scores are around 519. The acceptance rates are around 3.7%.

Now, let’s take a look at a mid-tier school, which is still a great med school but less competitive. Mid-tier schools are like UCLA and NYU. Let’s examine UCLA Med School. UCLA requires a GPA of at least 3.7 and an MCAT total score of at least 508.

Most medical schools will not admit students with scores lower than 500. You might have a hard time finding a med school if your MCAT total score is below the average. Med schools expect students to have a high GPA. If your GPA is lower than 3.6, then you might have a hard time getting into med schools.

Why is it Important to Get a Good MCAT Score?

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It is critically important to admissions committees that you have a higher MCAT score. The reason medical schools put a lot of weight on MCAT scores is that it is the only standardized part of medical school acceptance policies.

Med schools and admissions councils can look at all applicants as if they were the same.

What if your MCAT score is not very good? The good news is that you can retake the MCAT to try to improve your MCAT total score. You can focus on MCAT test prep and improve your MCAT scores greatly.

Another good thing is that medical schools only take your highest MCAT total score. So, if you take the MCAT many times, they will only take the highest MCAT score.

If you take the MCAT many times, then your lower MCAT scores might be looked at as a lack of determination.

If your med school application is weak in other areas, then you will need to score well on the MCAT. For example, if you have weak letters of recommendation and a low GPA, then admissions councils will expect your MCAT scores to be strong.

What is a Good MCAT Score? The Bottom Line

In this guide, we walked you through the average MCAT scores, the scaled score, and the MCAT exam in general. We also gave you some insight into what your medical school application should include.

So, what is a good MCAT score? Well, the bottom line is that anything below the 50th percentile will make it harder for you to get into medical school.

Your average MCAT scores should be around the 75th percentile, or a total score of 508 if you want to get into great schools. You must remember that the rest of your application needs to be strong as well.

References:

  1. https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/taking-mcat-exam/
  2. https://www.aamc.org/media/6056/download

About the author

Aria Miller

Aria Miller

Aria had a keen eye for details since she was a small child. It comes as no surprise that she’s chosen to pursue a career as a professional editor. She is very passionate about helping others achieve their full potential, which is one more reason she enjoys helping young people prepare for their exams.

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