How does MCAT Work? - An Overview of The Medical College Admission Test

Study Abroad Team 25/10/2023

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Why is it Important to Take up the MCAT?

MCAT, or the Medical College Admission Test, is a multiple-choice and computer-based test. It has been an integral part of the admission process of medical schools and colleges for more than ninety years.Each year, more than 80,000 medical aspirants appear for the MCAT exam. Nearly all medical colleges and universities in the United States and Canada require MCAT scores. The MCAT exam analyzes the student's skills and knowledge of various aspects of medical science.The AAMC is responsible for developing the MCAT examination and administers it multiple times yearly. Taking the MCAT examination is an essential step in the application process. However, it is just a single part of aspirants' widespread application.The admission committees in the medical school consider many other aspects of the students. For instance, they think the applicant's academic strengths and their exposure to medical and healthcare research environment.In 2015, the AAMC added a new section that tests the aspirant's understanding of sociocultural, psychological, and biological influences. It is essential to appear for the MCAT assessment test as admission officers use it to predict the applicant's success.The MCAT exam is designed to test the students' verbal reasoning and scientific skills. Most medical schools in Canada refer to the applicant's MCAT score during admission. Moreover, some medical colleges also set minimum cut-off MCAT scores.

How does MCAT Work? - An Overview of The Medical College Admission Test

MCAT Score Conversions – Going Back and Forth Old and New MCAT Scores

In 2015, the AAMC introduced several changes to the MCAT examination. The main objective of AAMC was to make the test more reflective of the present state of medical education. In 1991, the MCAT exam was last modified.In modern medical education, students routinely get exposure to challenging healthcare settings. Moreover, the social determinants of health and communication in the healthcare sector have changed drastically since 1991. From being confined to a few disciplines, the examination got broader in scope. The amends were made to ensure that MCAT has real-world applicability. Initially, the MCAT had three sections as follows:

  • Biological Sciences
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Physical Sciences

However, in 2015, the MCAT changed to include the following four sections.

  • Reasoning skills and abilities associated with critical analysis
  • Biological and biochemical foundations of the living entities
  • The biological, physical, and social foundations of behavior
  • Chemical and physical basics of the biological platforms

Aspirants preparing for the medical entrance exam for abroad studies should know the MCAT scoring system. The old MCAT exam was scored on a scale of 3 to 45. The average senior MCAT score is 25.2. In the older MCAT exam, candidates could earn 1 to 15 points.On the other hand, the new MCAT test has a scale of 472 to 528 points. The mean score here is 500. On each section, the applicants can earn 118 to 132 points. To prepare appropriately, medical aspirants should know about MCAT score conversions. If an aspirant is seeking admission to a medical school, the schools will consider MCAT scores two to three years older. Therefore, no medical schools will view the old MCAT scores. Aspirants can refer to the below table to learn about MCAT score conversions.

Old MCAT Score

New MCAT Score


























Students planning to appear for the MCAT exam should know how to interpret the total and section scores. When deciding where to apply, the applicants should consider how their MCAT scores compare to others.

Top Med Schools Accepting MCAT and the Required GPA

The two most crucial pieces of an aspirant’s medical school application are the undergrad GPA and MCAT score. However, there is still a debate on which of these two factors is more essential in the admission process. But a good MCAT score can compensate for a lower GPA. Candidates should also know whether their MCAT score is high enough to guarantee admission to medical schools. If the MCAT score of an aspirant falls into the 25th percentile range, they have a higher chance of getting admitted. Here is the list of the top medical schools accepting the MCAT and the required GPA.

Harvard University 

Here the MCAT 50th percentile score is 520. The average GPA is 3.95.

Columbia University

Here the MCAT 50th percentile score is 521. The average GPA is 3.91.

Johns Hopkins University

Here the MCAT 50th percentile score is 521. The average GPA is 3.94.      

Duke University

Here the MCAT 50th percentile score is 518. The average GPA is 3.86.

University of Washington

Here the MCAT 50th percentile score is 510. The average GPA is 3.72.

University of California - San Francisco

Here the MCAT 50th percentile score is 516. The average GPA is 3.87.

Yale University

Here the MCAT 50th percentile score is 520. The average GPA is 3.90.

University of Pittsburgh

Here the MCAT 50th percentile score is 516. The average GPA is 3.83.

Stanford University

Here the MCAT 50th percentile score is 517. The average GPA is 3.89.

Northwestern University (Feinberg)

Here the MCAT 50th percentile score is 520. The average GPA is 3.90.

The 50th percentile ranges from 500 to 522 for the top ten medical schools. Therefore, applicants should always aim for a higher MCAT score to optimize their chances of admission to the best med schools in the world.

Can I Take up Medicine Abroad without MCAT?

Typically, the MCAT is believed to be a litmus test for aspirants seeking admission to the top medical schools worldwide. But some medical schools don’t require the MCAT to grant admission to students.For conventional admission to medical colleges, aspirants should complete their bachelor’s program. However, the BA and MD programs exist where students apply to the joint degree programs. Some of the common medical degrees where the MCAT is not necessary are:

  • BA and DO
  • BS and DO

Students can apply for B/DO and B/MD programs without the MCAT scores. But they require a joint degree to apply for these medical courses.  

Why MCAT is Considered a Tough exam?

The students preparing for the medical entrance exam for abroad studies should be aware of the pattern and syllabus of the exam. This will help them to stay prepared and tackle the scoring challenges. Students preparing for the MCAT should study hard and plan well to obtain good scores. Here are some reasons why the MCAT exam is challenging.

The MCAT is a Long Examination 

The MCAT comprises over 230 questions that cover multiple areas. Aspirants need to spend at least 7.5 hours on the MCAT test. It is also known as the academic test of endurance.

The Chances of the Presence of Tricky Questions are Higher 

In MCAT, students should always be prepared to solve tricky questions. The test will analyze the applicant’s ability to decipher information and recognize what’s essential.

It is Normal to Not Solve Questions on Time 

Because of numerous questions, aspirants often find it challenging to complete the test on time. In MCAT, there’s no negative marking for wrong answers.

The MCAT test is not difficult if aspirants plan and prepare appropriately. The perceived difficulty of the MCAT test depends on various factors. Students should know about the syllabus and exam pattern to score higher.

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  • Neha Answered on 09/04/2024

    To study MBA in the USA, you need to follow these steps: 1. Research and select the universities you want to apply to based on your preferences and eligibility. 2. Take the required exams such as GMAT or GRE, and TOEFL or IELTS if you are an international student. 3. Prepare a strong application package including transcripts, essays, letters of recommendation, and resume. 4. Apply to the universities of your choice following their application deadlines and instructions. 5. Upon acceptance, apply for a student visa and make necessary travel arrangements. Please note that the specific requirements and procedures may vary by university, so it is important to carefully review the information provided by each institution.

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