You are probably familiar with the numerical MCAT scoring system, which ranges from 472-528. However, your MCAT score reporting will also include percentiles, which can help you interpret your numerical score.
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.
Check out this link for an enlarged view of this sample MCAT score report (PDF).
Table of Contents
Click on a section in the table of contents to skip directly to that topic, or continue reading below to start learning all about MCAT score percentiles!
What do MCAT score percentiles mean?
Like I said above, 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. It’s true that the exam has changed. However, the goal of getting a high score has not.
One advantage of the Magoosh online study course is that we have hundreds of practice questions from each area, and we added an extra CARS section (that’s a total of 212 CARS questions!). Here, we show you the most recent score percentiles. These percentiles help medical schools compare you with other test takers.
New MCAT Percentiles for 2020-2021
Below are the most recently released MCAT percentiles, in effect from May 1, 2020 through April 30, 2021. There were 273,860 administrations of the MCAT from 2020 to 2021. The average total score was 501.1 and the standard deviation was 10.6.
2020-2021 MCAT Percentiles
|Total MCAT Score||Percentile|
Old MCAT Percentiles
For comparison, you can check out the percentile data from previous years, as well as the old MCAT.
Do my MCAT score percentiles for the different sections matter?
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 MCAT score percentiles for each section probably are not as important.
As a contrasting example, let’s say you scored in the 80th percentile, with the following in each section:
- 99% for Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- 99% for Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- 40% for Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
- 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 abilities outside of science.
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, the average score of applicants who matriculated to medical school in 2020-2021 scored 511.5. This equates to roughly the 82nd percentile.
However, as mentioned in our “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 MCAT score 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 (506.4 for all test-takers) 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 mean MCAT score at NYU for the entering class is 520. On the new MCAT, this is a 98th percentile score. Logically, the student would then shoot for a 520 or higher on the MCAT.
More MCAT Resources
If you haven’t taken the MCAT yet, and want to get an idea of what percentile you would currently fall into, consider taking a practice test!
And for the rest of your study needs, check out the online Magoosh MCAT course and our monthly study schedules. Our MCAT prep contains over 300 video tutorials and over 700 online practice questions, to help you achieve your MCAT goals!
Happy studying! 🙂
A big thanks to MCAT blogger Ken for his contributions to this post!