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Student – “What do I need to score on the MCAT to get into medical school?”
Test Prep Company – “For $2000, you can sign up for this package and you'll do just fine.”
If I told you that you could get an MCAT score between 5-14 and still be accepted to medical school, would you believe me? More than likely you would laugh in my face and call me crazy. Read more and find out why I am not.
The MCAT is just one part of your application. If you study well for it, and use the MCAT Test Prep material that suites your needs, you will do well. You also need to make sure you are focused on everything else that goes into your medical school application! You can read more about that on our Premed 101 page.
MCAT Episodes from The Medical School Headquarters Podcast
Average MCAT Scores
There were 43,919 medical school applicants in 2011. All 43,919 probably asked a similar question as our fictitious student above. Many of those almost 44,000 applicants probably arbitrarily picked 30 as the score to get. But what is the score that YOU need? Unfortunately nobody knows that. Because the MCAT is only one part of a complete med school application, having a specific score is not a guarantee to being accepted into medical school. Your volunteer experience, clinical experience, GPA, letters of recommendation and many other aspects of your life go into an application. What I can show you though is what the average applicant has. This will help you gauge where you stand in the pack.
As we noted in The Difference Between D.O. and M.D., there is a difference in average MCAT scores for M.D. and D.O. matriculants. In 2010, the average MCAT score for students matriculating into osteopathic medical schools was 26.48, vs 31.1 for allopathic students. The data available shows osteopathic matriculants score ranged from 5-45. Yes, somebody got into medical school scoring as low as 5! Well – maybe not 5, but they were in the 5-14 category which is how AAMC breaks it down. Check out some of these numbers:
- GPA between 3.80-4.00
- 91.5% of applicants with a score between 39-45 were accepted. 1.4% of applicants with a score between 5-14 were accepted! What about the applicant with an average MCAT score? They were accepted at a rate of 82.1%*.
- GPA between 3.40 – 3.59
- Only 78.2% of applicants with an MCAT score between 39-45 were accepted. There was a 53.7% acceptance rate with a score between 30-32.
- GPA between 3.00 – 3.19
- Significant drop to only 30% acceptance rate if you score between 30-32 on the MCAT.
Average Section Scores
As you know, the MCAT is broken down into 3 sections plus a writing section. This will change with the new MCAT format coming in 2015.
- Biological Sciences
- Compared to the other sections, this section has increased the most between 2000 and 2011. The average MCAT biological sciences score for matriculants in 2000 was 10.2. In 2011 the average was 10.8.
- Physical Sciences
- This section has seen decent gains as well. The 2000 MCAT physical sciences average was 10.0. 2011 saw an increase to 10.4.
- Verbal Reasoning
- Coming in third place for both averages and increases over the years, verbal reasoning now averages 9.8 for all matriculants. Back in 2000 the average was 9.5.
So what is the answer to the question at the beginning? There is no answer. The data shows that 1.4% of applicants between 2009 and 2011 that scored somewhere between 5-14 were accepted. Hopefully this is not the scenario you have. If it is though, you still have a chance. Every applicant is different. With different backgrounds and different experiences, each has his/her own strengths and weaknesses. Your job is to study however you need to study and to take the test to the best of your ability.
I took the MCAT way back in 2001, when it was still a written exam. I took a prep course offered by the big name “purple sign” company. My teacher for the prep course turned out to be terrible. He scored a 42 or 43 on the test and he was too smart to teach the material he had already mastered. I spent most of my time taking test after test. Practice tests, as I have learned, are very important for the MCAT. The MCAT seems to be more about being good at taking a test than it is about the material on the test. I finished with a 10 in both Physical Sciences and Biological Sciences and only a 7 in Verbal Reasoning. With my GPA around 3.7, my acceptance rate would be about 50% just based on those two numbers. As it turned out, it was 50% since I was not accepted to medical school the first time I applied. I took some time off and reapplied and was accepted with a stronger resume. Don't dwell on a subpar test score. There are numerous ways to strengthen your application.
* Data is aggregated for 2009-2011 applicants