What is a Good MCAT Score?

posted by Memm Team

A “good” MCAT score can vary from person to person, and ultimately a good score is one that helps get you into your desired medical school. What exactly is that number? It varies based on many factors: which schools you’re applying to, your GPA, and the quality of your other application materials.

Why The MCAT Is So Important 

When you’re trying to get into medical school, your MCAT score is only one part of your application, but it’s a very big part. The test is grueling. Getting a good score on the MCAT doesn’t just show med schools that you’re smart. It shows them that you have discipline, stamina, and dedication. In theory, if you can get through studying for and taking the MCAT, you can also get through the rigorous training it takes to become a doctor. 

The MCAT is also the most objective piece of your med school application. Because it’s a standardized test, admissions committees are able to compare students via their MCAT scores in a way they can’t with other parts of the application. 

What MCAT Score to Aim For

We’ve already established that the ideal MCAT score varies, but let’s take a look at some numbers. 

MCAT scores range from 472-528, and section scores range from 118-132. Without taking other factors into account, the ideal MCAT score is 510 or above with a score of at least 127-128 on each section. 

The Association of American Medical Colleges publishes data on the average MCAT score for all med school applicants and matriculants. For 2020-2021, the average applicant scored a 506.4 on the MCAT while the average matriculant scored a 511.5. 

We broke the scores down a little more below, showing you different score ranges and what they might mean for your overall chances of acceptance: 

MCAT Score Implications
500-510You might get into medical school, but the rest of your application should be very strong
510-515You’ll be considered an average matriculant, and the rest of your application should be strong
515-520You’ll be considered a competitive applicant, and your strong score might make up for weak points in the rest of your application
520+You’ll be one of the highest scorers and have a good chance of being accepted, assuming you don’t have any fatal flaws in the rest of your application

Of course, it’s not black and white, and admissions committees take a lot more into account than just your MCAT score. 

MCAT Score vs GPA

Admissions committees typically look at both your MCAT score and your GPA before they look at anything else. If these numbers are too low for their standards, it’s highly likely they won’t look at any other portion of your application. 

In general, a high MCAT score can make up for a low GPA and vice versa. For example, according to AAMC data, from 2018-2021, students with a low GPA and a low MCAT score were very unlikely to be accepted to med school. However, when they have a low GPA and a high MCAT score or a high GPA and a low MCAT score, their chances increase marginally. 

In extreme cases, students who scored less than 486 on the MCAT but had a GPA higher than 3.97 were accepted at a rate of 1.3%. Students who had a GPA between 2.60 and 2.79 but scored greater than 517 on the MCAT were accepted at a rate of 18.8 percent. 

Unsurprisingly, the greatest acceptance rates are in the students who had both a high GPA and a high MCAT score. Students who had a GPA higher than 3.97 and who scored higher than 517 on the MCAT had an 86.6 acceptance rate. 

If you have a very high GPA, you might have some wiggle room with your target MCAT score. 

Average MCAT Scores Vary by School

Different med schools accept applicants with different MCAT score ranges. Most schools accept scores no lower than 500, but the average matriculant score is much higher. 

While some very competitive schools like to see scores around 515 or above, less competitive schools are more likely to accept students with scores below 510. No matter what school you apply to, scoring in the highest percentiles does not guarantee admission. 

The Medical School Admission Requirements™ (MSAR®) is an excellent tool for test-takers to use when they’re studying for the MCAT and looking at different med schools. It costs $28 to access for one year, but the tool is invaluable. The database shows the average MCAT scores that each medical school accepts. 

This can help you determine what score to aim for, but it’s also helpful in finding schools you may not have previously considered. Check out schools that accept students in your target range to broaden your horizons and find more potential schools that are more likely to accept you. 

Of course, when you visit the website for each med school you’re interested in, you will probably be able to find statistics on the MCAT scores they typically accept. MSAR is simply an easier and less time-consuming way to sift through key data on a large number of med schools. 

When you look at the average MCAT score for students at your prospective school, your goal should be to score as well as or better than that average student. For some schools, this might be 509 and for the top competitive med schools it’s likely to be 515-520+. 

Low MCAT Scores Can Be Buffered by Strong Applications

Your MCAT is just one part of your application. Your application also consists of your :

  • GPA
  • MCAT score
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statements and essays
  • Transcripts
  • Experience
  • Extracurriculars
  • Achievements

To be a well-rounded applicant with a strong application, you’ll want to stand out in every area. If your MCAT score is lower than you’d like, it’s time to beef up that application. 

Some students are better test-takers than others, and if this is the case for you, a strong application can make the difference. In general, if you have a very strong application, you might be able to get away with a lower MCAT score and vice versa.

Be aware, however, that MCAT scores and GPAs are the most heavily weighted parts of your application. You could have a very strong application, but if your MCAT score is too low, the admissions committee will throw your application in the rejection pile before they even see the other components. 

What’s a Good MCAT Section Score?

We’ve focused a lot on overall scores, but we cannot forget that the MCAT is broken down into four sections. Med schools are looking for students who do well on all four sections. A good score to aim for is at least 127-128 on each section. 

Be aware that admissions committees can see your score on each section as well as your overall score. They often want to see well-rounded students. So if you struggle with CARS, for example, you’ll want to work on bringing up your score in that specific section. Don’t rely on high scores on the other three sections to pull your overall score up. Additionally, some med schools place more weight on specific sections. 

What to Do If You Meet Your Target MCAT Score

After considering your GPA, the average scores of the schools you’ll apply to, and the strength of your application, you should have a good idea of what MCAT score to target. What happens when you start hitting that score on practice exams? 

First, consider which practice tests you’re taking. Most of them are known to be harder than the real MCAT, so if you’re hitting your target score on practice tests, you’ll likely hit your target score on the real MCAT as well. The exception is the AAMC’s practice tests. Those are much closer to the real thing, so don’t expect to score much higher on the actual MCAT. 

When you start hitting your target score, don’t stop. Aim for a score that is acceptable to you, but if you start to outscore that number on practice tests, don’t stop preparing. The only time you should stop studying for the MCAT is when it is a day or two away. If you stop studying too early, you’re going to start forgetting material. Continue to review, continue to study, and you’ll be more than prepared when test day comes along. 

The Bottom Line

To be considered for acceptance at most medical schools, your MCAT score should be at least 510, and you should score no lower than 127 on each section. Have a standout application but an okay MCAT score, and you might still get in. Have an okay application but a standout MCAT score, and you might still get in. Have a standout application and a standout MCAT score, and your chances are much higher. 

With med school applications as with life, there are no guarantees, but the more you get your score above 510, the greater your chances. When you meet your target score in practice, continue to study and prepare, and you have a good chance of actually achieving that score on the real thing. 

Last edited on: May 28, 2021


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