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Is GPA or MCAT Score More Important?

Pre-medical students are always striving to excel academically. They know that successful medical school applicants do well in both their college courses and the MCAT. However, is GPA or MCAT score more important? This is a tough question to answer. Acceptance rates from medical schools though will tell you that both are about equally important.
 
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Is GPA or MCAT Score More Important?

The Association of American Medical Colleges has released acceptance rate statistics on all the medical schools in the nation (table below). This table shows the acceptance rate of all students that fall within a certain GPA and MCAT score range. For example, 73.9% of all the students that applied with a GPA between 3.60-3.79 and an MCAT score between 33-35 were accepted to medical school.

Is GPA or MCAT Score More Important - Magoosh

Table from AAMC, 2015

As a general trend, students with higher GPA and MCAT scores have a higher acceptance rate. Students don’t have to have extremely high numbers to get accepted though. You can see that many students do get in with lower numbers. However, a particularly low GPA or MCAT score can be detrimental to a pre-medical students chance of attending medical school. This indicates that a high MCAT score does not necessarily make up for a low GPA and vice-versa. Most successful students have balanced GPA and MCAT scores.

More Than Numbers

Remember, getting an admissions offer from a medical school requires more than just numbers. The medical school admissions committee will read your entire application, including your personal statement, description of activities and awards, letters of recommendation, and any additional essays required by the school. You will be evaluated based on your reasons for pursuing medicine as well as the quality and depth of your clinical, volunteer, research, and other extracurricular experiences. A good GPA and MCAT score will definitely help but they are also not everything! To learn more about applying to medical school, check out our previous post on the Medical School Application Process.

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2 Responses to Is GPA or MCAT Score More Important?

  1. Peter Mikhail May 27, 2016 at 3:01 pm #

    Hi Ken,

    Thank you for this informative piece! My name is Peter and I’m very thrilled that Magoosh is preparing an MCAT course! I’ve had some questions regarding medical school that I just can’t seem to find an answer to. I’ve looked at numerous online forums, and even consulted with many pre-med advisors, however no one seems to know anything about SMP programs. Would you happen to know anyone who can help me with this? Regardless, I will be checking this blog daily for updates. Thanks!

    • Ken
      Ken June 6, 2016 at 9:52 am #

      Hey Peter,

      This is a great question! I can tell you for sure that the best people to contact about these programs are the program directors/administrators. In general, people pursue SMP or similar programs for one of two reasons:

      1. To raise a low undergraduate GPA
      2. They have been out of school for too many years

      If you think about it, the basic goal is to take classes and get good grades. There are a number of ways to do this besides an SMP.

      1. Informal post-baccalaureate program: You sign up for classes on your own (usually through an extension program). This option is tough to do since you aren’t provided with much structure or guidance. It works well for students who have taken most of the premed courses, have a fine GPA, and just need to take a few more classes to fulfill the requirements.

      2. Formal Post-baccalaureate program: This is one of the best options. You apply for admission to formal post-bacc programs. They can actually be fairly competitive. The program is very well structured. There are advisors that tell you what classes to take, when to take the classes, and what extracurricular activities you should do on the side. The problem is that not all post-bacc programs are created equal. Some programs have more success than others in getting their students into medical school. The downside is that these programs can be quite expensive.

      3. SMP: Special master’s programs are very similar to post-baccs. A main difference is that they are usually affiliated with a medical school. By doing well in the program, you may be guaranteed at least an interview with the school. Some schools even reserve a few of their spots each year to SMP students. The downside is that the connection is really just with one school and does not help you more than a post-bacc with other schools. These programs also tend to be expensive.

      4. Master’s: You can do another master’s program in fields like public health or physiology. These programs can be used to show more advanced experiences with the sciences and unique interests in health. The downside is that the classes you take (depending on the program) tend to be more advanced and may not help with repairing your BPCM GPA (general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, math, etc.).

      I hope that helps a bit! Like I said before, contacting the programs directly is certainly a good way to learn more about the programs. Be prepared though to ask the tough questions (like how many of their students get into medical school)!

      Best,
      Ken


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