MCAT Score Percentiles: Raw Score to Scaled [2021]

Getting into a good medical school is one of the first steps you need to take if you want to become a doctor. However, one of the primary requirements of medical schools is the MCAT or Medical College Admission Test. 

Through this, medical schools can assess specific skills and determine whether you’re a good fit for their institution. 

They assess things like the extent of your knowledge about various concepts in behavioral, natural, and social sciences, your critical thinking skills, and problem-solving abilities. Getting a good score on the MCAT can increase your chances of being admitted to the med school of your choice.

However, it can be tough to get a good score, especially if you don’t know how they evaluate the exam. With that said, this article will delve deeper into how they grade the MCAT, which can allow you to improve your own scores.

 

Overview of the MCAT

As mentioned, the MCAT is an exam used by many medical schools to gauge an applicant’s abilities and whether they’ll be a good fit in their institution. It evaluates several aspects of an applicant’s knowledge and skills, giving them an objective reference for their decisions.

The MCAT typically lasts for 7 ½ hours and consists of four sections, each designed to measure specific aspects of an applicant’s preparedness for medical school. Each section is given a time limit, during which applicants must answer all the questions.

MCAT Sections Duration
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems 95 minutes
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior 95 minutes
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems 95 minutes
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills 90 minutes

 

Each section consists of 59 multiple choice questions, except for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills part, which has 53 multiple-choice questions. 

 

MCAT Scoring System Overview

The MCAT is typically scored on a scale ranging from 472 to 528, with the average score being around 500 to 501. Your score is based on the number of correct answers, with wrong answers being treated the same as unanswered questions. 

This means only correct answers are counted, and wrong answers or no answers aren’t deducted from your total score. However, your final score is gauged based on your correct answers for each section. The total is then converted into a scaled score. 

This ranges from 118, considered the lowest, to 132, the highest. For example, if you have 44 correct answers, your raw score for that section is 44. However, its corresponding scaled version would depend on how difficult or easy the section is.

That score of 44 can mean a scaled score of 129 on a more difficult section like Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. In comparison, it could correspond to a 127 scaled score on the less challenging sections. 

Another thing you need to take note of is that MCAT percentiles are updated annually every May 1st. This means that your score for this year may be considered better or worse than the next year.

For example, if your score was 509 in 2016, this was categorized under the 82nd percentile. Now, it’s considered the 77th percentile, meaning a 509 score is regarded as a better score in 2016 than it is now.

MCAT Scaling for Each Section

As mentioned, you don’t get raw scores in the MCAT; it’s scaled to account for any small variations in terms of difficulty present in the exam. This ensures that each section is more or less equal when it comes to difficulty, allowing for a more accurate reflection of an applicant’s abilities.

With that said, here’s how each section is scaled, effective from May 1, 2020, to April 30, 2021. 

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
Percentile Rank Section Score
1 118
2 119
6 120
11 121
18 122
28 123
39 124
50 125
62 126
73 127
83 128
90 129
96 130
99 131
100 132

 

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
Percentile Rank Section Score
1 118
2 119
5 120
10 121
17 122
25 123
35 124
45 125
57 126
68 127
79 128
87 129
94 130
98 131
100 132

 

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
Percentile Rank Section Score
1 118
3 119
6 120
12 121
21 122
31 123
43 124
53 125
65 126
76 127
85 128
91 129
97 130
99 131
100 132

 

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
Percentile Rank Section Score
1 118
3 119
7 120
13 121
23 122
35 123
48 124
60 125
72 126
82 127
90 128
95 129
98 130
99 131
100 132

 

Each section’s percentile varies from section to section, which means even if you have the same numerical score on every section, its equivalent percentile will differ.

Referring to the tables, Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills is the most difficult out of the four to score well on. Meanwhile, the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section offers the lowest percentiles, making it relatively easy to score well on this section.

 

Other Things to Take Note Of

Now that you know how MCAT scores are calculated, you should now check out the other information you need to consider.

  • It’s not graded on a curve.

While the percentiles change every year for the MCAT, this doesn’t mean it’s graded on a curve. As mentioned, the scores are scaled and equated, allowing each score to mean the same. 

This means that regardless of the time you take the test or who takes the exam at the same time, it will mean the same.

  • It takes a month to receive scores.

It takes 30 to 35 days to scale and equate each exam; a process started immediately after each exam day. Aside from ensuring that small differences in each exam are accounted for, this extended period also gives students time to raise their concerns about any exam questions or conditions while taking the exam.

The long period after the exam allows the examiners to analyze and review each circumstance, ensuring they consider these in final scaled scores.

 

 

Final Thoughts

The MCAT is a crucial exam for aspiring doctors because scoring well on this test can increase the likelihood of getting into an excellent medical school. Knowing how the exam is scored can help you make sense of your grade.

With this, you can gauge whether the score you received is in line with your med school goals or not. 

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