The lowest MCAT score you can get while still being accepted into medical school depends on a number of factors.
And understanding these factors is important if you’re trying to weigh your chances. You see, what’s considered a low MCAT score for one student might not be for another!
Seem confusing? Don’t worry, it’s not.
This guide will break down all of the factors that influence how low your MCAT score can be while still getting accepted into med school. You’ll learn general scores to aim for, and how to overcome a score you’re not happy with.
Table of Contents
- What’s Considered a “Low” MCAT Score?
- How Your State of Residency Factors In
- The Influence Of Your GPA
- The Correlation Between Low MCAT Scores And Success in Medical School
- How To Make Up For A Low MCAT Score
- Want Some Help?
What’s Considered a “Low” MCAT Score?
To the surprise of many, the difference between getting accepted and getting rejected can come down to single digits.
The MCAT score range goes from 472 to 528. This score is a cumulation of the four distinct sections, each of which has scores ranging from 118 on the low end to 132 on the high end.
The average score to put you in the 50th percentile is about 500, or 125 on each section. But even then, being in the 50th percentile is considered to be quite low.
In general, anything below a cumulative MCAT score of 510 is considered to be a borderline score. It’s above the 50th percentile, but competitive schools would prefer to go with students that have a higher score. 510 is on the cusp of being a good score, so it could go either way depending on the school you’re applying to.
So, what’s considered low?
Typically, anything less than a 507 is a “low” score for MD programs. That three-point difference seems minor, but it’s huge in the eyes of admissions boards.
Getting into a competitive medical school with a 507 is highly unlikely (unless you’re open to attending a Caribbean medical school). It’s still possible if your application is captivating enough to warrant interest. However, some schools may not even look at your application with a low score below 507.
But What About DO Programs?
The MCAT figures above all apply to allopathic medical schools that grant a traditional MD. But what about osteopathic schools that grant a DO?
Even the best DO schools are usually much more forgiving when it comes to low MCAT scores. They tend to take a broader look at a student’s achievements and will consider upward grading trends when making a decision.
Generally, getting into a DO program is possible as long as you have a score of at least 500 on your MCAT.
Obviously, aiming for the highest score possible is always best regardless of whether your goals are to get accepted into a DO or MD program. A higher MCAT score increases your chances of getting into your chosen medical school and opens up the possibilities of schools that will consider you.
As a good rule of thumb, you should aim for a score of at least 505 if you’re applying to a DO program. If you score higher than 505 you’ll have put yourself in a pretty comfortable position.
Is It Possible To Get Accepted With Even Lower Scores?
There have definitely been cases where students get into both MD and DO programs with sub-500 scores.
However, that’s extremely uncommon.
In general, it’s incredibly difficult to get accepted with an MCAT score below 500. In most cases, those students require additional help and have to go through great hurdles just to gain acceptance.
How Your State of Residency Factors In
As we mentioned earlier, schools will look at other factors to make an admissions decision. It may come as a surprise, but one big factor is your state of residency.
You almost always have a better chance of getting into a school that’s located within your state. That’s because schools want students to stay in the area after graduation. They’re looking to improve the state’s healthcare system.
If you’re already living in the state prior to matriculation, there’s a good chance that you’ll stay afterward, too. You probably have family and roots in the state, so schools will look at your application more favorably. They may consider slightly lower MCAT scores for in-state students.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to get in. If you live in a state with plenty of schools and a moderate amount of applicants, you obviously have a greater chance of getting accepted with a low score.
However, if you live in a state like California where the number of applicants is through the roof, it might not matter as much.
Some schools receive many more applications than others. These are those top-tier reach schools that everyone wants to get into. Because of their prestige, they typically have a more competitive pool of applicants to choose from.
Those applicants all have a high GPA and impressive MCAT scores, making getting accepted with a low score nearly impossible.
The Influence Of Your GPA
Next to your MCAT score, admissions teams will consider your college GPA. Now, here is where things can get interesting. It is possible to get into medical school with a low MCAT score if you have a stellar GPA.
Schools understand that students have bad days. Your GPA shows that you’re able to handle the curriculum and have a good grasp of the material. So, they may be willing to accept a lower MCAT score.
However, a low GPA can also work against you.
Say, for example, that you’re trying to get into an MD program. MD programs are highly competitive and require both a high GPA and high MCAT. This means a low MCAT score with an average GPA of 3.7 really hurts your chances.
The Correlation Between Low MCAT Scores And Success in Medical School
If you’re lucky enough to get into medical school with a low MCAT score, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be smooth sailing going forward.
