Per the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), an estimated 85,000 students sit for the MCAT each year, all with aspirations to get into a good med school. But what’s the lowest MCAT score accepted into med school?
Let’s find out. If you have struggled with a low MCAT score, we’ll also explore ways to boost your score and secure a position at your first-choice med school.
What’s the Lowest MCAT Score to Get Accepted into Med School?
The minimum score you’ll need to get into med school varies from institution to institution, as each school has different policies and standards. However, generally, a score of 502-505 is good enough to get accepted if you have a decent GPA.
For more detailed info, check out this chart from the AAMC.
How the MCAT Is Scored
The MCAT is a multiple-choice exam.
About a month (35 days) after you sit for the exam, you’ll receive five separate scores. These include the overall score (aka cumulative score) and four other scores on each section of the MCAT, which are:
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
Each section is scored within a range of 118-132. The overall, or cumulative score, which encompasses all four sections, ranges from 472-528.
There is no score curve. Rather, the scores are scaled to compensate for the varied difficulty of different test versions. Test-takers are not penalized for unanswered or wrong questions, so it’s always optimal strategy-wise to hazard a guess if you’re not sure of the answer.
Let’s take a closer look at low, average, and high scores. Bear in mind that it’s best to shoot for the 75th percentile of the school’s admitted class to ensure your score sufficiently impresses admission officials.
What’s a Low MCAT Score?
Anything below 510 is sub-optimal. If you score 500 or below, that means that you are falling below the 50th percentile of test-takers. So, a low score would be anything from 478-510.
Many medical schools won’t seriously consider applicants with a score below 507, so you should be realistically aiming to clear at least a 510. Anything below is very likely too low to get you where you want to go.
It’s possible to gain entry to a Caribbean medical school with a score of 500. However, finding employment in the United States with that degree may prove challenging in the future.
Also, with a score of 500, you might be able to get into a Doctor of Osteopathic (DO) Medicine program.
The bottom line: to get into an MD program in the United States, you likely need at least a 510 – but this number can be very school dependent – many people get into MD schools with scores well below this.
What’s the Average MCAT Score?
The average MCAT score – literally, by definition due to how scores are calculated — is 501. 500 is the 50th percentile mark.
But not everyone who takes the MCAT is accepted into medical school, so it’s important to consider the average test score for test-takers who ultimately actually get into med school, and not just the average for all test-takers.
Accordingly, the AAMC reports that the average MCAT score for students admitted into MD programs in the US is 511.9.
What’s a Good MCAT Score?
A 511 is a decent score that will, if you have a respectable GPA and other qualifications, earn you entry to a high-quality med school.
The highest possible score – a perfect score, in fact — is 528, meaning that the test-taker scored a flawless 132 in each of the four sections of the test.
However, out of the tens of thousands of students who take the MCAT every year, only a small handful (about 30-70) score a perfect 528.
So, realistically, a 515 (which means you’re in the 90th percentile of all test-takers) is a safe threshold to aim for. That’s plenty high enough to set yourself up for success.
For the most elite medical schools, you might need to score 520 or higher.
Med School Acceptance Rates Based on MCAT Score
Here is a breakdown of MCAT scores as they correlate to acceptance rates for US medical schools at large.
Med School Acceptance Rate
Less than 486 MCAT score
0.5% Acceptance Rate
486-489 MCAT score
1.1% Acceptance Rate
490 – 493 MCAT score
3.2% Acceptance Rate
494 – 497 MCAT score
10% Acceptance Rate
498 – 501 MCAT score
20% Acceptance Rate
502 – 505 MCAT score
32% Acceptance Rate
506 – 509 MCAT score
46.4% Acceptance Rate
510 – 513 MCAT score
61.4% Acceptance Rate
514 – 517 MCAT score
72.8% Acceptance Rate
Above 517 MCAT score
82.5% Acceptance Rate
So, for instance, an applicant with an MCAT score under 486 has a 0.5% chance of acceptance into medical school, an applicant with an MCAT score of 502 has a 32% chance of acceptance, etc.
It’s worth keeping in mind that your MCAT score is by no means the end-all, be-all of criteria that affect the ultimate decision by admissions officials. They also weigh an array of other factors in their deliberations, so even if your score isn’t stellar, you still might have a shot at getting into your ideal school. Here are a few of the other important pieces of the picture.
Other Factors Admissions Takes Into Account
According to the AAMC, medical schools reject 60% of applicants in any given year – and MCAT scores are only a small part of their assessment of a candidate’s viability.
Two other major factors are state residency and GPA.
