The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standard mandatory test for admissions to a medical school. The test is for students who wish to pursue a career in medicine hence, the need to go through med school. The exam assesses a candidate’s critical thinking and foundational knowledge of the sciences.
Passing an MCAT means you are equipped with the aptitude and capacity to go through rigorous med school courses. The MCAT exam is challenging for some students partly because there is no clarity on what score is “good enough” for acceptance in various schools.
Knowing the procedures involved in taking the MCAT and threshold standards for a good score is essential for setting you up for success.
Taking the MCAT
Before taking an MCAT exam, you need an account with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Once you have an account, you register for the exam through the available MCAT test centers. The registration aspect of the MCAT is considered the laid-back part of the process and students are often more anxious about taking the exam.
Knowing the exam structure beforehand alleviates some anxiety about what to expect. The MCAT has four sections. The first section is the foundations of biological systems, followed by critical analysis and reasoning skills. There is also a section on biological and chemical foundations and psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior. Each of the four sections are split into sub-sections expanding on the main topic.
Different medical schools have varied threshold standards for acceptable pass scores. The medical program you seek also determines the acceptability of the test scores. Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) programs typically require higher test scores than the Doctor of Medicine (MD) programs.
Whichever school or program you seek to enroll in, aiming to get the highest possible score increases your odds of acceptance to any school and widens your program choice. The lower your test score, the fewer your options and, it may ultimately lock you out of any school.
The final MCAT score is a scaled outcome that considers challenging questions answered correctly or incorrectly. A similar number of questions in different sections answered correctly could have dissimilar scores. Difficult questions score more marks than less complex questions. Mastery of specific complicated concepts hence gives you an advantage in the exam.
On the flip side, skipping easy questions is more punitive than avoiding challenging ones. Every skipped easy question negates your final section outcome by higher points than a skipped difficult question. Your best bet is to have adequate preparation so as not to spend too much time on the hard-to-crack queries and end up not completing the simpler ones.
What Counts As Good
The subject of a “good” score baffles many students before they sit for the MCAT. There are many perceptions about what schools consider before admitting students, which sometimes blur the facts. The maximum MCAT score is 528, which is in the 99.9th percentile that includes all scores above 520 of the total marks.
Medical schools have different requirements of MCAT scores and what counts as a good score is relative. It is essential to research your preferred school to determine their enrolled student scores in the exam. The rule of the thumb is to aim to score in the 75th percentile of the school’s admitted class. The 50th percentile should be your bottom limit because getting lower scores could compromise your acceptance to the school.
Schools that have the highest standards for MCAT results admit students with a median score of 517. This data is from the top 43 medical schools with the highest MCAT scores in 2020. Your preferred school determines how much preparation you need to put in to have your ideal score. Aiming to have the highest possible score expands your school options.
There are strategies you can adopt to excel in the MCAT and reduce anxiety associated with the exam. Preparation is essential in passing the exam. The four sections of the test provide you with topics to focus on when studying and identifying the potentially challenging concepts that could compromise your score.
You can dedicate particular quiet time for studying or opt to study in groups. Group studying helps in reviewing topics that you neglect during an individual study session. There are also helpful resources available online that prepare you for the test. One such resource is the MCAT prep course which has mock questions of the exam. Taking such a course simulates the exam to help you identify topics you need to work harder at mastering.
Know Your Good MCAT Score
Knowing what a “good” MCAT score means gives you the confidence to prepare adequately for the exam. Preparation can enable you to score beyond your target and more options open up for you. You must never attempt cold testing because it may set you up for failure and squander your chances of med school admittance.