Vince Lombardi, a Hall-of-Fame football coach who won the first two Super Bowls, once said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” For the MCAT, score perfection is attainable, but the rest of the quote still runs true. In this post, we’ll discuss the merits of perfection on the MCAT and a brief approach on how to get a perfect MCAT score.
Is a Perfect MCAT Score Possible?
The new MCAT has four sections, each scored between 118 and 132. A perfect MCAT score is a 132 in all four sections for a total combined score of 528. If you look at the current percentile ranks for the new MCAT exam, you will see that this is no easy feat. Less than 1% of all test takers receive a 132 on any given section of the exam. To get a 132 in all four sections is very unlikely. As a score of 521 is already the 99th percentile, the number of perfect scores is then much less than 1% of all test takers. You may have heard before that a perfect MCAT score is a 45. That is for the old MCAT, which is no longer administered. Just as with the new exam, less than 1% of all test takers got a perfect score on the old MCAT.
One way to increase your chance of scoring in the 99th percentile across sections is to spend extra time on the “high yield” topics that might be found across sections. A classic example of a high yield collection based topic is your amino acids. Actually, this may be the single highest-yield topic on the MCAT, period, both for Bioloical Sciences and Chemical/Physical as well. You are GUARANTEED to see at least 2-3 questions, if not more, that require you distinguishing between various amino acids. Ideally, you want to be able to draw each amino acid, name it, and give the 3 and 1 letter abbreviations from memory. If you can do this, this will probably earn you a point or two on the Biology and Chemistry sections just by itself.
If you can draw from memory, then you will know which amino acids are polar, acidic, basic, etc just by thinking about its structure. And the 3- and 1-letter abbreviations are commonly seen in experimental results – for example, the “letter-number-letter” notation is a common way to report substitutions (example: K33D means the lysine at position 33 was replaced with an aspartate). You can practice these by making flashcards. For instance, you might create one set with the structure on one side and name on the other, and another with abbreviations on one side and properties on the other side.
The Merits of a Perfect MCAT Score
Besides being an awesome fun fact for ice breakers, a perfect score on the MCAT is extremely impressive and will help any application to medical school. But is a perfect score necessary to have a strong application to medical school? Absolutely not. As we discussed in a post looking at percentiles on the MCAT, a score of 528 is higher than virtually every other test taker. But wait—if you look at the data, any score of 523 and above has the designation of being in the 100th percentile. There is no significant difference between getting a 528, a 527, or even a 523. All of them are in the 100th percentile. One could even make the argument that going to the 99th or even 98th percentile, all achieve the same effective result of letting medical schools that you know your stuff when it comes to the MCAT. Medical schools look at the complete package when it comes to medical school applications. They will not be nit-picking over who got a 528 and who got a 527.
How to Get a Perfect Score on New MCAT
Having said all that, here are some tips on how to get a perfect score on the new MCAT. There are no guarantees on how to get a 528, but these suggestions can help set you up with the best chance.
- Start studying—EARLY. For this, I mean as early as possible. Ideally, you would be studying by taking rigorous classes in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, physics, psychology, and humanities classes. If perfection is truly your goal, I would learn the material in the classes as well as I possibly could. In addition, I would not shy away from more difficult levels of classes.
- Schedule a good amount of time to take the MCAT. One can study for the MCAT in two months, or one month. Or even a week. To get a perfect score, I would block out as much time as you might need to thoroughly cover all the MCAT material. This will vary for most people, but I would say a month is probably the minimum, with two to three months being more likely the amount of time you need. An entire summer break would probably be a good amount of time. It’s a lot to give up, but such is the price for perfection. If you’re looking for ways to keep your studying on track then check out Magoosh’s MCAT prep.
- Relax and get a good night’s sleep. The pursuit of perfection can be stressful and tiring. Stressing out about getting a 528 or sleeping only a few hours a night to study will be counterproductive. If you’ve done well in your classes, studied hard for a good amount of time, then relax and get some good sleep leading up to the exam.
A perfect MCAT score is a worthy goal for all MCAT test-takers. One of my advisors told me to “aim for a perfect score, and then see where you fall.” It’s a great score to aim for, but as we mentioned at the beginning of the post, it’s not necessary. Preparing yourself to do the best that you can is far more important than any number.