Aside from the MCAT, your grade point average (GPA) as an undergraduate is the second-most important factor that med schools weigh when considering an applicant.
GPA indicates not just your intellectual capacity and aptitude but also the effort and commitment you made to your academic pursuits in the past 4-5 years, which are highly valued traits in med school applicants since post-graduate studies can be so demanding.
According to the AAMC, 2/3 of graduates with a GPA of 3.8 or higher – across all MCAT score strata – are accepted into medical school.
The bottom line: Even if you score relatively poorly on the MCAT (based on the chart above), entry into a respectable medical school is still possible if you’ve got a high GPA.
Many medical schools give preferential treatment to candidates that reside within the state to improve local human capital and ultimately benefit the local economy and society.
If you have an average or below-average MCAT score, you might be better off focusing on medical schools situated within your state to get an extra leg-up in the competitive admissions process.
What Else Can Help You If You Have a Low MCAT Score?
There’s no substitute for an impressive MCAT score and GPA. However, there are several strategies, which we’ll explore here, that you can use to get yourself over the threshold and into medical school even if your numbers aren’t stellar.
Gaining Clinical Experience
Nothing beats hands-on experience. Volunteer with a local medical clinic, or even a veterinary clinic, to get real-world work under your belt.
If you’ve got the time and money, consider enrolling in a Post-Baccalaureate or Special Master’s program to bolster your academic credentials.
Take Extra Classes
Taking on extra, elective coursework is particularly beneficial to fill any particular gaps in your MCAT performance. For instance, if you scored poorly in the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, enrolling and excelling in a course on that subject demonstrates your commitment to improving your medical bona fides.
Your personal statement is likely your one and only shot, in a sea of applicants, to allow decision-makers some insight into the person behind the application. Everyone is susceptible to persuasion, and everyone loves a compelling narrative, so making a compelling case for yourself in your personal statement can go a long way.
Your personal statement should include the following elements:
- What makes you unique both as a person in the world and as an applicant to med school
- What motivates and inspires you to pursue a career in medicine
- What your long-term vision in the field of medicine is
Here are some tips when crafting your personal statement:
- Be genuine and write from the heart
- Try to appeal to as broad of an audience as possible (you never know who the person on the other end reading your application will be)
- Convey humility, passion, and commitment in equal measure
- Cover all your essential qualifications and accomplishments relevant to medical school and/or your future in medicine
See our full guide on how to write a medical school personal statement.
Secondary applications, as the name implies, are often requested by schools after an applicant has passed the initial application process. A request for a secondary application means that the school is interested in you but it wants to learn more before making a final decision.
Most secondary applications require a series of essays in addition to the one you wrote for your original application.
Examples of secondary application essay topics include:
- Write about a challenging experience
- Write about an impactful research/clinical/ volunteer activity.
- What area of medicine are you most interested in?
Here are some hot tips to write an exceptional and outstanding secondary application essay:
- Don’t reuse essays that you already submitted to other schools. Make changes to tailor them to each individual school
- Research each medical school’s mission statement, curriculum, and clinical sites, and work these into your essay to show that you’ve done your homework
- Specifically address the question asked – not the one you wished was asked
How to Improve Your MCAT Score
Since the MCAT score is the #1 component of any med school application, getting the highest score possible is a must for any serious prospective future doctor.
Here are a few ways to improve your MCAT score:
- Design a study schedule and commit to it
- Utilize an online support community (such as Reddit) as a resource
- Enroll in a free or paid MCAT prep program
What if your MCAT Score is Still Too Low for Med School?
If you’ve done your best to prep for the MCAT and still scored below average (based on the chart above), you still have one more option: consider an MD program that has no MCAT requirement.
Should You Hire a Med School Advisor?
First of all, your undergraduate college’s premed program should have an advisor who can help you out. If, for whatever reason, that free advisor can’t or won’t help you, you might consider hiring a med school advisor if you:
- Scored poorly on the MCAT
- Have difficulty writing a high-quality admissions essay
- Don’t have a robust extracurricular/continuing education component to your application
Lowest MCAT Score Accepted Into Med School FAQ
Let us survey a few of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) that med school applicants often have regarding the MCAT and their prospects for admission.
How many times can I take the MCAT?
You can take the MCAT three times in a year and four times in a two-year period. The maximum lifetime limit is seven attempts. Learn more about retaking the MCAT.
Do schools know if I retake the MCAT?
Yes. All of your scores, including on previous tests, are available to the school.
Will retaking the MCAT hurt my admissions chances?
Provided that you score better on your retake than you did on your initial test, most schools won’t hold multiple attempts against you.