Role of MCAT Scores in Admissions


The Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, is one of the largest hurdles in the medical school application process, and almost every U.S. medical school requires it.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the MCAT is designed to evaluate “problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.”

Currently, the test consists of three multiple-choice sections scored on a scale from 1 to 15: physical sciences, verbal reasoning, and biological sciences. In 2013 and 2014, the writing sample section will be removed to allow time for a voluntary trial section. Additional changes will be made to the MCAT in 2015.

The highest possible MCAT score is 45, but the average score each year falls around 24. A competitive score at most allopathic (MD) medical schools is anything 30 and above. For those spending time, effort, and money preparing for the MCAT, the question remains: what role do these scores actually play in the admissions process?

MCAT scores and med school success

Admissions committees use MCAT scores to identify academically qualified candidates who will likely succeed in medical school. MCAT scores have been shown to correlate with medical school performance and scores on medical licensing exams taken three to five years later. Upcoming changes to the MCAT aim to make the exam an even stronger predictor of future success.

Additionally, while GPAs vary by institution and course difficulty, the MCAT is a standardized measure that can easily be used to screen and compare applicants in the first round of the admissions process. The score can also be used to validate a student’s GPA; a high MCAT score and a low GPA, or vice versa, may cause admissions officers to re-evaluate an application.

While MCAT scores are an important factor in deciding whom to interview, admissions officers reported that factors including letters of recommendation and interview scores carry the most weight in ultimately deciding whom to accept. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that the MCAT is only one part of the medical school admissions process.

More about MCAT scores

Are your MCAT scores competitive? Find out.
Understanding the role of MCAT preparation.
When is the best time to take the MCAT?
Should you retake the MCAT?