As the medical college admissions test dawns upon your horizon, MCAT test scores become an obsession. With every study session and practice question, you imagine yourself clawing closer and closer to that ultimate goal post: a score that’ll get you into the medical school of your highest ambitions. The question is: what is a good MCAT score? What exactly are you aiming for here?

That’s what we’re going to answer RIGHT NOW! Well, almost right now: allow us first to introduce ourselves ...

Hi, we’re Brainscape!

We’re the brains, minds, and hearts behind the world’s smartest study app. We’ve brought together some of the biggest “bosses” in MCAT prep to compile a comprehensive collection of study guides (like this one) and certified adaptive flashcards for the MCAT to help you study way more efficiently. Our lead author is Clara Gillan, Director of Product at MedSchoolCoach and a 100th percentile MCAT-taker with a score of 526. So, yeah, she knows what a good MCAT test score looks like!

Now that you know a little more about who we are (and why we know what we’re talking about) let’s answer that question: what is a good MCAT score?

What is a good overall MCAT score?

MCAT score distribution bell curve

In a nutshell, you’re aiming for at least the 90th percentile if you want to get into a top medical school. (We’re focusing on MD schools for this article, but doctor of osteopathy, or DO, schools are great options that tend to have lower mean MCAT scores.) Now, the percentile ranks provided on your MCAT score report show the percentages of test takers who received the same or lower scores on the exam than you did.

So, if 85,000 U.S. students take the MCAT in 2021, and you score in the 90th percentile, your score was higher than (or the same as, because some of these will also be in the 90th percentile bracket with you) 75,600 other applicants, with only 8,500 students doing better than you. (This is a bit of an oversimplification, mainly because the AAMC calculates percentiles over even longer periods, but it’s plenty good enough for our purposes.) Actually, to score in the overall 90th percentile is excellent. So, aim for “excellent” and if you fall short of that, you land in the realm of “good”, which is great! Capisce?

For a deeper dive into this subject, check out this page on the AAMC website. I mean, they only wrote the dang MCAT so they kinda know what they’re talking about.

Another component of an excellent MCAT test score is to have a decent spread of results for each section. In other words, try to avoid bombing psychology and sociology but then acing the rest. For the best results, you need an even distribution of good marks.

Now, let’s get a little more specific …

What is a good MCAT score in numbers?

Good MCAT score in numbers

It depends. I’m not going to get too bogged down in how MCAT test scores work—we wrote a whole guide about it that I really recommend you read if you’re curious about the nerdy “science” behind how MCATs are graded: ‘All you wanted to know about MCAT scores, explained’.

However, I will explain this:

Your scaled MCAT score depends only on your performance - not on how the other test-takers performed on that day or on how difficult your MCAT was. The AAMC puts in a huge amount of effort to control for these factors! However, percentile scores do depend on the overall population of test-takers over a given period. So average MCAT scores can and do increase over time, making it harder to get a top-percentile score, and this changes the landscape of what’s considered “excellent.”

To illustrate: in 2021, a score of 515 (with no section score below 127) was considered a good MCAT score because it fell in the 90th percentile. Anything above 518 (95th percentile) was considered excellent. With a score in that range, you’d have a very good shot at getting into many MD schools, unless you monumentally bungle up your personal statement and in-person interviews or have no clinical experience, or something like that.

On that subject, another factor to consider here is the application data from the school/s you’d like to apply to …

Individual school MCAT score requirements

Getting into medical school

The average MCAT score among successful medical school applicants lands around the 83rd percentile. So, in 2021, that was 511+. Some medical schools, however, have a habit of only stratospherically high MCAT scores, like the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, whose average MCAT score for the class of 2024 was 521.7. Damn!

Harvard University, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and Columbia University also only tend to entertain students with high MCAT test scores.

The good news is that most other medical schools will entertain MD applicants who scored at or above the 65th percentile, provided you can blow them away with the other admissions criteria like your personal statement, GPA, and amazing clinical and research experience. But, in general, the higher your score on the MCAT, the better.

So, keep your sights on that 90th percentile and even if you miss it, you’ll likely get the score you need to get into a great medical school.

Hey! Here are some MCAT study resources for you

Now that I’ve answered the question “what is a good MCAT score?” I have a few other resources I’d like to share with you that will likely be of great help.

First, Brainscape’s certified MCAT flashcards are an excellent tool for helping you learn the necessary facts twice as efficiently as traditional study methods, which is really essential when you consider the volume of content the MCAT tests (and that you may have forgotten quite a bit of it after making it through college finals).

Flashcards for the MCAT
Brainscape has a complete collection of flashcards to help you memorize the most essential science content to score high on the MCAT.

Second, the following guides offer EXCELLENT guidance on some of the other questions you might have as you stare down the barrel at the MCAT:

These guides all live in Brainscape’s MCAT Academy, along with many other useful articles, so go ahead and have a thorough root-around in there for, really, the best advice you’re going to find on smashing the MCAT!

And then, finally, if you prefer to consume your advice in video format (and to see what I look like, he he), head on over to Brainscape’s Medical YouTube channel. I’ve interviewed some incredibly experienced and accomplished humans in the realm of MCAT prep, med school admissions, like this one …

So, there you have it! The answer to the question “What is a good MCAT score?” as well as a delectable smorgasbord of study resources you can lean on as you rise to the challenge of the MCAT!