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

February 21, 2024
7 min read
Contents

”Akhil

Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

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

Reviewed: 2/21/24

Your MCAT can make or break your med school application. So, what is a good MCAT score? This guide will cover everything you need to know about MCAT scores and

Your MCAT score is a pivotal factor influencing medical school admission outcomes. This guide covers the key score benchmarks, ranges, and targets to understand the perfect MCAT score.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.

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What Is a Good MCAT Score?

A good MCAT score is 511 or higher out of the 528 maximum score. Specifically, 128 out of 132 in any one section represents the 50th percentile nationally for students accepted to US MD programs in recent years.

The chart below shows the most recent MCAT percentiles from the AAMC:

MCAT score Percentile Rank
491 20
492 23
493 25
494 28
495 31
496 33
497 36
498 39
499 43
500 46
501 49
502 52
503 56
504 59
505 62

MCAT score Percentile Rank
506 66
507 69
508 72
509 75
510 78
511 81
512 83
513 86
514 88
515 90
516 92
517 94
518 95
519 96
520 97
521 98
522-523 99
524-528 100

The maximum MCAT score possible is 528 and the minimum MCAT score is 472. The average MCAT score for entering MD students in the US is 500, so your score should not be lower than the average. Familiarizing yourself with these MCAT percentiles can help you set a more precise target score!

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 509 or more, according to the MCAT score breakdown) 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:

MCAT score Percentage of Students Accepted
486 or below 0.7%
486-489 1.1%
490 - 493 3.1%
494 - 497 10.7%
498 - 501 20.1%
502 - 505 30%
506 - 509 41%
510 - 513 56.6%
514 - 517 68.2%
517+ 78%

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.

How Is MCAT Used in the Admissions Process?

The MCAT is a key threshold exam in the medical school application process. Applicants must meet their target schools' minimum score requirements to be considered competitive candidates.

While the MCAT is not formally calculated into GPA averages, most medical schools screen out applicants scoring below their median accepted student scores. Marks falling short of thresholds will jeopardize admission chances even if other parts of the application are strong.

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.

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.

As a general guideline, 125 is the midpoint for MCAT scores in 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 section Below Average Score Average Score Above Average Score
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems 124 or lower 125.4 126 or higher
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems 125 or lower 125.1 129 or higher
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior 126 or lower 126.1 127 or higher
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills 124 or lower 124.7 125 or higher

MCAT Scores for Top Medical Schools

To be a competitive applicant at top medical schools, you need very high MCAT scores. For example, the average MCAT scores at top national programs like Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford fall between 518-522 overall.

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

Top 10 School Average Mcat
1. Harvard University 520.6
2. Johns Hopkins University 521
3. University of Pennsylvania (Perelman) 520.8
4. Columbia University 522
5. Duke University 520
5. Stanford University 518
5. University of California - San Francisco 516
5. Vanderbilt University 521
5. Washington University in St. Louis 519.5
10. Cornell University 519

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 for their entering class. 

How to Apply Based on Your MCAT Score

Your MCAT score should directly guide which medical schools you apply to and your overall chances for acceptance. Compare your most recent total and section scores to the average MCAT scores for accepted students at your desired/target medical schools.

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 may not be considered competitive at top-ranking schools like Harvard, which has an average MCAT score of 520.6. 

If you choose to research medical schools before taking the MCAT, you’ll 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 cliche, 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

The score you need on the MCAT is specific to the school you’re applying to. 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. It’s also important to understand how the MCAT scoring system works so you can create the best study plan to reach your target. 

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 to study 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 of 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?

You will receive your official MCAT scores by email from the AAMC approximately 30 days after your exam date. Unofficial scores may become available on your AAMC account within 2 weeks, but the complete official scores take a full month to allow for psychometric and administrative reviews.

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, apply to schools where your scores are more competitive. For example, some schools’ matriculants have an average score of 519, while another school’s average is 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-attempt MCAT score for U.S. and Canadian examinees is around 500 out of the maximum 528. You should set your target above 510 to be a competitive applicant.

6. What Is The MCAT Score Range?

The total combined MCAT score, which sums the four sections, ranges from 472 (lowest possible total) to 528 (highest possible total). Each of the four individual MCAT sections is scored on a scale from 118 (lowest) to 132 (highest).

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 88th 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.

10. Is a 517 on The MCAT a Good Score? 

Yes, a 517 is well above the national average and puts you in the 94th percentile rank!

11. What’s Considered a Strong MCAT Diagnostic Score?

Scoring above 500 indicates you are performing above the average of all test takers on a diagnostic exam. A diagnostic score at or above 505 shows initial readiness and potential to achieve an ultimately competitive final MCAT score through further preparation.

Final Thoughts

While just one piece of your application, a good MCAT score unlocks opportunities at your target medical schools. Thorough preparation and strategic timing of the exam build readiness to excel on test day.

Equip yourself with key score benchmarks and school data to set goals. Then craft a dedicated study plan to demonstrate academic excellence when it matters most. With an MCAT score aligned to your aspirations, you clear a vital hurdle for realizing your medical dreams. Stay focused on growth, and let your commitment drive you toward success.

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