Taking the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is no easy feat. For many applicants, it is the most anxiety-inducing step in their medical school process. Medical students allot years of commitment, focus, time, and study to their academic pursuits and extracurriculars, so it’s daunting to think that all that success hinges on their MCAT score.
If you’re in a similar situation, fear not because we’ll delve into the lowest MCAT score accepted into med school and how you can do well on the test.
How Does the MCAT Scoring Work?
Your MCAT score is determined by the number of answers you guess correctly on the test. Fortunately, unanswered and wrong answers are scored similarly and don’t result in penalties.
Every section’s correct number of answers is converted to a 132-118 scale, meaning that the MCAT grading is not curved. Additionally, students receive their total score with a percentile rank for each section, so they can compare how they’ve performed to other test takers.
There are four sections on the MCAT:
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
Rather than testing your knowledge on a specific subject, this section evaluates the necessary scientific deduction and analysis skills physicians and medical students are expected to possess. Topics such as cross-cultural studies, ethics, philosophy, and population health are covered, with passages on the social sciences and humanities. These passages are like the reading comprehension sections you often encounter on other standardized exams.
Biological, Social, and Psychological Foundations of Behavior
The Foundations of Behavior section will demand your knowledge of basic biological principles, sociology, and psychology. This is because these subjects give significant insight into the behavioral and social determinants of health in the practical medical field. As with the other sections, be prepared to apply reasoning, scientific and analytical inquiry, and statistics to solve problems in this section.
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
We recommend thoroughly understanding and learning your biochemical and biological concepts if you want to do well in the Living Systems section. Your reasoning, scientific inquiry, and analytical skills will also be tested through the questions.
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Living Systems
Like the previous section, the Living Systems section will determine how you will reason and analyze the problems provided, which are based on the physical and chemical sciences. These two sections are collectively known as the natural sciences, having prerequisites like inorganic (general) chemistry, introductory biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry (one semester only), and physics.
Lowest Possible MCAT Scores Accepted
You might be surprised to know that the difference between getting rejected and accepted on your MCAT score can come down to single digits. The accepted score ranges from 528 to 472, with each section having a score of 132 on the high end and 118 on the low end. Your final score is a culmination of the score you receive on every section.
If you score around 125 on each section or 500 in total, you will place in the 50th percentile. And unfortunately, being in this percentile puts you at a disadvantage because it is considered to be quite low.
Most students about to take the MCAT wonder whether 510 is a good score. A score of 510 on the MCAT places you on the borderline. And while you’ll be above the 50th percentile, most competitive medical schools admit students with even higher scores. Depending on the universities you apply to, a 510 score could put you on the cusp of having a good score.
As for what’s actually a low MCAT score?
Typically, the lowest MCAT scores for MD programs are below 507. Sure, the three-point difference might seem minor, but it’s quite huge in the eyes of the admissions team. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get into a good med school with a 507 or lower. Still, never say never because your application can have other captivating factors to pique interest. On the other hand, some schools won’t even consider your application if you have a low score.
Highest MCAT Score Possible
The highest possible score you can achieve on the MCAT is 528, placing you in the 100th percentile. A score of 520 or higher is also considered very strong, as it puts you in the top 99th or 98th percentile of all test-takers. You can achieve a 528 MCAT score by getting a perfect 132 on all the sections you’ll be tested on.
What is the Average MCAT Score from Top Universities?
Let’s take a look at a list of the average MCAT scores you’ll need to get into the nation’s top medical universities:
- Duke University School of Medicine: 519 average MCAT score and a minimum score of 500 to be considered
- Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth: 516 average MCAT score and a minimum score of 503 to be considered
- John Hopkins School of Medicine: 522 average MCAT score and no minimum score to be considered
- Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons: 522 average MCAT score and no minimum score to be considered
- Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine: 520 average MCAT score and a minimum score of 508 to be considered
- Vanderbilt University School of Medicine: 521 average MCAT score and a minimum score in the 70th percentile to be considered
- Hofstra University: 519 average MCAT score and a minimum score above or within the 50th percentile to be considered
- New York University Grossman School of Medicine: 522 average MCAT score and no minimum score to be considered
- University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine: 521 average MCAT score and no minimum score to be considered
- University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine: 522 average MCAT score and no minimum score to be considered
What Med Schools Accept Low MCAT Scores?
