We’ve heard from a lot of students who’ve gotten a 518 on the MCAT and aren’t sure where they stand.
They know it’s pretty good, but is it good enough to get into their target medical schools? Should they retake to try and boost their chances?
This resource will help you find out where you stand if you’ve scored a 518 on the MCAT. Don’t worry, it’s easier to figure out than you might think!
Table of Contents
Is 518 A Good MCAT Score?
Taking the MCAT is one of the most important steps in your quest to get into medical school. Chances are, you’ve poured hours into preparing. From years of studying basic science and biology to months of test prep, it all comes down to one multi-section test.
After weeks of anticipation, you finally get your score back and see that you scored a total of 518. Is that any good? Should you feel confident?
Here’s the general answer:
Scoring a 518 on your MCAT is quite good. In fact, it puts you in the 97th percentile. To put it into perspective, a perfect score on the MCAT is a 528. That’s the highest that you can get.
Scoring just 10 points shy of perfect puts you in a really solid position. But in the end, it all depends on your goals.
Should You Retake With a 518?
Wanting to retake the MCAT is very common. Most students want to squeeze out as many points as they can get to make their application as competitive as possible. While you can take the test as many as three times in a single year, doing so is not always recommended.
Taking the MCAT is a big time and money investment. Unless you’re able to see significant improvements in your score, retaking the MCAT could be more trouble than it’s worth.
So, should you retake the MCAT with a score of 518?
The answer to that question depends on several factors. Every student’s situation is different. On paper, a 518 is a very good score to start with. The average total MCAT score for matriculants in the 2019-2020 application cycle was 511.5.
A score of 518 is not only above the mean score of successful matriculants, but it’s right at the top of the scale with the standard deviation accounted for.
That said, there are some situations where it could still be worth retaking (even though they’re unlikely).
The MCAT is not the only qualifier that schools consider when deciding an applicant’s fate. Furthermore, acceptance standards vary across the board. There’s a big difference between getting into any medical school and getting into your top choice medical school.
To figure out if retaking the MCAT is worth it, you need to think about what you’re bringing to the table and how competitive your application currently is. Here are some things to consider.
1. What Is Your GPA?
The first thing you should be looking at is your GPA. Next to the MCAT, your final undergraduate GPA is one of the biggest qualifiers that schools consider. In most cases, schools won’t even look at an application unless the student’s GPA meets a certain threshold.
Your GPA and MCAT go hand in hand. Ideally, both would be top-notch and meet the minimum requirements of the schools you’re interested in. If that’s not the case, your GPA and MCAT will affect each other.
Let’s say, for example, that you have a low GPA. The average total GPA for applicants in 2019-2020 was about 3.58. For matriculants, it was a bit higher at 3.73.
If your final undergraduate GPA is on the lower end, retaking the MCAT may be worth the effort. A lower score that’s below the average for matriculants isn’t going to make your application appealing.
With an MCAT score of 518 and lower GPA, you would still probably get accepted into some “safety” schools. However, your chances of getting into your choice schools would be a bit lower.
If you’re applying with a low GPA, you need to have an impressive MCAT score possible to make up that deficit. There are no guarantees when it comes to the admissions process. But typically, schools will show more interest in low-GPA students if they have a significantly higher MCAT score.
Now, if you already have a solid GPA, you can rest easy! A good GPA with a score of 518 is a fantastic combo. Those two credentials already show that you understand the core material and are ready for the challenge of medical school.
2. What’s Your State Of Residency?
Another big consideration that should factor into your retake decision is your state of residency. Most applicants don’t realize it, but where you live has a big impact on your chances of getting accepted into medical school.
Why is that? Well, it all comes down to competition over available seats.
Medical schools are not evenly distributed across the country. Some states have far more schools for prospective students than others. As a result, competition for available seats varies dramatically based on where you live.
Not only that, but schools tend to favor in-state students over out-of-state students. Of course, that’s not always the case. Many institutions are internationally renowned and focus more on admitting the most qualified students.
But most are going to try to support the state’s existing healthcare system. In-state students are far more likely to stay behind and work in the state. Thus, schools will typically gravitate towards those students so that the community as a whole can benefit.
