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What is a Good MCAT Score?

The Short Answer for a Good MCAT Score

The application to medical school is composed of many different parts: your MCAT, cumulative GPA, science GPA, extracurricular activities (volunteer, clinical, and research), personal statement, interview, etc. One of the more important parts of the application is the MCAT, an exam created and administered by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges). A common question applicants have is, “what is a good MCAT score?” The answer to this question is, it depends. We know that’s not the answer you are looking for but it’s the truth. There is no magic cutoff line that makes an MCAT score “good.” Good MCAT scores will depend on what your goals are and what else goes into your application. Medical schools don’t just rank applicants by their MCAT scores and accept the highest ones. They look at the whole applicant and review everything that is brought to the table.

The Long Answer for a Good MCAT Score

So how about some actual numbers? We’ve got them for you but you should not simply take them at face value. You need to understand where these numbers come from to understand what they actually mean. We’ll walk you through this step by step:

1. The New MCAT Scoring System

Before we even mention any numbers, you need to understand how the MCAT is scored, especially since it’s changed recently. When the new MCAT debuted in 2015, it’s most notable modifications were to its format and content. Also on the list of changes, however, was the MCAT score range. On the old exam, students received a score between 1-15 for each of the three sections with the elusive 45 as the perfect score. With the addition of a fourth section on the new MCAT, you can imagine the confusion there would be if the same scoring system were kept. For example, a score of 43 would mean very different things on the old and new exams.

To avoid this confusion, the AAMC created a new MCAT scoring system. It’s not that complicated though. They simply took the old scale and added 117 so each section is now scored between 118-132. You might be thinking that this doesn’t really change anything and you’re right. It’s still a 15-point scale. Just as how 8 was the average on the old exam, 125 is now the average for the new exam. 528 is the new 45!

MCAT Scores - MCAT score rangeFigure from AAMC, 2015
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2. MCAT Score Conversions

Now that we understand how the new MCAT is scored, we can go ahead and convert a good score on the old exam to a score on the new exam. You might ask, why do we even have to do this? Doesn’t the AAMC have the numbers for a good score on the new exam? The AAMC does collect massive amounts of data from test takers and compile them in multiple ways. However, they have only released MCAT statistics for medical school admissions for the old exam. One major reason why the AAMC has not released MCAT statistics for the new exam is lack of data. Most medical schools consider MCAT scores to be valid for three years. Considering that the new exam was released only last year, you can imagine that most of the applicants are still applying with an MCAT score from the old exam. The AAMC does have a little bit of data on the few applicants that did apply to medical schools and took the new MCAT. However, this data is based on too small of a number of applicants for it to mean anything. Until the AAMC obtains enough data to release admissions statistics for the new MCAT, the best we can do is a conversion.

It’s important to note that the conversions we present here aren’t perfect. Officially, the AAMC has stated that direct comparisons between the old scores and new scores are “impossible.” However, both the old MCAT and the new MCAT are still standardized exams. As standardized exams, they have scores that can be converted, albeit roughly, by using the score percentiles. Medical schools do use percentiles to assess applicants. The AAMC has released final percentiles and score correlations for both the old MCAT and the new MCAT. For example, we can see that the 79th percentile scores for the old and new MCAT were 30 and 509, respectively. This means that a 30 in the old scoring system would be roughly 509 in the new scoring system. Below, we’ve provided for you a complete conversion chart using percentiles from the old and new exams:

Old MCAT ScoreNew MCAT ScorePercentile
39+523+>99
38521-52299
37519-52098
3651897
3551796
3451694
33514-51591
32513-51488
31510-51283
3050979
29507-50873
28505-50667
27503-50461
2650255
25500-50149
24498-49943
23496-49737
2249532
21493-49427
2049223
19490-49119
18488-48915
1748712
16485-48610
154848
14482-4836
134815
12479-4803
10-114782
8-9476-4771

Table from AAMC, 2016

3. Average MCAT Scores

From the table above, we can see that the 50th percentile scores for the old and new MCAT are around 25 and 500, respectively. As you might have guessed, an average MCAT score does not give you a very good chance for admissions to medical school. After all, half of all test takers score above average. Thankfully, the AAMC has released very informative admissions statistics on the old MCAT. We have converted these numbers using our chart above to provide you the table below. This table is meant to help assess where you stand in the larger pool of MCAT test takers and medical school applicants. For those of you interested in the best of the best, we also included the average MCAT scores for the most recent incoming class at Harvard Medical School.

 Old MCAT ScoreNew MCAT Score
Average MCAT Score for All Test Takers25500
Average MCAT Score for All Applicants to Medical School28.3505-506
Average MCAT Score for All Matriculants to Medical School31.4510-512
Average MCAT Score for the 2016 Entering Class of Harvard Medical School35.4517.3

Table from AAMC and Harvard

4. MCAT Scores vs. GPA

While average MCAT scores can seem very informative, they aren’t the only aspect of your application. A 510 MCAT score can lead to very different admissions results for two different applicants. To illustrate this, we ask you to consider another important number for medical school admissions, GPA. The AAMC has released the acceptance rate statistics of all medical school applicants by MCAT and GPA. In the table below, you can see 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.

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 high MCAT scores do not necessarily make up for a low GPA and vice-versa. Most successful students have balanced GPA and MCAT scores. There are many ways to raise your MCAT score, and it really boils down to finding the right option for you. Our Magoosh online MCAT course is an option that works best for students who like to set their own studying pace.

