Learn how the MCAT is scored, MCAT test dates, what is considered a good MCAT score, and MCAT score ranges.
We realize that taking the MCAT is one of the most anxiety provoking parts of the medical school admissions process for many applicants. After years of study, focus, and commitment, it is stressful to think that your success may hinge on your MCAT scores. Because many medical schools consider the MCAT score the most important objective criteria of your med school application, it is important to use every strategy you can to take the MCAT as few times as possible and earn the highest score possible (ideally on your first or second attempt). While your GPA is also extremely important, the MCAT is the only measure medical schools can use to compare you objectively to other applicants. Earning the highest MCAT score possible or one near the average MCAT scores for accepted students at your target medical schools should be your goal.
In this article you will find the answers to your most pressing questions about the MCAT.
What is the MCAT?
The MCAT is the Medical College Admissions Test. The MCAT, a computerized test required for admissions to all U.S. and Canadian medical schools, is offered at specific testing centers. Review each testing center’s rules and regulations before taking the exam and make a practice trip to the testing center before your actual exam day. Be sure you travel during the same time and day of the week so you don’t underestimate how long the trip will take. Nothing causes more anxiety than being late for an exam. Be sure you have the correct identification needed to take your test and allow time for test center check in, including security issues.
According to the AAMC, the Association of American Medical Colleges, “The Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) is a standardized, multiple-choice, computer-based test that has been a part of the medical school admissions process for more than 90 years.”
How long is the MCAT?
The MCAT is approximately 7 hours and 30 minutes long.
MCAT testing time breakdown:
- Test Day Certification: 4 minutes
- Tutorial (optional): 10 minutes
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 59 items, 95 minutes
- ‘Break (optional) 10 minutes
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 53 items, 90 minutes
- Mid-Exam Break (optional): 30 minutes
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 59 items, 95 minutes
- Break (optional): 10 minutes
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 59 items, 95 minutes
- Void Question: 3 minutes
- Satisfaction Survey: 5 minutes
- Total Content Time: 6 hours, 15 minutes
- Total “Seated” Time: Approx. 7 hours, 27 minutes
What are the MCAT Sections?
There are four sections on the MCAT and you will receive an individual score for each section.
The four sections are:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
This section tests knowledge of biologic and biochemical concepts as well as the ability to apply analytical, scientific inquiry, reasoning, and statistics skills to solve problems.
2. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
This section tests knowledge of chemical and physical sciences and, as in section 1, the ability to apply analytical, scientific inquiry, reasoning ,and statistics to solve problems.
Sections 1 & 2 are collectively referred to as the natural sciences. Prerequisites for these sections are: introductory biology, biochemistry (one semester only), inorganic (general) chemistry, organic chemistry & physics.
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
This section tests knowledge of psychology and sociology along with some basic biologic principles. These subjects reflect the importance of social and behavioral determinants of health in the practice of medicine. Like the other sections, it tests the ability to apply analytical, scientific inquiry, reasoning ,and statistics to solve problems.
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
This section does not test a specific knowledge base or subjects. Instead, it evaluates the critical analysis and scientific reasoning skills required of medical students and physicians. This section covers topics such as ethics, population health, philosophy, and cross-cultural studies. This section is similar to reading comprehension sections on other types of standardized exams with passages based on the humanities and social sciences.
How is the MCAT Scored?
Your MCAT score is based on the number of correct answers you achieve on the MCAT. Wrong and unanswered questions are scored the same way so there is no penalty for guessing.
The number or correct scores on each section is then converted to a scale of 118 – 132. The MCAT is not graded on a curve.
You will also receive a percentile rank for each MCAT section and your total score to see how you compare to other test takers.
MCAT Score Report
Understanding the components of your MCAT score report is not only important for you personally, but also because this is the same information that admissions committees will be using to evaluate your readiness for success in the medical school curricula.
What are the MCAT Section Score Ranges?
MCAT Score Range
There are two MCAT score ranges:
- one for each section score
- one for your overall score
You will receive four individual section scores:
- Each section is scored in the range of 118 – 132
- 125 is the midpoint of this range
What is the MCAT Total Score Range?