Think about how many schools your state has. You’re probably thinking about applying to several of them! Now think about how many available seats each school has.
States like California, New York, and Florida all have several schools for prospective students. In the 2019-2020 academic year, California had 2,603 matriculants, New York had 1,674, and Florida had 1,189.
If you live in one of those states, your MCAT score of 518 is great. With many seats to fill, there’s a good chance that you’re going to see some acceptance letters.
Now, states with fewer schools are a bit different. With limited seats come fiercer competition. Those schools are going to want the best of the best, so you need the highest MCAT score to increase your chances.
It also pays to check out the AAMC data for schools in your state. You’ll find that the average MCAT score for matriculants in some states is significantly lower than the average for others.
For example, the average MCAT of matriculants in North Dakota was 507.1. Meanwhile, it was 514.1 in Connecticut!
Use all of this data to see where you stand. Understanding how competitive schools in your state are can help you decide whether or not retaking the MCAT is the right choice.
3. How Competitive Are Your Target Schools?
A score of 518 is quite impressive. You’re in the 97th percentile!
However, that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get into a top-ranked school.
Speaking of competition, it’s important to consider the standards of the individual schools you’re applying to. Take a look at admission requirements and matriculant data of your choice schools. Then, compare them to your own credentials.
Top-ranked schools receive thousands of applicants every single year. To stand out, you’ll need a truly impressive MCAT score. Those schools are very difficult to get into, so you might want to retake the MCAT to improve your application.
It might not seem like much, but single-point differences matter with highly competitive schools. Your goal is to make your application as appealing as possible, so every point counts.
4. How Competitive Is Your Application?
Most students focus so much on their MCAT score that they forget to think about how it supports the rest of the application. Medical schools don’t use hard data alone to make decisions. Admissions panels will take a holistic approach to see what you have to offer as a student.
Your MCAT and GPA are merely qualifiers to get your toe in the door!
You should always think of your MCAT as a piece of support data rather than the final decision-maker. In the best-case scenario, your score will support the rest of your application or have no bearing on it at all.
Let’s say that you have an amazing application with all of the things that schools are looking for. This includes impressive awards for your academic performance, good work and volunteer experience, and plenty of extracurriculars.
Already, your application is extremely competitive. It shows that you’re ready and deserving of that acceptance letter. An MCAT score of 518 is just icing on the cake at that point!
Now, if your application isn’t as impressive as you want it to be, your MCAT score will hold a bit more weight. Maybe you didn’t realize you wanted to pursue medicine until pretty late in your academic career. So, you don’t have a ton of volunteer, work, or academic experience that shows your dedication to medicine like other applicants.
In this case, retaking the MCAT could pay off. A higher MCAT score will make up for your application and show that you’re ready for the challenge!
At the end of the day, the quality of your overall application is more important than the MCAT. Your MCAT score is simply one piece of the grand puzzle. So, you should think about how your score reflects your application and vice versa.
5. Do You Realistically Think You Would Get Higher A Higher Score The Second Time?
Last, but not least, you should think about whether or not you can realistically improve your score.
You see, a 518 is already very high. If you had an even distribution of scores across each part, you can only make minor improvements to see better results.
Think about how you prepared for the MCAT the first go-around. Did you spend hours taking practice tests? Did you complete test prep courses?
Now, are you ready to do that all over again? More importantly, do you think that you can actually improve your score?
The last thing you want to do is get a worse score. While schools will generally use your highest score to make their decision, they also have access to all of your attempts.
Getting a lower score on your retake will paint a bad light on your application. It could show that your original score of 518 was a fluke!
Think about how you prepared and see what you can do differently. If you don’t think that you can score higher than a 518 right now, you’ll need to change the way you prepare. Changing your approach could make all the difference.
A 518 is a rather good MCAT score for most students. It puts you in a great position for getting accepted into medical school!
But depending on a few other factors, it might not be enough for your target schools. We hope this guide has helped you figure out where you stand in relation to your goals, and if you think it’s worth it to retake.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. We’ve helped hundreds of students improve their MCAT score and get accepted into medical school over the years and can do the same for you!