As you can imagine, knowing what a good MCAT score is can be helpful when it comes to preparing for this difficult test. But unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to MCAT scoring.
This guide will explain everything you need to know about the scoring system, ranges, averages, and percentiles.
Table of Contents
How The MCAT Is Scored
The Medical College Admissions Test, also known as MCAT, is a standardized test that weighs heavily on your overall application. While it’s not the only thing that medical schools look into, it does have the distinction of being one of the only ways to compare your capabilities to that of other students objectively.
All other facets are subjective due to the different schools, courses, and learning styles. Thanks to the standardized nature of the MCAT, schools can get a better idea of your knowledge and academic prowess. Your scores are the first barrier of entry and ultimately play a role in whether or not you move on to the next phase of the admissions process.
Most students are familiar with the concept of standardized testing. However, the MCAT follows a unique scoring system. It doesn’t grant a letter-based grade or even follow the standard scoring conventions of zero to 100.
The Four Sections You’re Scored On
Instead, the MCAT score range uses a scale system. The MCAT contains four separate sections.
The first is called “Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems.” Some simply refer to it as “Bio/Biochem.”
This section tests your knowledge of biological and biochemical concepts, which you should have learned through your prerequisite courses. It also includes elements that test your ability to apply analytical skills, statistical skills, reasoning, and scientific inquiry to find solutions.
The following section is “Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems.” It focuses on physical and chemical sciences while also testing your ability to solve problems.
Collectively, the first two sections are usually referred to as the “Natural Sciences” section. However, they both get individual scores.
The third section of the MCAT is “Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior.” In addition to testing your comprehension of the named scientific principles, it focuses heavily on the importance of psychology and behavioral determinants of health in medicine.
Finally, we have the “Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills” section. Test-takers also know it as the “CARS” section. This section is a little different from the others.
Rather than testing your knowledge of specific topics, it evaluates your critical thinking and reasoning skills. It contains text passages about topics like ethics, population health, philosophy, and more.
Once you finish your test, each section is graded individually. Like all standardized tests, your score depends on the number of correct answers you get. The good news is that wrong, and unanswered questions are scored the same way, so you can make educated guesses without worrying about any penalties.
The MCAT score doesn’t follow a traditional 100-point scale. Instead, graders use your correct answers to convert your score to a scale between 118 and 132. You’ll also get a percentile rank to see where you fall in the spectrum of scores for other test-takers.
Each of the MCAT sections receives a score of 118 to 132. The MCAT will then add the four scores together to get your cumulative total.
MCAT Score Ranges
The scoring system seems confusing at first, but it’s pretty simple to understand when breaking the test into four separate sections. The MCAT is a massive test that takes several hours to complete. Studying content for each unit can make the test seem more manageable and less daunting.
As we mentioned earlier, the four individual sections of the MCAT come with scores between 118 and 132. As a result, the sum of your final MCAT score will fall between 472 and 528.
Because of the MCAT’s unique grading structure, it’s not possible to get a zero or even a “failing” grade. The lowest you can get is 118 on each section, which would result in a final score of 472. That’s the lowest possible score a test-taker can get.
The midpoint for each section is 125, which means that the midpoint for the cumulative score is 500. That’s a good starting point for comparing test performance and measuring improvement.
Along with the standard MCAT score, you’ll also receive a percentile rank. This figure represents how you performed compared to others who took the MCAT during the same testing cycle. Percentile ranks update every year.
For the 2021-2022 year, the midpoint score of 500 puts you in the 45th percentile. That means that you did better than 45 percent of all test-takers for that year. Ranks continually rise along with the cumulative number range, indicating a more competitive score.
The Highest MCAT Score
The highest you can score on the MCAT is 528. To earn that, you would need to get a 132 on each of the four test sections.
It’s technically possible to get a perfect score on the MCAT, but it’s incredibly rare and difficult. Even still, you don’t have to get a perfect score to get a high percentile rank.
For the 2021-2022 year, a score of 522-523 would put you in the 99th percentile. Those who score between 524 and 528 are considered to be in the 100th percentile.
What Is A Good MCAT Score?