The MCAT will total your four section scores for a cumulative or MCAT total score range of 472-528 with 500 as this midpoint of this range.
The MCAT is not scored on a curve and admissions committees only use the scaled section and overall scores during the admissions process. Medical schools will not consider your overall percentile in the admissions process; they will only use your scaled scores.
What is the Highest Possible or Perfect MCAT Score?
The highest score you can earn on the MCAT is a 528 with a 132 on each of the four MCAT sections.
What Is The Average MCAT Score in 2020-2021?
The average MCAT score is 505.6 out of 528 while the median is 500.
The average MCAT for applicants accepted to allopathic medical schools is 511.5
The average MCAT for entering osteopathic medical students is 503.
The highest MCAT score one can earn is 528.
Understanding these average MCAT scores will allow you to gauge your competitiveness for medical school admission and determine if you want to retake the MCAT.
Understanding these average MCAT scores will allow you to gauge your competitiveness for medical school admission.
What is the highest MCAT score? 528
What is a Good MCAT Score?
So, what is a good MCAT score? We consider a “good” MCAT score to be 510 or above. An MCAT of 510 or above makes you a competitive applicant for both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools assuming other aspects of your candidacy are also strong. An MCAT of 515 or above will make you a much more competitive applicant, and, a score over 517 should nearly guarantee admission. Although, consider that 17.5% of applicants with scores over 517 were not accepted to medical school in 2019-2020.
However, your ideal MCAT score should be aligned with the average MCAT scores for accepted applicants at your target medical schools. For example, a student who earns an overall MCAT score of 507 is doing great if he wants to attend an osteopathic medical school with average MCAT scores for accepted students of 505. But, for the student hoping to attend one of the most competitive medical schools in the country, an MCAT of 507 would not be competitive.
Admissions committees also consider your MCAT score within the context of your entire application and profile. For example, if you are an applicant that has overcome tremendous adversity, a lower MCAT score might be easier to overcome. Or, if you have exceptional achievements (scholarly, academic, or in research) as well as a high GPA, your MCAT may not need to be exceptional.
What is a good MCAT score?
MCAT Test Dates 2020 / MCAT Score Release Dates 2020
There are a total of 30 MCAT test dates in 2020. The MCAT is offered between January and September each year with no exam dates offered in February.
- January 17, 2020 / February 18, 2020
- January 18, 2020 / February 18, 2020
- January 23, 2020 / February 25, 2020
- March 14, 2020 / April 14, 2020
- March 27, 2020 / May 1, 2020
- April 4, 2020 / May 5, 2020
- April 24, 2020 / May 27, 2020
- April 25, 2020 / May 27, 2020
- May 9, 2020 / June 9, 2020
- May 15, 2020 / June 16, 2020
- May 16, 2020 / June 16, 2020
- May 21, 2020 / June 23, 2020
- May 29, 2020 / June 30, 2020
- June 5, 2020 / July 7, 2020
- June 19, 2020 / July 21, 2020
- June 20, 2020 / July 21, 2020
- June 27, 2020 / July 28, 2020
- July 7, 2020 / August 6, 2020
- July 18, 2020 / August 18, 2020
- July 23, 2020 / August 25, 2020
- July 31, 2020 / September 1, 2020
- August 1, 2020 / September 1, 2020
- August 7 2020 / September 9, 2020
- August 8, 2020 / September 9, 2020
- August 14, 2020 / September 15, 2020
- August 29, 2020 / September 29, 2020
- September 3, 2020 / October 6, 2020
- September 4, 2020 / October 6, 2020
- September 11, 2020 / October 13, 2020
- September 12, 2020 / October 13, 2020
How do I register for the MCAT?
You can register for the MCAT via the Association of American Medical Colleges website. Be sure to register early to ensure you can select your preferred test date and testing center location.
What are 2020-2021 Medical School Acceptance Rates Based on MCAT Score?
