What is a Good MCAT Score – and What Does it Mean?

What is a Good MCAT Score – and What Does it Mean?

What is considered a “good” MCAT score? What is an “average” MCAT score? Or, what MCAT score do I need? It is important to note that the MCAT is not the only thing reviewed by medical school admissions, but it is an important part of the application. Given it is a high-stakes test, such questions run through almost every applicant’s mind.
Student celebrating MCAT score
Marcy S.

  ·  

September 14, 2022

Table of Contents

Marcy s.

Marcy S.

Marcy is a 3rd year medical student from Florida, planning to go into either Dermatology or Family Medicine.

If you want to go to medical school, you have probably heard of the MCAT, otherwise known as the Medical College Admissions Test. The exam tests several premedical subjects such as biochemistry, organic chemistry, physics, biology, psychology, and sociology, and it also measures reading comprehension as well. With so many subjects to cover and the challenge of applying to medical school, you may ask yourself, ‘What is a perfect MCAT score?’

What is a Perfect MCAT Score?

Is there a magical score to be granted a golden ticket to medical school? Not exactly. MCAT scores work by serving as an objective measure of understanding material. The test is divided into four sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior; and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. Each section is scored on a scale from 118 (the lowest) to 132 (the highest), and each section is then added together to create a total score ranging from 472 to 528. As with many exams, the higher the score the better. While it is not the only contributing factor for acceptance into medical school, it is an important one.

With a maximum score of 528, what is a good MCAT score? While “good” is subjective, it really does depend on your goals and what kind of medical school you are trying to attend.

Typically, a good score is about one standard deviation or so above the average.

The average score for the MCAT is around 500, which is around 50th percentile. Anywhere around 508 may be seen as good or better, given that 508 represents the 76th percentile.  Again, it is important to look through the FAQs of schools you are applying to as they usually provide information about their accepted incoming class’ MCAT averages, which can vary!

It is important to note that because the MCAT is a numerically scored exam, the score you get gauges your competitiveness amongst other applicants.

While you technically cannot fail the MCAT, a low score can hurt your application depending on its percentile and how it compares within the applicant pool, making it difficult to get accepted.

Although taking the MCAT again is not unheard of, there are other things to take in account as well. 

Medical school admissions committees can view all your attempts in taking the MCAT, and you can only take the exam three times per calendar year, or four times across two calendar years, with a maximum of seven attempts in total. With attempts being reviewed by admissions as well as there being an overall limit, it is vital to take the MCAT when you are ready, so that you can score your best!  Study as well as you can, and make sure to take practice exams to gauge your MCAT sample test score and determine when you should take the exam. That being said, if you do take it and do not get your goal score on your first try, there is nothing wrong with taking it again. While some may feel ashamed of not hitting their goal score or doing well and needing to take the MCAT again, there is nothing wrong with it. Sometimes showing improvement between two scores can lead to better outcomes, so do not give up if you have to take it again!

What MCAT Score Do I Need?

While some applicants want to get a perfect MCAT score, it is easier to do some research and look into the medical schools you are applying to and find out what their average admitted incoming class MCAT scores are. Each school is different, but looking at their MCAT information can give you a realistic goal to work toward. The average MCAT score is typically around 500, where MCAT percentiles among successful MD applicants are averaged around the 83rd percentile. However, this score is not a must for all schools. Medical schools prefer to look at each applicant holistically in determining admissions, and other aspects of the application such as GPA, work experience, volunteering, hobbies, and other achievements are included when deciding on matriculating candidates. 

In my case, I talked about my hobbies during my medical school interview. The committee thought it was unique that I enjoyed breakdancing, which kept the conversation going in a direction that was memorable for both parties. I had to take the MCAT twice, and when I explained my improvement between both of the attempts, the committee took my growth into account. What I was so previously anxious about, along with my unique appeal and work experience, were other facets of my application that led to my admission. 

If you are like me and have to retake the MCAT, do not give up!

Try to look at the weaker subsections of your exam results and study for improvement on your next attempt. Since there are limited attempts available for the MCAT, make sure to do practice questions and focus on your weaknesses before sitting for the exam again. It is best to plan ahead by looking at the AAMC’s testing and result dates to make sure you will have time for another test if needed. You want to have all your test results and application requirements for the application cycle. Remember, admissions do tend to look at applicants as a whole, so try to score your best, but if you do not get there the first time, try again!

MCAT Score Release Dates

If you are gathering everything you need for your medical school application, you may want to know what the MCAT score release dates are so that you can have everything ready just in case you need to take the exam again. MCAT results are usually released 30-35 days after you take the exam. An email about your results will be sent on the day that scores are released. 

There are certain test dates each year (depending where you take the exam- United States, Canada, International) which typically show the testing date and score release dates as well. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) continues to update testing and MCAT score release dates per region. Keep checking  to find dates that work for your schedule so that you can prepare ahead of time!

If you get your score and wonder how you compare in your percentile rankings, continue to look through the Association of American Medical College (AAMC) website. The AAMC has information on percentiles of test takers overall scores and also scores for individual sections such as Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Critical Analysis and Reasoning, etc. These percentiles are updated in each application cycle and can be used as a reference.

Final Thoughts

The MCAT is used as an objective tool for medical school admissions and is one of the biggest factors of the medical school application. However, it is not the only factor, as medical schools do look at applicants as a whole. It is best to score as high as you can, but it is also important to not beat yourself up if you do not reach your score goals the first time you take the MCAT. Planning for another MCAT attempt ahead of time can help in staying on track for the application cycle you want. Take the time you need to get quality studying done to make your attempt at the MCAT the best score you can.

Further Reading

How to Succeed in Medical School: a Beginner’s Guide

Starting med school? Success in medical school is about more than just attending class. Learn about study strategies, finding a mentor, and more.

Medical School Survival Guide

Getting into medical school and thriving within your program involves careful steps and helpful tricks. Lecturio has a great starting point for success: our Medical School Survival Guide.

How to Get Into Medical School: Preparing a Strong Application

Getting into medical school is a tricky process, but with the proper preparation you can have a strong application. Discover how to show schools how strong of a candidate you are.

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