Before you start looking at that high 528 in dismay, take a breather. You don’t have to get a perfect score to land a seat in the medical school of your choice.
So, what’s considered a “good” score? Technically speaking, target MCAT scores will differ from one student to the next. It all depends on where you want to go and what your goals are (more on that later).
All that said, there is a generally accepted range that you should aim for. For the most part, a “good” score is anything above 510, with no individual section score below 127.
Medical schools don’t just gloss over section scores. They matter! A significant deficit in one section is a big red flag for most institutions. Even if you get a perfect score to make up the difference elsewhere, a bad score on one unit will hurt you.
It’s important to study and prepare for everything equally to have a generally even score profile across the board.
The MCAT is hard, and a total score of 510 puts you in a very comfortable place. You would be in the 78th percentile or higher for the 2021-2022 year. According to aggregated acceptance rates reported by the Association of American Medical Colleges, roughly 61.4 percent of applicants with scores between 510 and 513 were accepted.
There are no guarantees, as the entire admissions process is holistic and complex. But, an MCAT score of 510 gives you an excellent chance to get accepted into several schools.
With a score of 510, most advisors would recommend that you apply to state schools, up to 30 carefully selected allopathic medical schools, and even a handful of top-tier osteopathic medical schools.
MCAT Score Percentiles
To help you visualize this, here’s a handy table of MCAT score percentiles. Simply find your score on the list to see where you stand!
What Is The Average MCAT Score?
Ultimately, medical schools are going to compare you to the larger applicant pool. While all institutions have their standards and requirements, every medical school has a finite pool of potential students to accept. Understanding how you fit into the equation and compare to others can give you some insight into what MCAT score to aim for.
There’s no guaranteed score to gain acceptance, but we can look into acceptance data and aggregated scores to see what schools prefer.
According to the published MCAT scores and percentiles for 2021-2022, we can say that the average score that test-takers get is around 502. That’s relatively close to the midpoint of 500. A score of 501 to 502 puts you in the 48th to 52nd percentile.
But that figure refers to the average MCAT score of all test-takers. Unfortunately, not every student who takes the MCAT will get accepted and matriculate to medical school. Not only that, but many applicants take the MCAT multiple times!
In 2020, the Association of American Medical Colleges found that more than 88,000 test-takers took the MCAT almost 100,000 times. Curiously, those are higher figures than the previous year.
In the 2020-2021 application cycle, there were approximately 53,030 medical school applicants. However, only 22,239 matriculated, indicating an overall acceptance rate of a mere 42 percent.
With all that in mind, what’s the average MCAT score for those accepted into medical school?
According to the AAMC, the average MCAT score for students accepted into allopathic, or MD-granting, medical schools was 511.5. The standard deviation is approximately 6.5.
For osteopathic (or DO) medical schools, the average MCAT score for accepted students is a bit lower at 503 (here’s a guide on low MCAT scores that can still result in your getting accepted).
Those figures can give you a better idea of what type of score you’ll need to gain acceptance into medical school. That said, it doesn’t reflect the requirements and averages for specific schools. That’s an entirely different ballgame.
Some schools are more competitive than others, which may result in dramatically different MCAT scores than the overall national average.
Why A “Good” MCAT Score Varies By Student
Earlier, we covered what most accept as a “good” score. The overall consensus is that a score of 510 puts your odds of getting accepted into a medical school pretty high.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should aim for a 510. What constitutes a “good” score will vary from one student to the next.
Why is that? It all comes down to your goals and the schools you want to attend. As we mentioned earlier, some institutions are far more competitive than others.
As a whole, getting into medical school is tough. You have to be at the top of your class and work hard to gain acceptance anywhere. But some schools are so competitive that they can only make offers to the brightest minds in the country!
In those cases, a 510 isn’t going to cut it!
Let’s take a look at some of the average scores of top-tier schools. Some of the finest educational establishments in the country require far higher scores than the national average of matriculants. The schools with the highest average MCAT scores include:
- Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
- Washington University School of Medicine
- Yale School of Medicine at Yale University
- New York University Grossman School of Medicine
- The John Hopkins University School of Medicine
- Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
- Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
- The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine
- Harvard Medical School at Harvard University
Just how high do you need to score to gain acceptance to these schools. On average, matriculants are in the 96th percentile or higher!
