How Do MCAT Scoring Percentiles Work?

February 20, 2024

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Feeling lost in the world of MCAT and scoring percentiles? You're not alone! We're here to demystify the confusion and make MCAT scoring crystal clear for you. Skip the overwhelming information online – contact us directly, and let's simplify this together. Your journey to understanding the MCAT starts here

Knowing what a good MCAT score is will be helpful while preparing for this challenging exam. Being an MCAT high-score aspirant, you might already know the MCAT's numerical score system, which ranges from 472 to 528. 

But aside from this, do you know the other aspects of your MCAT score, such as the percentiles? 

You are on the right page if you want to know how MCAT scoring percentiles work. This is what this post is for. Let’s get started!

How is the MCAT Scored?

The MCAT has four sections: 

The number of questions you successfully answered for each of the four MCAT test sections is the first thing that the AAMC counts.

Each section's score is determined by how many questions you successfully answer.

From there, each section's number of correct answers is transformed into a scaled score ranging from 118 (lowest) to 132 (highest). 

Your converted score, for instance, can be 123 if your correct answers on one of the sections are between 35 and 37.

Lastly, the AAMC combines all your scaled results from the four areas to provide a scaled total score ranging from 472 (lowest) to 528 (highest).

Click here for a detailed explanation of how the MCAT is scored.

Why Does the MCAT Use Scaled Scores?

Scaled scoring, as opposed to your exam's raw score, is how the MCAT evaluates your performance because it "tends to produce a more steady and reliable assessment."

Although the same fundamental ideas and abilities are tested on every MCAT exam, the individual questions will change depending on which MCAT exam paper is utilized at any given time. 

As a result, it makes sense that there would be a little difference in exam difficulty, making it unfair to compare raw scores of individuals who took the same MCAT on different days. These slight changes in difficulty between various sets of questions are made up for by converting raw scores to scaled scores. This process is known as equating

Hence, applicants who took various MCAT exams can be fairly compared because their results have the same significance.

Furthermore, the same raw score will not always equal the scaled score since raw scores will be adjusted based on the particular set of questions to consider. 

An applicant who took a separate MCAT exam but had the same scaled score could, thus, have a different number of correct answers on the exam and, consequently, a different raw score.

The MCAT is not graded on a curve because scaled scoring is utilized. 

Your performance relative to other students who took the same exam depends on your score for tests graded on a curve. 

Once again, this improves the fairness and consistency of the scoring because your result will not vary based on the test date or the performance of other applicants.

What Does the MCAT Score Percentile Mean?

You will receive a percentile rating for each of your results, a score for the MCAT overall, and a score for each segment. 

The percentile rank allows you to understand how your scores compare to others by displaying the percentage of other test-takers who scored the same or lower than you did on the MCAT in each area as well as overall. 

If a candidate receives a percentile of 88, they outperformed 88% of other candidates who took the test: the higher your MCAT percentile, the better.

The AAMC updates percentile ranks each year, ensuring that any changes represent a substantive shift in the examiners' scores rather than merely year-to-year fluctuations.

2021-2022 MCAT Scores and Percentiles 

The percentile ranks are revised annually on May 1st, using information from the previous three years. 

The percentile ranks will reflect up-to-date and reliable data regarding students' test results, thanks to these yearly revisions. 

This implies that changes in percentile ranks across years indicate significant changes in the test-takers' scores rather than simple variations. It is consistent with industry practice to update percentile ranks.

Below is a table and graph showing the current percentile ranks for the MCAT, effective May 01, 2022 – April 30, 2023. 

Source: AAMC Official Website 

Total Score

Percentile Rank

524 – 528

100

522 – 523

99

521

98

520

97

519

96

518

95

517

94

516

92

515

90

514

88

513

86

512

83

511

80

510

77

509

74

508

71

507

68

506

65

505

61

504

58

503

55

502

51

501

48

500

45

499

41

498

38

497

35

496

32

495

29

494

26

493

24

492

21

491

19

490

17

489

15

488

13

487

11

486

10

485

8

484

7

483

6

482

5

481

4

480

3

478 – 479

2

476 – 477

1

472 – 475

<1

What Score Percentile Should I Get?

The average score of candidates who matriculated into medical school in 2021–2022, according to data from the AAMC, is 511.5. 

This is approximately in the 80th percentile. The percentile that is "good" for you, however, truly relies on your goals and the rest of your application.

Your ideal MCAT score should, however, be in line with the MCAT averages of applicants who were admitted to your top medical schools. 

For instance, the typical MCAT score for Columbia Medical School students is 520 (97th percentile), whereas the typical MCAT score for UT Southwestern Medical School students is 515 (90th percentile). 

You must be realistic about the medical schools for which your MCAT score makes you competitive.

Will My MCAT Score Guarantee an Admission?

Medical schools and universities have admission requirements and guidelines.  

Aside from your MCAT score, they also take into consideration your GPA, letters of recommendation, and extracurricular activities, amongst others. 

You will be a significantly more competitive applicant if you achieve an MCAT score of 515 or above, which will put you in the 90th percentile of test takers. 

The 94th percentile score of 517 should almost ensure admission. 

However keep in mind, in 2021–2022, 16% of applicants with scores over 517 were rejected from medical school.

The MCAT score is one factor that admissions committees take into account when evaluating your whole application and biography. 

A lower MCAT score, for instance, can be easier to overcome if you are a candidate who has faced great difficulties. 

Your MCAT may not need to be perfect if you have extraordinary achievements (as shown in your personal statement and AMCAS job and activities entries), excellent letters of recommendation, a high GPA, and other qualifications.

Additional FAQs – MCAT Scoring Percentiles 

What is a Good MCAT Percentile?

Each student's definition of a good MCAT percentile will be different. Why? Your objectives and the schools you wish to attend are ultimately what matters. Some med schools are far more competitive than others. 

To be accepted, you must be at the top of your class and put in a lot of effort. 

However, some schools are so selective that they can only provide admission to the best students in the country. In those circumstances, an 80th percentile (511) will not suffice.

What Percentile is a 500 on the MCAT?

Based on the latest data (May 01, 2022 – April 30, 2023) from the AAMC, a 500 is currently at the 45th percentile. This means that if you get this score, you are in the bottom 55% of the applicants. This is not good, and you should strive to improve your score.

What Score is 95th Percentile on MCAT?

According to AAMC’s data (May 01, 2022 – April 30, 2023), a score of 518 falls on the 95th percentile. 

This score implies that you are in the top 5% of students who took the MCAT. It is a good score, and you have a higher chance of getting admitted to medical school.

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