Let’s consider the overall acceptance rates for applicants by MCAT score:
|MCAT score||Percent Accepted|
|Less than 486||0.5%|
|490 - 493||3.2%|
|494 - 497||10%|
|498 - 501||20%|
|502 - 505||32%|
|506 - 509||46.4%|
|510 - 513||61.4%|
|514 - 517||72.8%|
As you can see, the higher the MCAT score, the better your chances of acceptance. Generally speaking, if you have a lower MCAT score, you should ideally have a higher GPA to balance your academic profile. That said, there are many factors that impact an applicant’s success as medical school admissions committees review applications holistically. This is why your experiences, personal statement, work and activities entries, secondary essays, and interview performance are so important.
Admissions committees also consider your MCAT score within the context of your entire application and profile.
Which Medical Schools have the Lowest Average MCAT Scores?
Understanding a medical school’s MCAT average scores will help you determine your competitiveness for that school.
What are some of the lowest average MCAT scores for American medical colleges?
|University of Mississippi||503|
|Florida State University||506|
MCAT Scores by School
Which Medical Schools have the Highest Average MCAT Scores?
What are some of the highest average MCAT scores for American medical colleges?
|Perelman/University of Pennsylvania||520|
|Pritzker/University of Chicago||520|
MCAT Scores by School
Where Should I Apply Based on my MCAT Score?
These are very general guidelines about where to apply based on your MCAT score and assuming your GPA is a 3.5 or above. These suggestions might change depending on your state residence, ethnicity, disadvantaged status, and other factors.
MCAT of 505 or below: Consider applying to your state allopathic medical schools and osteopathic medical schools.
MCAT score ranges of 506 – 509: Apply to your state medical schools. Apply to a handful of additional allopathic medical schools and 15 – 20 osteopathic medical schools.
MCAT score ranges of 510 – 514: Apply to your state medical schools and 25 – 30 carefully selected allopathic medical schools. Consider, depending on other factors in your profile, applying to a few top-tier osteopathic medical schools.
MCAT of 514 or higher: Apply to your state medical schools and 25 allopathic medical schools. The higher your MCAT, the more selective your school list should be.
Frequently Asked Questions
How should I study for the MCAT?
When students ask me how to prepare, I first ask them, “How did you prepare for the SAT or ACT and what worked?” At this point, most students know their weaknesses and have an idea of how they learn best. The material that is tested is typically covered in undergraduate courses. How best to prepare will vary from applicant to applicant and there is no one right way. Here are some possibilities:
- Review on your own. If you are a good self- studier and have excellent time management and organizational skills, buying or borrowing review books and studying on your own could be a good option. Many excellent review books are available if you need to supplement what you have learned in your prerequisite courses. Many students have the discipline to self-study and incorporate the AAMC practice tests in their study plan (see below). Khan Academy MCAT has some excellent prep materials that were made with the AAMC. And, the are free!
- Commercial prep course. Most often, students prepare for the exam by enrolling in MCAT review courses, which are either live or online. These courses do not vary tremendously in quality and their effectiveness depends on each individual teacher’s talent, which is often difficult to assess before a course. But whatever the effectiveness of the course, taking it forces a student to stay on schedule and create a study plan, which in itself has value. In my experience, these courses sometimes offer initial “diagnostic tests,” which tend to “underscore” applicants and then offer “simulated tests,” which “overscore” applicants. I am not sure why testing companies use this strategy, but perhaps they are trying to make applicants nervous initially to motivate them to study and then to boost students’ confidence before test day. Regardless, evaluate your performance on commercial practice tests with a grain of salt and place a higher value on your AAMC practice test performance (see below).
- Private tutoring. Private tutors are becoming more common. It might be beneficial to seek out a talented tutor for “problem spots” if you need some intensive study for certain areas. For some applicants, private tutoring for every section might be a possible and expensive option.
- Online resources. There are many online resources and question banks available at this point. Before signing up for one, be sure to speak with multiple students who have used the resources and scored well.
- Study plan. Regardless of how you prepare, it is essential to have an organized study plan to ensure you get through all of the material before the exam. As mentioned, I recommend that students take at least three months to study for the MCAT®. Being well prepared for the MCAT® is essential, and required preparation time will vary from student to student. Be honest with yourself and devote the time you need to do well on the exam even if this means postponing your planned application year.
