What’s the Lowest MCAT Score You Need to Get Accepted Into Med School?

The MCAT, medical students all over the country know the name.

MCAT®, or the Medical College Admission Test®, is a standardized test required by almost all medical schools in the United States, as well as some medical schools in Canada. Additionally, several graduate programs and health profession schools accept MCAT scores from their prospects in place of other standardized tests. The test is a multiple-choice test taken by the computer that has acted as a gateway to medical school admissions for over 90 years.

The testing material found on the MCAT exam has been determined and shaped by physicians, medical students, medical educators, and residents, as they have identified the key knowledge and skills that are necessary for success when practicing medicine or navigating medical school.

The MCAT exam is split into four sections:

  1. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  2. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  3. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  4. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) prepares and administers the MCAT exam several times each year, with more than 85,000 students taking the exam annually. The test is administered from late January through until September at various testing sites throughout Canada and the United States and several other locations throughout the world.

How Is the MCAT Scored?

Approximately 30-35 days after completing the MCAT exam, you will receive five score results. There will be one cumulative score, encompassing your performance on all four sections of the exam, and four additional scores to evaluate each of the four exam sections. The section scores will fall within 118-132, while the total score will range from 472-528.

The MCAT exam is scaled, meaning that there is no curve associated with the test. The AAMC scales the test scores as there are multiple versions of the MCAT exam administered each year. Despite trying to make each of the test versions equal in difficulty, it may so happen that certain tests are easier, more difficult, or more clear than others. Scaling the test results compensates for variation and ensures an even opportunity for all test takers.

The multiple-choice section is scored only on the number of questions that were answered correctly, with wrong or unanswered questions not affecting your score. Wrong answers have no penalty, so it is always best to make an estimated guess when selecting a multiple-choice answer, even if you are unsure.

What Is the Lowest MCAT Score I Can Achieve and Still Be Accepted to Medical School?

Keeping in mind that the MCAT’s cumulative score ranges between 472-528, you must achieve a score of 500 to be within the 50th percentile. A cumulative score of 510 is a borderline score, achieving a score above the 50th percentile but not necessarily competitive with other medical school applicants. While 510 is a borderline good score, your admission to a particular medical school would be dependent upon the score and attributes of other prospective students.

An MCAT exam score of 507 or below would be considered low for a Doctor of Medicine (MD) program, with some schools not even reviewing your application. Caribbean medical schools may be more flexible and open to accepting lower MCAT exam scores, but you may experience more difficulty in entering the United States healthcare industry upon completing your education.

Alternatively, DO programs, or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine programs, are more forgiving to low MCAT scores, reviewing and considering an applicant’s broader achievements. DO programs are generally possible with a minimum MCAT exam score of 500. Overall, you should achieve a score of 510 and above to be admitted into an MD program and a score of 505 and above to enter a DO program.

How Important Is My GPA?

A medical school applicant’s GPA, or grade point average, is the next most important consideration for admission, next to your MCAT score. Your GPA is a good indicator of your ability to handle consistent study, difficult curriculums, and understand class materials.

As MD programs are highly competitive, it is in your best interest to commit yourself to your studies and achieve the highest GPA and MCAT score possible, as competitive programs will require a high score in both.

Medical schools are highly selective of their prospective students for a few reasons. They want to churn out effective healthcare workers that are impactful to the healthcare sector. They also want to ensure that they are selecting students who are sure to succeed through medical school, which can be a very strenuous program.

How Do I Recover From a Low MCAT Score?

You’ve written the MCAT and earned an underwhelming exam score. Despite pouring over your books for months on end, you weren’t able to achieve an MCAT score of more than 505… Now what?

While the MCAT score is a massively important consideration for your admission into medical school, there are ways to make up for your low score.

Seek Out More Clinical Experience

Extracurricular activities are important to admissions officers, though there is no extracurricular activity more important than clinical experiences when one is attempting to enter the healthcare field. Enroll in a volunteer or paid role, volunteering at a veterinarian clinic, or shadowing a physician. Clinical experience in varied settings is highly valuable to prospective schools.

Complete a Post-Baccalaureate or Special Master’s Program

Knowledge is power, and additional education is an excellent alternative for anticipated medical school students. Enroll in an intensive training program that covers biochemical science, biology, and biomedical science. The programs are highly specialized, and if taken at your desired school, may be more likely to land you a spot in upcoming MD programs.

Enroll in Extra Classes

Identify the coursework that you struggled with in your undergraduate program or which section(s) of the MCAT exam that you found to be particularly difficult. Enroll in classes offered outside of your pre-med track to improve your understanding of that topic. This initiative will help to close the gap in your education, demonstrate initiative, and prove that you understand the material.

In Summary

The MCAT exam is a computerized, standardized, multiple-choice test administered by the AAMC throughout the United States and Canada to prospective medical students. The MCAT exam has been around for more than 90 years and currently tests around 85,000 students annually.

The exam is scored in five parts; one cumulative score and four section-specific scores. The cumulative score will range between 472-528, while each of the section scores will range between 118-132. The MCAT exam scores are scaled and equated to compensate for any variance in difficulty or clarity between test versions, as there are multiple versions administered.

You can expect to learn of your test scores between 30-35 days after writing the exam and would need to score higher than 510 to be considered a competitive candidate. A score of 507 and below would be considered low for a medical program, though you may find success in being admitted to a DO program or Caribbean medical school.

While GPA is typically the second score that medical schools would review, it can be indicative of your consistency and commitment to a program. If you happen to score a low MCAT score, there are ways to recover, including seeking out clinical experience, enrolling in a Post-Baccalaureate or Special Master’s program, or signing up for additional classes.

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Matt Lane

Matt graduated with a BSEd in Kinesiology from University of Georgia and is now pursuing a medical degree. He enjoys sharing his experience with other ambitious young people.