It’s very important to remember that your while your MCAT score is only an indication of your potential, a low score can likely mean you need to brush up on some of your medical knowledge.
Schools use the MCAT to assess your knowledge of the material. It’s used to gauge your likelihood of success. A higher score shows that there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to be able to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination, or USMLE.
Medical schools want students to succeed. They want to choose applicants who are going to do well and become licensed doctors. Not only does it boost their statistics but it also helps the healthcare system as a whole.
That’s why your MCAT scores are so important. If you manage to get into a medical school with a lower-than-average score, use that as a sign that you need to learn more.
In most cases, students who have an MCAT score that’s on the lower end of the spectrum have a higher chance of being academically dismissed.
Don’t be intimidated by this, but be honest with yourself. This is probably a sign that you’ll need to work a bit harder to catch up.
How To Make Up For A Low MCAT Score
If you’re struggling to get the MCAT score you want, you’re going to have to work a bit harder to make your application stand out. While the MCAT is very important when applying to medical schools, it’s not the end-all-be-all.
There are several things that you can do to make up for a lower MCAT score. The goal is to prove that you’re ready for the challenge ahead. You want to show the admissions panel that you’re up for the task and that you can succeed during your education and beyond.
Gain Additional Clinical Experience
One of the best ways to make your application appealing is to gain as much clinical experience as possible. Schools look at the breadth of your extracurricular activities and will put a lot of thought into students that excel outside of the classroom.
However, nothing can strengthen your application more than clinical experience.
You can gain experience through both paid and volunteer positions. That aspect doesn’t matter so much in your application. What does matter is the jobs you do and how consistently you’re working.
There are tons of opportunities out there to gain experience. You can shadow a physician to see what they do on a daily basis. Or, you can volunteer at your local hospital doing a wide range of tasks.
Either way, you’ll be working in your related field. Not only that, but you’ll be interacting with professionals regularly. Those relationships you develop could prove to be useful when it comes time to gather letters of recommendation.
We recommend trying to gain experience in as many settings as possible. To be truly competitive, you need to do much more than just follow a doctor around. See if you can find opportunities that allow you to interact with patients directly. This could be volunteering in an inpatient setting or working as an interpreter.
Both of those examples allow you to interact with patients, which is a huge plus.
Another important thing to aim for is leadership roles. Doctors are leaders in the field. Showing that you can effectively lead a team to achieve your goals can make your application stand out.
You can become a lead volunteer, take on a training position for volunteers at a local hospital, or even organize a health event. Whatever the case may be, try to get as much clinical experience in as many areas as possible.
Do A Post-Bacc Or Special Master’s Program
If your MCAT score is too low for your target school, you can get some additional education to show that you’re ready for the challenge of medical school. Post-Baccalaureate and Special Master’s programs are a very common route for students that aren’t immediately accepted into medical school.
These programs offer intensive training in several important fields. This includes biology, biochemical science, and biomedical science.
Oftentimes, the coursework is similar to what first-year medical students are studying! These courses are often taught by experienced medical school faculty as well, providing you with a very valuable educational experience.
Many medical schools offer dedicated programs to prepare students for their particular program. The interesting thing about a Post-Bacc or Special Master’s program is that they’re highly specialized. Schools will often design the coursework to closely resemble the medical school experience.
Participating in the program at your chosen school is a great way to sway the admissions panel in your direction. You’ll have the chance to demonstrate your knowledge in the field while also learning more to improve your chances of success. It’s a win-win.
Perform Well In Extra Classes
Another great way to make up for a low MCAT score is to do well in extra coursework. You can take classes outside of your pre-med track to overcome those challenges you faced on the test.
For example, say that you scored poorly in the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of the Living Systems section. This section might have brought down your final score.
You can take some extra courses in biology and biochemistry to make up for that poor score. This offers a couple of different advantages.
First, acing those courses shows that you understand the material. It could indicate that the bad score was just a fluke. Alternatively, good scores in those classes can be used to show that you understood your mistakes and actively worked to improve your shortcomings. It’s a positive uptrend that admissions panels look for.
Secondly, taking those courses will help you out if you’re able to get in! It’s an opportunity to address problem areas in your education before you take on the challenge of medical school. Those courses can prove to be very useful when it comes to your overall success in medical school.
Want Some Help?
As you can see, the lowest MCAT score accepted into medical school will vary based on the student. With so many factors at play, it’s impossible to know what the exact number is for each school you apply to.
But here’s something that’s a certainty:
The higher your score, the better chance you have of getting accepted.
If you want a little extra help studying for the MCAT, we’d love to hear from you. Over the years we’ve helped hundreds of students get accepted into medical school and are confident we can do the same for you.