Acceptance Rate
for Applicants
Total MCAT Scores
5-1415-1718-2021-2324-2627-2930-3233-3536-6839-45
Total GPAAcceptance Rate %
3.80-4.002.83.78.119.837.157.674.082.687.190.4
3.60-3.790.02.07.114.726.542.760.973.978.683.5
3.40-3.590.31.94.011.020.230.646.560.369.272.4
3.20-3.390.00.32.29.516.723.234.546.652.756.9
3.00-3.190.00.32.57.415.419.227.934.941.645.0
2.80-2.990.01.01.65.712.617.722.823.731.928.6
2.60-2.790.00.42.84.19.313.919.330.324.033.3
2.40-2.590.00.01.63.75.712.714.028.313.350
2.20-2.390.00.00.00.09.48.823.56.314.30.0
2.00-2.190.00.00.00.04.27.716.70.00.00.0
1.47-1.990.00.00.06.311.10.00.00.00.00.0

Table from AAMC, 2016

A Complete Application: More Than Just Numbers

As you can see, there is tremendous variation in the acceptance rate for certain MCAT scores depending on just one other factor, GPA. If you were to add in other factors, there would be even more variation. This confirms our statement before that there is no magic cutoff number that makes an MCAT score good. What determines whether an MCAT score is good or not depends on you and everything that you offer as an applicant. That’s a good thing. You don’t want your potential as a physician to be measured by numbers alone. When you apply to medical school the medical school admissions committee will read your entire application. This includes 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! If you are looking for tips to get that good MCAT score you want, we recommend that you read our Top Tips for MCAT Studying and the Biggest Study Mistakes on the MCAT. Don’t forget that Magoosh also offers our own online MCAT prep!

A big thank you to MCAT bloggers Ken and April for their 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.


6 Responses to “What is a Good MCAT Score?”

  1. Jake Brians says:

    Hey Burton just looking for some advice here (been asking a lot of people lately). So I’m from Canada and trying to get into medical school. I wrote the new mcat and scored 130 physics, 129 cars, 131 bio and 126 psych which leaves me at the 95th percentile. The reason I’m writing is to ask if you think it is worth to rewrite. I applied this year and I didn’t meet the cutoff for three schools, as Manitoba and Saskatchewan want scores higher than 97th percentile to apply, and western made their new verbal cutoff 130. I’m almost certain that the verbal will go down next year as it seems a bit unreasonable and only to phase out the old mcat, but I’m worried that with a score of 126 in psych, I’m being held back. Currently my GPA is around 3.9 and my ECs aren’t the best (working on it!) so I’m wondering what your thoughts on if rewriting would be worthwhile. Thanks for your time

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert Magoosh Test Prep Expert says:

      Hi Jake,

      Thanks for reaching out! 🙂

      We aren’t admissions experts (we are much better at test prep) but based on what you have written alone, I think you need to give serious consideration to retaking the MCAT. You had trouble in your round of applications this year. I assume these were the programs you wanted most. Though it is daunting to consider rewriting the test, you want to give your applications the most strength possible, so a higher score will help with that. Do you think you can push yourself to increase your MCAT performance?

      You might also need to consider targeting programs with slightly lower score/percentile expectations. This is especially true if you are not positive about improving your MCAT score through a retake. I know it stings to consider not going after the programs you absolutely want, but sometimes there are hard choices to make. (For what it’s worth, I still think you can amp up the MCAT score!) You have to keep in mind that 95th percentile is ABSOLUTELY a huge accomplishment and there are reputable programs that should be open to you with that level.

      It sounds like you need to work on your ECs and perhaps consider increasing the MCAT score a little and then you’ll be a shining candidate next application round. If you aren’t achieving how you want and getting into programs you are after, it is absolutely worthwhile to rewrite. That’s just my thought on it!

      I hope all goes well! 🙂

  2. Anon says:

    Hi,

    I’m taking my MCAT for the first time this Saturday. I’ve been studying for the past 4 months. Up until last week I was improving in my scores (even though they still weren’t that likeable scores), but recently I took 2 more full-lengths (1 aamc and 1 princeton) and declined significantly. I scored around a 494 on both of them. In reviewing them I found that there were some content areas that I need to fix, but I also made lots of mistakes because of pure anxiety. I’m starting to get really stressed everytime I take one of these things. When I start a section, my brain kinda shuts off after a few passages or at the beginning of the section and I’m not understanding the passages as well as I should. My reading rate declines when this happens. Do you have any advice to fix the anxiety issues?

    Thanks!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert Magoosh Test Prep Expert says:

      There are a variety of ways to fix anxiety problems. Often it can help to take a step back from the “text clock.” By this, I mean do some practice tests where you don’t look at the time while you’re answering the questions. Instead, only look at the timer after you finish everything. This allows you to monitor and find ways to improve it, without actually constantly looking at the timer, which can be very stressful and distracting. By approaching pacing this way, you can also get a feel for your pace that’s more intuitive and requires less clock-watching. This skill can help you a lot with your nerves and your pacing on your actual test day.

      In general, practice reading calmly. You should also try reading MCAT passages entirely outside of test conditions, just reading the passages to see what information is in them. If you can read a passage calmly “just because” (and it sounds like you can), then you’ll know you can also read a passage with calm and focus on the real test.

      Hope all this helps. 🙂

  3. zoey says:

    Hi,

    I have a 4.0 gpa and took my mcat two times, 2 months apart under some serious family circumstances.
    (To family members were critically ill) I scored a 497 the first time and a 506 the second time. What do you think are my chances at getting in to an MD program?
    Any advise is much appreciated.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert Magoosh Test Prep Expert says:

      Hi Zoey,

      It is hard to say, because your applications depend on a lot more than your MCAT score, but a 506 puts you above the 50th percentile for sure! I would give it your best shot (if you don’t have time to improve the score) and make sure you portray your great fit for medical school. You won’t know until you try, but a 506 is not horrible, so don’t think you’re a long shot, either. Work hard on the rest of those apps, and good luck! 🙂

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