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!
Figure from AAMC, 2015
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 Score||New MCAT Score||Percentile|
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 Score||New MCAT Score|
|Average MCAT Score for All Test Takers||25||500|
|Average MCAT Score for All Applicants to Medical School||28.3||505-506|
|Average MCAT Score for All Matriculants to Medical School||31.4||510-512|
|Average MCAT Score for the 2016 Entering Class of Harvard Medical School||35.4||517.3|
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.
|Acceptance Rate |
|Total MCAT Scores|
|Total GPA||Acceptance Rate %|
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!