What is a Good MCAT Score to Get Into Medical Schools?

June 23, 2023


Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 3/31/23

This guide will cover exactly what you need to know about MCAT scores giving you an  advantage amongst others in the medical school applicant pool.

An essential component of your primary application for medical school is your Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) score. You must receive a good MCAT score, or at least an average MCAT score to get into medical school; therefore, understanding the MCAT, its importance, format, and usage by medical schools prepares you for the exam itself. 

image of dots background

How is MCAT Used in the Admissions Process?

The MCAT is an important test, and many medical schools have specific criteria regarding minimum MCAT scores that must be obtained. Admissions committees use MCAT scores to determine which students will succeed in their medical school and assess the skills they feel are most important for students to be successful. 

Keep in mind, your MCAT scores are only one of many factors that contribute to your acceptance. Your scores are used in conjunction with the following information to determine whether or not you are a good fit for medical school:

  • Undergraduate coursework
  • GPA
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Experiences related to the medical field, such as volunteering or shadowing
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Personal statement

So if your GPA isn’t up to par, aim to score higher on the MCAT to compensate. If you have a higher GPA, you may be able to get away with a slightly lower MCAT score.. While high MCAT scores do not always guarantee admission into medical school, having a competitive  score benefits your application as a whole. Shoot for getting as high of a score as possible.

What is a Good MCAT Score?

So, what is a good MCAT score? The answer depends on your goals. A competitive MCAT score typically means your grade is above the national average MCAT score. Ideally it would also mean your MCAT score is within the percentile of the current class at your desired medical school. The chart below shows the most recent MCAT percentiles from the AAMC: 

Table showing the most recent mcat percentiles

The maximum MCAT score possible is 528. The average MCAT score for entering MD students in the US is 511, so your score should not be lower than the average. 

Similarly, even if a school sets a minimum MCAT score, students absolutely should have a score above this. For example, Weill Cornell School of Medicine has no cutoffs for MCAT scores. 

At the same time, UCSF Medical School requires applicants to be within or above the 75th percentile (a score of 508 or more) to apply to their institution. As you can see, these are two very different responses to the MCAT. Check with your target medical schools to see if they have other MCAT criteria you must meet. 

In the table below, take a look at the percentage of students accepted to med schools based on their MCAT scores according to the AAMC:

Table outlining the percentage of students accepted into med school based on their mcat scores
Source: AAMC

While a good score may mean fitting into the middle of the pack, it's recommended to be far above the pack. For an excellent MCAT score that will be competitive at all schools, students should aim to be at least in the 90th percentile, which is around a score of 514.

Good MCAT Scores by Section

Each section of the MCAT is scored from a range of 118 to 132. Your total score is the combination of your MCAT section scores. The highest MCAT score possible is 528. There are four sections in the exam, and each is designed to assess specific skills:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

But what is a good score for each section of the MCAT? Take a look at the table below to give you a better idea of the below average, average, and above average MCAT scores for each section.

Table outlining the below average, average, and above average mcat scores for each section
Source: AMCAS 

As a general guideline, 125 is the midpoint for MCAT scores on each section. To improve your scores, your best bet is to familiarize yourself with each section of the MCAT and spend an equal amount of time studying for all of them. 

MCAT Scores for Top Medical Schools

Most US applicants have scores within the 86th percentile overall. While this is the average MCAT score, it is not necessarily a competitive MCAT score. Medical schools often vary as to what they expect from applicants, especially when considering the MCAT score needed for top med schools.

Here are the median MCAT scores for the top 10 medical schools in the US:

Table outlining the average MCAT scores for the top 10 medical schools
Source: Harvard, NYU, Columbia Guide, Johns Hopkins, UCSF, Duke, UPenn Guide, Stanford Guide, University of Washington, Yale

An important consideration is to ignore the “no cut off” rule at some of these top schools. Having no cut off for MCAT scores doesn’t mean your score won’t count for anything. The best way to ensure you have a competitive score is to do research on your target schools and figure out what the average score is of their entering class. 

How to Apply Based on Your MCAT Score

Students should go into the MCAT with the intent of obtaining the highest score possible. They should use your  MCAT score to your  advantage, and apply where you have the best chance of acceptance. If you’re disappointed with your  score, or find it’s not competitive at other schools, consider retaking the exam.  

If you choose to take the MCAT exam first, you don’t have the pressure to meet a specific requirement. You can go in, hoping to score as high as possible. However, this may limit your pool of medical schools when it comes time to apply. 

For example, you may take the MCAT and score a 512. While yours is above the national average MCAT score, your application would not be considered at UCSF Medical School because you weren’t within the 75th percentile. 

If you choose to research medical schools before taking the MCAT, you have a better idea of how you should score to be considered at those schools. This is often the best route to take. However, some people go into the test feeling pressured to meet an exact MCAT score based on the medical school they wish to attend. That stress can affect you while taking the exam. 

Your goal is to get the highest score possible, but getting a good score doesn’t necessarily take you out of the running for medical school. Apply to medical school with the idea that your MCAT score is only one of the important factors in your application–not the most important. 

By keeping the above information in mind, you have a better chance of achieving a good score and getting accepted into medical school.

