Part 1: Introduction

We realize that taking the MCAT is one of the most stressful 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 result. 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.

Part 2: How Is The MCAT Scored?

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
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

The current MCAT, redesigned in 2015, is designed to take in to account your understanding of more difficult concepts. You will receive more “points” for answering difficult questions correctly versus answering easier questions correctly. By the same token, you will be penalized more for answering easier questions incorrectly versus answering more difficult questions incorrectly.

The MCAT is scored in two ways:

You will receive four individual section scores. Each section is scored on a scale of 118 – 132 with 125 being the midpoint of this range.
You will then total four section score for a cumulative or MCAT total score on a scale 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.

Part 3: What Is The Average MCAT Score?

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.

Part 4: 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.

Let’s consider the overall acceptance rates for applicants by MCAT score:

MCAT scorePercent Accepted
Less than 486 0.5%
486-489 1.1%
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%
Above 517 82.5%

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.

Part 5: Medical Schools with The Highest and Lowest Average MCATS

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?

SchoolMCAT Score
University of Mississippi503
Louisiana State504
Northeast Ohio506
Central Michigan506
Florida State University506
Southern Illinois506
Michigan State507
Loma Linda508

What are some of the highest average MCAT scores for American medical collegesl?

SchoolMCAT Score
Washington University521
Johns Hopkins520
Perelman/University of Pennsylvania520
Pritzker/University of Chicago520

Part 6: Where to Apply Based on your 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.

Part 7: Frequently Asked Questions:

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 any MCAT section, which can it be without negatively impacting 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. 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 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.

Final Thoughts

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!

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