Important Testing FYIs for Students Preparing for the MCAT Exam
For students considering a career in medicine, the MCAT is already on their radar. The exam has a reputation for being particularly grueling and most students spend months, if not years, studying for it. In addition to knowing the material inside and out, students need to become familiar with the test itself in order to accurately interpret their scores.
IvyWise Medical School Admissions Counselor McGreggor offered some insight into the MCAT and what students need to know when thinking about their goal MCAT score. Here are answers to four of the most commonly asked and important MCAT questions.
How can students determine whether their MCAT score falls within the range necessary to be competitive in the application process? Given that the MCAT has been identified as an academic metric with the highest importance rating by the American Association of Medical Colleges’ survey of admissions officers, it is evident that the exam carries significant weight throughout the admissions process. It can be helpful for students to understand where their scores lies in comparison with admitted applicants at their best-fit medical schools. The easiest way to do this is by using online, publicly available resources that link a medical school with the average MCAT score of their admitted students. In general, students should strive to receive an MCAT score that is close to or above the average score of accepted students at their desired medical school. If a student’s score falls below this range, there is a risk that their application will be viewed as less competitive than those with higher MCAT scores.
What is a solid MCAT score?
A “solid” score is somewhat subjective, because students have different testing abilities and goals. However, the AAMC publishes data related to MCAT scores, GPAs, and medical school admissions, which can be extremely informative for prospective applicants. There is even a chart that shows the acceptance rate of applicants given their MCAT score and GPA. In addition to illustrating how competitive medical school admissions are, the chart helps indicate that scores are only one factor in admissions decisions. As the data shows, some students with lower MCAT scores are admitted to medical school while others with higher scores are not; this usually comes down to GPA, course selection, contextual circumstances, extracurricular achievement, and school support.
Do the score ranges students need to achieve vary depending on which medical schools they wish to apply to?
There are many different types of medical schools, and different schools prioritize different parameters in the selection process. For example, schools with robust research funding are often considered "prestigious" because they're in the news for breakthroughs in research and clinical care. These schools attract many applicants, and as a result, they have exceptionally high average MCAT scores for admitted students. Many schools want to bring in the best future care providers and MCAT scores may be just one component that goes into evaluating each candidate’s potential. Regardless of where you choose to apply, having a high MCAT can never hurt and often serves as an advantage throughout the admissions process.
How important are MCAT section scores?
Many medical schools conduct internal research investigating the MCAT and its predicative abilities for success on the USMLE exams that are required to graduate medical school. While there is very little published research on the updated MCAT exam and USMLE performance, the Biological and Biochemical Foundations sections may be of particular importance due to the USMLE’s focus on biology, genetics, and pharmacology. Additionally, admissions officers may have questions if a student scores much more poorly on one section, particularly if the section relates to his or her college major.
The more students learn about the MCAT exam, the more confident they will feel on test day. If you are currently preparing for the MCAT and beginning the medical school application process, our team of tutors and counselors can help you compile your application and pinpoint your best-fit schools.