Tips for Getting a Good MCAT Score

You have registered to take the MCAT score but aren’t sure what to do next. There is a lot of material the exam covers, and you want to make sure you do well and are prepared. Here are some helpful tips for getting a perfect MCAT score:

1. Study

This sounds cliché, but people often don’t do well on the MCAT because they did not study enough or they studied the wrong material. Studying is the best way to get a good score on the MCAT. Create a study plan that works best for you. Keep it rigorous but allow it to accommodate your daily life. This way, you will walk into the exam prepared and more at ease.

2. Figure out what MCAT score you need

In order to set your own expectations, ask yourself: “what MCAT score do I need?” Every medical school has separate requirements and MCAT score expectations. Take a look at the minimum MCAT requirements of each of your target schools to know the minimum MCAT score you need to achieve. 

Looking at class averages may also give you a better idea of what your dream medical school is expecting from your MCAT scores. 

3. Start early

Start studying as early as possible. You don’t want to wait until the week before the MCAT to cram information into your brain. Chances are, the pressure of trying to retain the information will make you forget it more quickly. 

Starting early gives you time to cover more material before the exam. You can start studying a year before your exam, or a few months – depending on your baseline level of knowledge. For example, you can give yourself a month to study for each section of the exam, or two months per section depending on how comfortable you feel about retaining the information. 

4. Know how you best retain information.

Do you prefer studying on weekends or weekdays? Do you retain more information when studying in the morning or at night? Some people do better in study groups, while others do better studying alone. Find out what works for you and begin as soon as possible, so there is less stress on you.

5. Take practice tests

Taking full length practice tests is an essential step to getting a perfect MCAT score. There are resources available to you everywhere. Study guides and booklets give you information about each section in the MCAT and provide you with practice tests to give you an idea of what to expect when taking the real thing. 

The AAMC offers full-length practice MCATs for free. These are great because they show you the areas you are doing well and areas you need to study more. You can also time yourself to practice your time management for the real test. 

6. Register when you feel ready

You will have to register for the MCAT on the AAMC website. Schedule a date that you are comfortable with, and be sure to give yourself plenty of time to study. Give yourself at least a few months to review before taking the MCAT. 

You want to make sure to learn as much material as possible without waiting until the last minute, so register for a date that gives you a decent amount of time to do so.

FAQs About MCAT Scores

Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about MCAT scores.

1. What Happens If I Don’t Get A Good Score On The MCAT?

If you didn’t do as well as you wanted, don’t worry! You are allowed to retake the MCAT. Many applicants take the exam more than once, you’re not expected to get a perfect MCAT score on the first try. 

Try to give yourself some time, so you have time to study areas where you did and didn’t do well. If you feel that you want to have the option to retake the exam, register for a date earlier in the year; that way, if you don’t do well, you can register for a date later in the year, giving you time to study more. 

Note that some medical schools will require all MCAT scores, while others will only ask for your most recent score.

2. When Will I Receive My MCAT Scores?

MCAT scores are distributed 30 to 45 days after the day of the exam. 

3. Can I Still Apply to Medical School If My MCAT Score Isn’t Good?

Yes, you can still apply. Your MCAT score is an essential component of your medical school application, but it is not the most important. If you have an excellent academic record and GPA, it’s okay for your score to be on the lower side. 

However, if your score is below all minimum requirements, you should wait to apply again unless you want to check out medical schools that don’t require the MCAT

If you do have a score on the lower end, it's important for you to apply to schools where your scores are more competitive. For example, some school's matriculants have an average score of 519, while another school's average may be 510. 

If you have achieved a 509, it's best to apply to the latter school. As mentioned earlier, your application is reviewed as a whole, not just by one item. 

4. Is the MCAT Scored On A Curve?

No, there is no curved score option when taking the MCAT. Instead, the exam is scaled so that all scores have the same meaning. 

5. What is The Average First Time MCAT Score?

The average first time MCAT score in the US is unknown, although the average MCAT score to get into medical school is 511.

6. What Is The MCAT Score Range?

The MCAT score range of all four sections combined is between 427 and 528. 

7. What is the highest MCAT score?

The highest total MCAT score possible is 528. However, even the top schools in the country don’t expect a perfect score. 

8. Is 514 a good MCAT score?

Yes, 514 is a good MCAT score! It means you scored within the 92nd percentile and it is well above the national average. That said, whether or not a 514 is competitive completely depends on the schools you are applying for. 

9. Is a 508 a good MCAT score?

A 508 is a good MCAT score compared to the national average. However, a 508 isn’t always considered competitive. Having a good score completely depends on which schools you are applying for. 

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with trying again! If you have to retake the MCAT to achieve the best score possible, go for it. Retaking the MCAT will only begin to look bad after two or more retakes. Also, ensure that you have a new plan of attack! Only retake the test if you’re sure that you’ll improve your MCAT score.

Final Thoughts

MCAT scores may not be the most important factor in your medical school application, but they are still crucial to your overall application. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for the exam and register when you are ready and feel prepared. 

Our guide has given you information, tips, and resources to help you on your journey to getting a good MCAT score. Using the information provided, you are well on your way to applying to medical school as a strong candidate. 

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Schedule A Free Consultation

Plan Smart. Execute Strong. Get Into Your Dream School.
Get Free Consultation
image of dots background

You May Also Like