Now that we’ve considered MCAT scores for medical schools having high MCAT admission requirements, we’ll delve into the colleges that aren’t as competitive to get into:
- Augusta University: 511 average MCAT score
- Florida State University: 505 average MCAT score
- Medical University of South Carolina: 510 average MCAT score
- University of Arizona-Tucson: 507 average MCAT score
- University of Massachusetts: 509 average MCAT score
- University of Mississippi Medical Center: 504 average MCAT score
- University of Missouri: 508 average MCAT score
- University of North Dakota: 505 average MCAT score
- University of Nevada: 508 average MCAT score
- University of New Mexico: 506 average MCAT score
- University of SUNY (Jacobs): 510 average MCAT score
- University of South Dakota: 509 average MCAT score
- University of Tennessee Health Science Center: 510 average MCAT score
- University of Washington: 509 average MCAT score
- Wayne State University: 509 average MCAT score
How to Get Into Med School with Low MCAT Scores: 5 Tips
Perhaps you’re struggling to achieve the MCAT score you want. In that case, you’ll have to work harder to make your application stand out for medical schools. Although your MCAT score is crucial for medical schools, it’s not everything.
You can make up for a low MCAT score with several other aspects and prove that you’re ready to tackle all the challenges ahead. You’ll have to show the admissions team that you’re ready to take on medical school and succeed in both the university experience and your career ahead.
Enroll in a Special Master’s Program or a Post-Bacc
One of the most common routes students take if they don’t immediately get into a medical school is pursuing a Special Master’s program or a Post-Baccalaureate. You can obtain further education when your MCAT score isn’t good enough to secure admission to your dream school to show you’re ready.
These programs provide intensive training in various fields, such as biomedical science, biochemical science, and biology. Typically, the coursework resembles what freshman study at medical school and is taught by experienced faculty who aim to offer a valuable educational experience.
Since a Special Master’s program or Post-Bacc is highly specialized, they design the coursework to give the best medical school experience. Most medical universities have dedicated programs that prepare you for the specific medical program you wish to enroll in.
It’s in your best interest to participate in one of these programs at your chosen school because you can sway the admissions team in your favor. Not only will you learn how to improve your chances of success, but you can also demonstrate your knowledge in the field; it’s truly a win-win situation.
Opt for Extra Clinical Experience
Make your application appealing by gaining as much clinical experience as possible. Medical colleges are no different from standard ones; they are interested in your extracurriculars and want to admit students who can also excel outside of the classroom. Still, keep in mind that nothing strengthens an application like working in a clinic.
With the option of both volunteer and paid positions, you can work consistently and gain experience. For example, you can volunteer at a nearby hospital to do a vast range of tasks or shadow a doctor to observe their daily work routine. Whatever you choose, you get to interact with professionals regularly and work in your related field, which will help you gather excellent letters of recommendation.
While you should try to learn in as many settings as possible, you’ll have to do more than just follow a physician around if you want to be competitive. Look for opportunities that enable you to interact directly with patients, like working as an interpreter or volunteering in an inpatient program.
Of course, don’t forget to aim for leadership roles. Doctors are, undoubtedly, leaders in their field, effectively leading a team and trying to save lives. To showcase your leadership skills and that you have what it takes to achieve your goals, consider applying for a voluntary training position at a local hospital, becoming a lead volunteer, or even organizing a health event.
Take Additional Classes and Perform Well
Another way to get into medical school with a low MCAT score is by doing well in additional coursework. You can take classes separately from your pre-med track if you want to overcome the problems you faced on the test.
Suppose you got a low score on the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Living Systems section, which brought down your total score. You can make up for this poor score by taking some extra courses in chemistry and physical biology. When you score high in these courses, it portrays that you understand the material and that your bad score might be a fluke.
In contrast, good scores in your additional classes can be used to showcase how you’ve learned from your mistakes and are actively trying to improve your shortcomings. This is exactly the positive uptrend admissions teams want to see.
Additional courses also benefit you by preparing you for success in medical school if you get in. Once you tackle all the problem areas in your education, you’ll be ready to take on more challenging courses with confidence.
Write Captivating Essays
Don’t hesitate to let your personality shine in the essay section of your medical school application. Your essays tell the story of your career goals and personal journey, so it’s essential to take some time while crafting them. Try to write interesting and honest med college essays that strike a chord with the admissions officers, as this will considerably boost your chances of securing admission.
Focus on Your Extracurriculars
We don’t recommend glossing over your extracurricular activities. If you’re determined to make your application stronger, you’ll have to volunteer, gain more relevant work experience, and sign up for internships. As we mentioned above, this will boost your application by showing you are capable of finding a balance between your broad interests and schedule.
Wrapping Things Up: What is the Lowest MCAT Score Accepted for Med School?
Getting into a medical school is more difficult with a low MCAT score, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Sure, you’ll have to compensate by working harder on other aspects of application, but that’s okay because medical college admissions teams usually take a holistic approach when considering who to admit.
If you have the lowest possible MCAT score, try to gain research experience, sign up for internships, boost your extracurriculars, shadow medical professionals, and much more. Since attending med school is a big decision, you should take your time to make a strong application and aim for your target university.