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Has the MCAT Gotten More Competitive?

You may have heard that getting into medical school is not as easy as it used to be. It’s true. More and more students are applying to medical school each year. The number of first-year spots is increasing but at a much slower rate. As expected, it’s getting harder and harder just to get accepted into any medical school. Considering the importance of the MCAT in medical school admissions, you might ask: has the MCAT gotten more competitive as well? The answer is yes and no. It depends on your perspective.

Has the MCAT Gotten More Competitive?

A strong argument for the MCAT being more competitive than before is the change that occurred in 2015. We won’t talk about these changes here but you can read about them in our previous post Is the New MCAT Harder Than the Old MCAT. In this post, we will focus on the numbers.

In the table below, you will see MCAT statistics from the Association of American Colleges (AAMC). As expected, the average MCAT scores for matriculants is higher than that of applicants. If you look closely, you will also see that the average MCAT score for matriculants is increasing every year. This would certainly suggest that the MCAT is getting more competitive. However, the table does not show that the number of MCAT test takers has been also increasing over the years.

MCAT Gotten More Competitive

Table from AAMC

In 2008, about 75,000 students took the MCAT exam. You can compare this with 2013 where there were about 95,000 test takers. The increase has been fairly continuous over the years. Let’s consider a 90th percentile MCAT score, a solid MCAT score. A student with this score did better on the MCAT than 90% of all test takers. This means that 10% of all test takers in 2008 (7,500 students) got a 90th percentile score or higher. In 2013, a whopping 9,500 student attained a 90th percentile score or higher. That’s 2,000 more students! As you can see, the increase in the number of test takers automatically increases the number of students with higher scores. As the number of seats in medical school has not changed considerably, it makes sense that the average MCAT score for matriculants had to increase. This does not mean that the MCAT increased in difficulty though.

Getting a Medical School Admissions Offer

From the table, you can also see that the medical school acceptance rate has been decreasing. Getting into medical school is harder than before. Pre-medical students are more busy than ever with their volunteer, clinical, research, and other extracurricular experiences. At the same time, these students still have to study for their classes and the MCAT. Being a pre-medical student is not easy but these students are chasing their dreams. It doesn’t actually matter to them whether or not the MCAT has gotten more competitive. They will take the exam anyways because they will do whatever it takes to enter medical school!

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