The most competitive of the bunch, Vanderbilt, Yale, Washington University, and NYU, accept students with an average MCAT score of 521. That’s in the 98th percentile!
If you want to attend those schools, the average score of 510 isn’t going to work in your favor. In fact, many of those admissions boards won’t even move you onto the next phase of consideration.
Of course, there are exceptions and outliers. Remember: MCAT scores alone aren’t going to result in your acceptance or rejection. But, you’ll need to aim high to get into those medical schools.
Now, the variability works both ways. Some schools accept students with a much lower average MCAT score.
Contrary to popular belief, a lower average MCAT score for matriculants doesn’t indicate the quality of education you’ll get or even a school’s prestige. It simply means that these schools might prioritize other factors when admitting potential students.
The schools with lowest average MCAT scores include:
- University of Mississippi School of Medicine
- Louisiana State University School of Medicine
- Northeast Ohio Medical University
- Central Michigan University College of Medicine
- Florida State University College of Medicine
- Southern Illinois University School of Medicine
- Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
- Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University
- Cooper Medical School of Rowan University
- Loma Linda University School of Medicine
To get into these schools, you must be in the 55th percentile of test-takers or higher. The school with the lowest average MCAT score is the University of Mississippi. Students accepted there have an average score of around 503.
Once again, lower averages don’t necessarily reflect the type of education you’ll get. It doesn’t even indicate overall competitiveness.
For example, Florida State University is notoriously difficult to get into. The school has one of the lowest acceptance rates in the country. A mere 2.1 percent of applicants get an acceptance offer, putting it among the likes of New York University, Stanford, and Georgetown.
Yet, Florida State University matriculants have an average MCAT score of just 506.
If you want to attend one of those schools, you have an even better chance with the national MCAT average of 510.
As you can see, there are many variables when it comes to your medical school applications and MCAT scores. While we can say that 510 is a good number to aim for, it’s not the same for everyone.
Beyond the competitiveness among traditional schools, you also have to consider your options for osteopathic institutions and international schools.
MD-granting schools tend to have higher MCAT standards than those that grant DOs. A Doctor of Osteopathic medicine still goes through rigorous training and education like a traditional Doctor of Medicine. Both are also licensed and must complete residency programs.
Going the route of osteopathic medicine is an excellent choice for those who want to pursue medicine but don’t necessarily have the high scores to get into an allopathic school. The average MCAT score for matriculants in DO-granting schools is 503, which is much lower than the national average of 510.
So, what about international schools? If you want to study abroad, your MCAT goals may be completely different than most other students. Schools outside of the United States have much more flexible admission standards across the board.
Not only can you get in with a lower MCAT score, but your GPA doesn’t have to be as high either.
Popular schools in the Caribbean like St. George’s University and Ross University will accept students with less competitive scores. Overall, the average MCAT score for matriculants at Caribbean medical schools was about 497. That’s only the 35 percentile.
If you score low on the MCAT, international schools are a great way to continue. US-based schools might be out of the question, but those schools give you the chance to pursue medicine.
All that said, it’s important to do your research! The quality of education varies wildly outside of the United States, so you’ll want to ensure that you’re applying to reputable schools that are fully accredited.
As you can see, there’s tons of variation out there! What might be “good” for one applicant might not be enough for another. You can use the national average to understand what you should be aiming for. However, never rely on the standards alone to guide your preparation.
Do your research and figure out the average MCAT scores for the schools you want to attend.
Ultimately, the goal should always be to get the highest score possible. There’s no way to guarantee that you’ll be accepted. However, high MCAT marks can do a lot to make your application competitive and compelling.
A good MCAT score depends on the student and their goals. However, knowledge of the score ranges and percentiles will be useful when it comes to assessing your chance of acceptance (as it pertains to this test).
Remember, don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re looking to score higher on the MCAT and get accepted into medical school. We’ve helped hundreds of students get accepted in the last few years alone.
Let us do the same for you.