Of course, we’d all love a perfect 528, but for most of us, that’s just not a realistic goal. Besides, you don’t need a 528 to get into a great medical school! What score should you aim for, then, in your practice tests? How do you know when you’re where you want to be with your studying? If you’ve already taken the MCAT, should you take it again? There are a few factors to consider when deciding what score to aim for on the MCAT, including the average scores of recent matriculated students, which schools you’ll be applying to, and your GPA.
Statistics of Matriculated Students
The statistics of recent matriculated medical school students can give you a good general idea of where you currently stand and what you should aim for in your GPA and MCAT score. Most medical schools strongly suggest having a minimum GPA of 3.0 and an MCAT score of 500 (125 in each section). But to be competitive, you really want to shoot for higher. To give you an idea, here are the statistical averages for last year’s matriculated applicants:
Overall GPA: 3.73
Science GPA: 3.66
Non-science GPA: 3.81
Total MCAT: 511.5
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 127.8
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 127.1
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 128.1
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 128.5
Given this information, it’s apparent that an MCAT score of 500 isn’t going to be competitive. But beyond that, what should your goal be? 510? 520? It depends on where you’re applying.
The Schools You’ll Apply To
The AAMC’s Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) database is the best way to find out where your stats (MCAT, GPA, and otherwise) fall compared to accepted students at that school – and what you should aim for on the MCAT. MSAR is great not only because it will give you an idea as to what schools may be a reach or less of a reach, but you may even learn of some schools you hadn’t even considered but may be a great fit. You can even sort schools by average GPA or MCAT and save a list of your favorites within the app.
Note: It does have a paywall – it’s $28 for a one-year subscription or $36 for a two-year subscription. However, I HIGHLY recommend you purchase access. Not only is $28 or $36 a drop in the bucket compared to the total amount you’ll likely be spending on the medical school application process, MSAR is an extremely useful resource in choosing your school application pool. For a more detailed breakdown of MSAR’s utility, you can check out our post How to Use the MSAR.
Along with your MCAT score, your GPA is the most important indicator of your academic abilities. Together, they represent not only your ability to absorb, analyze, and recall information, but also your motivation, discipline, and dedication to the path toward becoming a physician.
If your GPA is lower than the average GPA for matriculated students at your target schools, you should aim for an above average MCAT score for those schools. A lot of students experience academic hiccups in college, whether due to health or personal complications, or just acclimation to the challenges that undergrad presents. So if your GPA isn’t quite where you want it to be, don’t worry – that won’t necessarily preclude you getting into medical school. As long as it’s solidly above a 3.0 (even better if it’s closer to a 3.5), a great MCAT score (for example, 515 or above) can help offset that.
How Do You Know When You’re Ready for the MCAT?
Once you have your target score in mind, how do you know when your studying is sufficient to get that score on the real test? Personally, I’ve found the AAMC Practice MCATs to be the most useful and the most accurate predictors of my performance on the MCAT. (In fact, I got the exact same score on my last AAMC practice test and the real thing!) They do cost $35 each, but as with MSAR, the value of the resources is well worth the cost.
It can be helpful to take other practice tests from third-party test preparation companies as well just to widen your practice repertoire, especially since there are only five AAMC practice tests (four “Official” tests that include a scaled score and one “Sample” that does not include a scaled score) available. From my own experience and from what I’ve heard from other people who have used similar services, these third-party tests are often more challenging than the real thing, so it was a huge confidence boost when I switched from Princeton Review tests to AAMC practice tests and my score immediately went up by five points!
In the end, there is no “right” target score. It depends on where you’re applying and how strong the rest of your application is. However, in general, a score below 510 may be sufficient if the rest of your application is really strong, but it’s not going to help if there are other parts of your application that are weak. A score between 510 and 515 will put you right in the mix with other applicants, and a score between 515 and 520 will make you competitive at many medical schools. A score of 520 and above will almost certainly put you above the 95th percentile, which is competitive for just about any medical school.
For more MCAT studying resources, check out the AAMC Official MCAT Prep Hub, as well as our blog posts like MCAT Resources and Study Schedule, How I Scored 99.9th Percentile on the MCAT, and Summer Tips for the MCAT. If you’ve already taken the MCAT and aren’t sure if you should take it again, check out our post Is a MCAT Retake Worth It?. We also provide top-notch MCAT tutoring with 95th+ percentile-scoring tutors to help you develop the skills and confidence to do your best on test day!