You’ve spent months in an MCAT review course, taken practice test after practice test, and finally sat for the exam. Your results are in. Are they good enough to get you into your target medical school? Let’s take a look at what your scores mean.
MCAT scores and your grades are weighted differently.
The primary purpose of the MCAT is to assess an applicant’s ability to succeed in medical school by testing their critical skills and knowledge of natural, physical, and behavioral sciences. The MCAT score is the only piece of the med school application that is standardized.
Your grades are anything but standardized. Med school applicants attended different undergrad programs and took courses of different levels from different professors who used different grading standards. Therefore, even your GPA, which is generally considered an “objective” element of the application, is actually subjective.
Each of the four sections of the MCAT is scored between 118 and 132. AAMC originally designed the test, aiming for an average section score of 125 and an average total score of 500 within a total score range from 472 to 528.
For better or worse, the average score of all applicants and matriculants is rising. In 2016-2017, the total average score of all applicants to allopathic (MD) programs was 501.8. By 2021-2022, it had climbed to 505.9, then edged up to 506.5 in 2022-2023. And when we look at matriculant scores, the numbers are even higher.
Evaluate the competitiveness of your MCAT score.
So, what is the magic number needed to get into medical school? Unfortunately, there is no single answer to this question that applies to all med schools or even for all med school applicants. Here are some factors to examine when evaluating the competitiveness of your MCAT score:
• What are the average MCAT scores for the schools you are applying to?
Students entering U.S. MD programs in 2022 had a mean MCAT score of 511.9. According to the AACOM (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine), those entering osteopathic (DO) programs in 2021 (the most recent data available) had a mean total MCAT score of 504.64.
Those figures give you a broad overview, but the data from each specific school is what should really guide your application strategy. For example, if you’re a resident of Oregon, your score of 510 might be competitive at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), where the median MCAT score for admitted in-state students was 511. If you’re an out-of-state applicant with your heart set on OHSU, you’ll want to do better – the median out-of-state matriculant scored a 515. And if your dream school is Columbia, you probably need to up your score…or choose a different dream school. The median MCAT score for admitted students at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons was 521.
• Is your score balanced?
If you scored 130 on three sections of the MCAT but only 120 on the fourth, then you have a weakness in an area that most medical schools feel is important enough to test and measure. Although your total score might be a respectable 510, med schools will still look at the imbalance in your scores and have some concerns about the one area that was so much weaker.
• How competitive is your GPA?
If your GPA is at the high end for the schools you are applying to, the admissions committees might cut you a little slack on your MCAT score. The average undergrad GPA for those admitted to an MD program in 2022-2023 was 3.75. And the overall mean baccalaureate GPA for matriculants was 3.56, according to the AACOM.
• How strong is the rest of your application?
The MCAT is not evaluated in a vacuum, and a great MCAT score is not enough to guarantee your med school acceptance. The rest of your application must show the admissions committee that you are serious about medical school and a medical career, demonstrate that you have the character traits to be a compassionate doctor, and establish that you have the background and interpersonal skills to contribute to your community. Even if you have all these attributes, you must present them effectively via your primary and secondary applications and your interview. Your essays need to be compelling and tell the story of an applicant that admissions committee members will want to get to know better.
Which schools should you apply to?
When choosing which medical schools to apply to, look at the range of MCAT scores as well as the averages for matriculants at your target schools. For your application to be competitive, your score should be in range for each school. And unless you have a high GPA or other truly impressive elements in your application, or you come from an underrepresented background in medicine, make sure that your MCAT is above average for at least some of the programs to which you are applying.
Remember that the purpose of the MCAT is to indicate your readiness to handle the rigorous medical school curriculum, but that’s not the only thing that makes a good doctor. Commitment, character, interpersonal skills, and your potential to contribute to your community are also important. Be sure that your total application conveys that you not only can handle the academics but will also be an outstanding physician and credit to the med school you attend.
For 25 years, Accepted has helped candidates gain acceptance to their dream healthcare programs. Our outstanding admissions consultants include former admissions directors, admissions committee members, pre-health advisors, postbac program directors, and doctors. Our clients have won acceptance at MD and DO medical schools, residencies and fellowships, dental schools, veterinarian schools, and physician assistant programs at top institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, Penn, the University of California – San Francisco, Johns Hopkins, and Columbia.
Why not put our expertise to work for you? Check out Accepted’s Medical School Admissions Consulting Services, and let us guide you in crafting an outstanding application that will help you get Accepted!
A former fellowship admissions committee member and administrator at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Cydney Foote has successfully advised healthcare applicants, including those applying to medical school, dental school, nursing and PA programs, veterinary school, public health and hospital administration programs, post-baccalaureate medical programs, residencies and fellowships. Since 2001, she has brought her marketing and writing expertise to help science-focused students communicate their strengths. Want Cyd to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!