- Practice tests. The AAMC offers practice tests for applicants. I recommend that applicants take all of these tests by incorporating them into their study schedules. Performance on these tests is the most accurate predictor of how a student will perform on test day. Go to the AAMC store to order practice tests.
- AAMC resources. The AAMC provides many resources for applicants as they prepare for the MCAT, including a portal of resources offered by undergraduate university professors. In addition, in collaboration with Khan Academy and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the AAMC offers free lectures and tutorials to help students prepare.
For how long should I study for the MCAT?
Most test takers study for the MCAT for at least three months, but, this will in part depend on how you are performing on practice tests. How you study is also an individual choice and will depend on your exam history and how you have successfully prepared for past standardized test.
If I underperform on one MCAT section, will it negatively impact my chances?
As we tell our applicants, underperforming on the CARS section of the MCAT can be forgiven, especially if you earned high scores in the three science sections. This is a common pattern with our students when they apply to medical school which makes sense since many medical school applicants are more gifted in the sciences and math. Underperforming on a science section, however, can hurt you. Your cumulative score matters most.
How many times can I take the MCAT?
Below are the rules on how many times you can take the MCAT:
- In a single testing year, you can take the MCAT exam up to three times.
- In a two year consecutive period, you can take the MCAT exam up to four times.
- In your lifetime, you can take the MCAT exam up to seven times.
- Voids and no-shows count toward your lifetime limits.
- You can only be registered for one MCAT seat at a time.
Should I retake the MCAT?
Many students ask if they should retake the MCAT. The answer to this question in part depends on your goals. If, for example, you earned a 506 on the MCAT and you want to attend an osteopathic medical school, there is little need for a retake. However, if your goal is to attend an allopathic medical school, MedEdits would likely suggest retaking the exam after determining what you need to do to improve.
The other reason a student should retake the MCAT is if he or she underperformed for a reason that is easy to identify. Were you sick on test day? Were there stressful exam center circumstances that negatively impacted your test performance? Did you have extreme test anxiety that wasn’t treated or addressed? Were there things going on in your personal life that distracted you?
Sometimes a student may reflexively retake the MCAT when he earns a score below his target goal. However, without identifying what went wrong on test day, or what needs to be done to improve the score, a fast retake rarely results in a significantly increased score. We usually suggest a minimum of a three month interval between exams unless there are extenuating exam day circumstances as described above.
How do medical schools look at multiple MCAT scores?
Medical schools are accustomed to seeing multiple MCAT scores on an application. While some medical schools claim to average multiple MCAT scores or only look at the highest combined score, we find this is rarely the case. Medical schools will see all of your MCAT attempts and results. Three common exam patterns are described below:
One exam pattern we often see is the “outlier.” This student takes the exam two times or more earning lower scores. She then takes the MCAT one last time and bumps her score. The more “low scores” you have on your exam profile, the more likely your one higher score might be interpreted as an outlier. This is a typical “outlier” exam profile: 503, 504, 512.
The other profile we sometimes see is the “creeper.” This student takes the exam multiple times and slowly creeps up. In this profile, the exam scores are likely to be averaged. This is a typical “creeper” exam profile: 505, 507, 509, 512.
The profile we like to see the most is the “learner” profile. In this profile, the student takes the MCAT twice. She doesn’t do as well as she wants on the first exam, waits a few months to figure out what she has to do to improve, and then bumps that score by at least 3 points. A typical “learner” MCAT exam profile is: 508, 514. This is an ideal exam profile.
MCAT Score Patterns
Three common MCAT exam patterns for students who take the exam more than once.
Your MCAT represents only one factor in your medical school candidacy, but, it is a very important one! Medical schools will often screen applications based on GPA and MCAT scores, however, many do view applications holistically with the MCAT score being only one piece of that overall picture when applying to MD programs. It is important to only take the MCAT when you are ready, devoting a minimum of three months of study. Good luck!
Register for the MCAT.
Click here to learn about: 2020 Calendars, Scheduling Deadlines, and Score Release Dates
med school average mcat