A perfect MCAT score is the holy grail of medical school admissions. Unlike many other standardized tests, it actually is possible to achieve a perfect score on the MCAT of 528 – but at what cost? In this post, we’re going to dive into the world of MCAT scores and what it takes to reach this elusive feat of a perfect MCAT score in 2023.
What is a Perfect MCAT Score?
A perfect MCAT score is a 528. It corresponds to the 99.9th percentile percentile of all test takers.
The MCAT is divided into four sections, and each section is individually scored. The minimum score for each section is 118, while the maximum is 132. To get a perfect score on the MCAT, you would need to score 132 across all four sections, which would give you a total overall score of 528.
How Hard Is It To Score A 528 on the MCAT?
Given that every year, only 30-70 students score a 528 on the MCAT tells us something – scoring a perfect MCAT score is extremely difficult. That said, nailing a “perfect” MCAT score doesn’t actually mean you need to get every single question correctly.
The MCAT is a scaled exam, meaning the AAMC tweaks the raw to scaled scores based on how difficult the MCAT exam was. This process is called “equating” and attempts to compensate for small variations in difficulty in question sets. Learn more about MCAT scoring here.
The result is students who scored a 528 on the MCAT may have missed a couple of questions and still scored a 132 on each section.
Is the MCAT Scored on a Curve?
So, the AAMC converts raw scores into scaled scores based on the difficulty of the question sets – does this mean the MCAT is scored on a curve? The answer is no, the MCAT is not based on a curve. The raw scores on the MCAT are equated so that these scores all have the same meaning – no matter when you tested or who else tested at the same time as you.
Understanding MCAT Score Percentiles
When you receive your MCAT score report, you will see your percentile rank listed. This percentile ranking is extremely helpful for you to stack yourself up against other test takers, as it shows the percent of test takers who either scored the same or lower on the MCAT as you.
If you have a look at the 2022-2023 percentile ranks from the AAMC (source), you can see that a score of 503, for example, would give you a percentile rank of 55th percentile. This means 55% of all test takers scored either the same or less than you.
Related: When are the MCAT Scores Released?
What’s a Good MCAT Score?
I don’t like to be too prescriptive when it comes to defining a “good” MCAT score without knowing the applicant’s full story and where he or she is applying to.
That said, most students want a general idea of a good MCAT score to be working towards. I would say a competitive MCAT score is anything in the range of 509 to 514. This will put you in about the top 25% of all test takers.
In terms of med school admissions, you should build a school list where you’re competitive based on your MCAT score. You can determine your competitiveness by finding schools where you are in the 25th percentile of admitted students. If you’re in the 25th percentile, then you are likely academically qualified in the eyes of the medical school admissions team. It’s still a good idea to cast a wide net when applying to medical schools, so applying to some medical schools where you are in the 50th and 75th percentile range will boost your chances of admission.
What’s the Average MCAT Score?
The mean MCAT score, according to the AAMC between May 1, 2022 to April 30, 2023 is 501.6 with the average score by section as follows:
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 125.2
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 124.8
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 125.5
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 126.1
What’s the Lowest MCAT Score Accepted Into Medical Schools?
The lowest MCAT score accepted into medical schools is around 502. Anything lower than this is likely not competitive or risks a high chance of not being admitted. We share more on this in our full write-up of the lowest MCAT score accepted into medical school.
How to Get a Perfect MCAT Score
With all of that established, here are some ways you can increase your chances of a perfect or near-perfect MCAT score:
1. Use your coursework to study
Your overall college experience should be tailored to help you study for the MCAT. You should be enrolled in classes that cover humanities, psychology, physics, biochemistry, biology, and chemistry. Start with this list of the courses to take before the MCAT. Study all of the material taught in these classes as thoroughly as you possibly can. If you have the chance and the wherewithal to take on higher level courses, you should do so. Going into the MCAT with a wealth of expert knowledge across multiple medical-related topics is the best way to yield a high score.
2. Begin preparing for the MCAT early
Some people have studied for their MCATs only two months or one month before the test is taken. Some people have even scraped by through studying only a week before the test. But to get the best results, you’ll want to start studying much earlier. The MCAT covers a huge range of material, much broader than you can cover with two months of dedicated studying.
Experts recommend beginning to study three months or more before the test. This allows you a wider range of time to thoroughly review all of the material that might be covered on the test. If you’re determined to get a perfect score, you should give up your summer break for studying. When you aren’t distracted by coursework, you have all that time open for basic review. See more on when to take the MCAT.
3. Simulate test day
You should be building up your endurance for the MCAT by taking (and reviewing) simulated practice tests. This test should start at the same time as the scheduled MCAT (so, for many, this will be at 8AM) and you should only break for food and drink during the designated breaks.
You should work through official practice tests and can also work your way through these free MCAT practice tests.
4. Get lots of rest the night before the test
It’s exhausting to study for the MCAT, especially if your goal is to achieve a perfect score. Undue stress can increase your chances of silly mistakes, and stress also reduces your retention of your study materials. For this reason, it’s important to take care of yourself. Take breaks from studying when you can; don’t push your brain to retain more at one time than it can handle. Eat healthy foods. In the weeks leading up to the test, but especially the night before the test, make sure you go to bed in a timely manner and get at least eight hours of sleep.
Perfect MCAT Score FAQ
Can a high MCAT score make up for a low GPA?
A high MCAT score can help make up for an average to low(ish) GPA but likely cannot save a GPA lower than a 3.2.
How rare is a perfect MCAT score?
A perfect MCAT score is extremely rare, as around .02% of all test takers will achieve this score.
What’s the average MCAT score for Harvard?
The average MCAT score for Harvard is 520 with a GPA of 3.9