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MCAT Score Percentiles for Both the Old and New MCAT

Along with a numerical score ranging from 472-528, MCAT score reporting also includes percentiles. These MCAT score percentiles explain how your score compares with all other people who are taking the MCAT. In some ways, this percentile is more meaningful than the actual numerical score. You can find your MCAT percentiles in your score report just like the one below.

MCAT score report percentiles - magoosh

An example of an MCAT score report

What do MCAT percentiles mean?

The percentile in the score report is a measure of how well your score compares with all other people who took the MCAT. It is NOT a measure of what percentage of questions you got right. For example, a 95th percentile score means that 95% of all test takers received the same score or lower. In other words, a student that attains a 95th percentile score is in the top 5% of all test takers. When the new MCAT was launched in 2015, there was a lot of concern about all the new content that would be tested. If you’re interested in how the exam changed, you can read our previous posts on New MCAT vs. Old MCAT and Is the New MCAT Harder than the Old MCAT. It’s true that the exam has changed. However, the goal of students to get a high score has not. Here, we show you both the new and old MCAT percentiles. These percentiles help medical schools compare you with other test takers.

Old MCAT Percentiles

There were 287,494 administrations of the old MCAT from January 2012 through September 2014. The average total score was 25.2 and the standard deviation was 6.4.

Total ScorePercentile RankTotal ScorePercentile RankTotal ScorePercentile Rank

Table from AAMC, 2015

New MCAT Percentiles

There were 64,504 administrations of the new MCAT in 2015. The average total score was 499.6 and the standard deviation was 10.4.

Total ScorePercentile RankTotal ScorePercentile RankTotal ScorePercentile Rank

Table from AAMC, 2016

Do my MCAT score percentiles for the different sections matter?

It depends. Medical schools want to see balanced performances on the MCAT. If your overall score was in the 99th percentile, and the different sections ranged from 97-99%, the percentiles for each section probably are not as important. As a contrasting example, if you score in the 80th percentile, but you had 99% for Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, 99% for Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, but only 40% for Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, and 30% for Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior, that 80th percentile may not be as strong as one might think because it raises red flags about the test taker’s non-science abilities. The point to take away is that you can’t rely on only one subject or section to help boost your overall score. In addition to a high score and percentile, balance is very important.

What score percentile should I try to get?

Using data from the AAMC, 95% of applicants who matriculated to medical school in 2015-16 scored between 23.6 and 39.2. These equate to roughly the 40th percentile to the 99th percentile. However, as mentioned in the “What is a good MCAT score?” post, the percentile that is “good” or “good enough” for you really depends on your goals and the rest of your application.

If you look closely at the percentiles for both exams, you’ll notice that the distributions are close to that of a bell curve. This means that most students score close to average and few score particularly high or low. To determine their target scores, most students will start by looking at the average score of matriculants to a certain medical school. For example, say a student was interested in NYU School of Medicine. The median MCAT score at NYU for the entering class of 2015 is 36. On the old MCAT, a 36 is 97th percentile score. On the new MCAT, a 97th percentile score is a 518. Logically, the student would then shoot for a 518 on the MCAT.

Old vs New: Numbers make a difference

However, you should notice that a lot more students took the old MCAT. Between 2012 and 2014, there were on average 95,000 test administrations per year. On the new MCAT, there were about 65,000 test admissions in 2015. A 97th percentile score is great and it represents the top 3% of students. With 95,000 students, 3% is 2,850 students. With just 65,000 students, 3% is 1,950 students. It’s not like medical schools will accept 2,850 students in 2014 and only 1,950 students in 2015. There are about 20,000 spots open for admissions each year and that has not changed much recently. Medical schools are looking for the top students to fill these spots. While 36 is a high score on the old MCAT, you may not need as high of a percentile score with the new MCAT. This is because a 97th percentile score on the new MCAT means more than a 97th percentile score on the old MCAT. This will be the case until more students begin to take the new exam. If you’re looking for some additional help to improve your MCAT score, Magoosh has launched their MCAT prep!

A big thanks to MCAT blogger, Ken for his contributions to this post!

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About Burton

Burton is an MCAT blogger. He was an undergraduate at Harvard, where he majored in History before switching gears to pursue a career in medicine. He did a post-baccalaureate and is currently a fourth-year medical student at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He is applying for a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. Outside of things medical, he's a huge sports fan and loves football, basketball, and baseball.

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