Last week, we covered MCAT retakes. Today, we'll cover a question that you have to know first – what is a competitive MCAT score?
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[02:10] Your Starting Position
The AAMC has provided data from the 2016-2017 application cycle where they give you a grid of GPA crossed with MCAT score and the acceptance rate, how many people applied with these numbers, and how many people were accepted with these numbers.
When you think about the odds of getting in and how does that relate to an MCAT score, there is no such thing where getting an “A” is a good score or getting a perfect 100, like in school. With the MCAT, either my score hurts my application, my MCAT score is neutral on my application, my MCAT score is good enough but it's nothing special or my MCAT score helps in my application.
Based on the student's background, they're probably thinking a good score is just a score that doesn't hurt me or anything that's just good enough. For the over-achievers, what's a good score for them is something that helps their application.
Looking at the chart, the very bottom right shows all the applicants in the country (27, 772) and all the accepted students in the country (8,883) with an overall acceptance rate of 32%. With the MCAT, it's like “My odds of getting into med school as a starting position of a totally average, generic, human x with no traits or qualities.” So the average human's chances of getting into med school is 32%. This is where you start.
This is a tough starting point, because it could mean a 2 in 3 chance of failure. But this is the starting position for considering what helps and what hurts. There is a silver lining to this. When you actually remove a lot of the students that shouldn't be applying – like anybody below a 3.0 – their acceptance rates are very poor. If you remove a lot of those people, then the acceptance rates shoot up a bunch because there are so many people applying that are below a 3.0. There are still a lot of people out there that don't know the process and they're not listening to this podcast or The Premed Years Podcast, and so they have stats that they really shouldn't be applying to medical school.
[06:57] 508 is the New 30
If we start with the most generic average information possible, the nationwide average for people who got accepted into an allopathic and do an MD program in the US was about 509. Before the test was released many years back, Bryan says their mantra at Next Step was:
They were telling everybody an MCAT score 508 is the number to shoot for. This was based on percentiles, considering the MCAT has always been competitive, and always demanded that you be about among the top 20% in the nation on the MCAT. A 508 was just about the 80th percentile, so it was a little lower than that this year. Ultimately, Bryan felt really vindicated when they saw the data. If you want to get a 509, that's going to help your application because it puts you in the “average student who gets accepted” group and not with the “average applicant” that puts you into the average matriculant.
[08:20] What is a Competitive Score?
Bryan explains that anything below a 508 is going to hurt you. 508-510 are all fine and if you don't get in, it's not because of your MCAT score. Anything that's 510 and above will help you.
I agree with Bryan and this is going to discourage a lot of people because they may only be getting 504 or 505. There is a huge difference between what is a competitive score and what is a score that will get your application a look and possible get you an interview.
I've worked with plenty of students that are getting 501's or 502's and they're still getting interviews and acceptances. So the difference between competitive and good enough is huge and it all depends on that complete application. A lot of students focus on the MCAT thinking it's all they need to get into school. Looking at this table, more than 10% of students who had more than 3.79 GPA and greater than a 517 on the MCAT still couldn't get into medical school.
[10:00] A Well-Rounded Application
Bryan says that scoring over 517 on the MCAT is the top 5% in the nation, but he assumes it's pretty high up on the GPA percentiles which vary among colleges. So 12.5% of those people managed to screw up the interviews so badly they didn't get in, or they wrote poor personal statements, or had poor letters of recommendations. Usually, the people getting these high scores are possibly not the most social people and they may not have great communication skills; so you need to have a well-rounded application. It's not just the MCAT or the GPA. It's so much more than that. But going back to the heart of our conversation today as to what is the competitive score, I think Bryan nailed it on the head.
Looking at the column 502-505, it's little cut above average but you busted your butt just a little bit harder and did a few points above average. Look at the bottom of that column aggregating all the data in that score and the application acceptance rate is 33.3% while the national acceptance rate is only 32%. Not to mention, this can go all the way up, if you cut out all the students scoring below a 3.0 GPA. Their GPA doesn't speak well to being able to handle medical school curriculum, that number could even be better.
[12:00] Hitting 560-509 to 510 and Above
So the students who are doing about average or a little above average, this is good enough to get a look and probably good enough to get an interview – although you would have to knock it out of the park on everything else – that could get you an acceptance rate that is about the national average. Then when you get to the 506-509, there's a pretty significant jump in the acceptance rate at 46.2%. So, now you're well above the national average that's likely to be accepted. And then there's an enormous jump once you get to the 510-513 mark at 60.3%. And then the percentage for the top tiers reaches up to almost 80%.
Nevertheless, Bryan points out the compounding effect as to the kind of student who is with it enough to really work hard and get a high MCAT score is probably also doing their clinical exposure, their lab work and all the other things they're supposed to be doing as well.
[13:20] Hitting a 520: Does It Make a Difference?
Bryan says unless you're trying to come work for him and become a premium tutor, there is literally no reason to go for a 520. He adds that the GPA and the MCAT score only really serve two functions. First is to make sure they don't throw out your application. They have to be good enough so they will look at you as a human being. Second, they have to be good enough that they will interview you, because no med school in the country takes someone without interviewing them, as that ultimate step. So if you got a 510, they're certainly going to interview you as long as everything else is fine. Bryan has never heard of someone whose application was otherwise good and the 510 got them rejected and the 520 would have gotten them accepted. Unless you really want to get into Harvard or Washington University or one of these schools that have hilariously high MCAT averages, then a 520 wouldn't really make a difference, if your goal is only wanting to be a doctor.
[15:15] Final Thoughts
Now you know what you should be shooting for on your MCAT. Knowing where you want to go is important to achieve your goals. Write down the score you want on a piece of paper and pin it up on your wall. Draw it on your bathroom mirror. Tell yourself everyday that you're going to get a 510 or a 505, whatever score you're shooting for. Make it happen. Shoot for the stars and it will happen.
Lastly, don't forget to enter to win one of five 10-pack full-length practice tests from Next Step Test Prep before July 31. Otherwise, check out their MCAT course, a do-it-yourself program with access to over 100 hours of videos, full-length exams, AAMC material, and access to five live office hours each week. Use the code MCATPOD to save some money.
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