How are your GPA and MCAT Scores used by Med Schools?
Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is an exam conducted to evaluate your eligibility for the study of medicine. MCAT score is a necessity for applying to almost all medical schools in the US and Canada. However, what about your grades at the undergraduate level? Do medical schools consider the candidates’ GPAs as well, while selecting prospective students? If yes, how are the GPA MCAT scores going to affect the admission procedure?
The truth is that both are important, and there is no single method to assert either one as more important than the other. Many medical schools consider GPA MCAT scores to screen candidates, while many others give more importance to either GPA or MCAT scores, depending on the individual institute’s policies. And there are many others who have a cutoff mark to screen out the candidates. A yet another bunch of schools evaluates the candidates more holistically than by just looking at their GPAs or MCAT scores.
The GPA Factor
GPA reflects your understanding of the subjects you have taken for your undergraduate studies. The better the grade, the better are the chances of admission to medical schools, as in the case of any other schools. For example, a GPA of 4.0 is definitely better than a GPA of 3.5, which is even better than a GPA of 3.0. And GPA could vary considerably, based on the difficulty levels of the courses you take for your undergraduate study and also depending on the place from where you take your courses. GPA is also a reflection of your personality traits and your study habits – how hardworking, and diligent you are. Most medical schools look at GPA as this could be an indicator of your success as a prospective medical student. And this also means that even with a relatively lower MCAT score, you still might have a chance, provided your GPA is good.
MCAT score is a more objective and clearer benchmark for comparing students. As against the undergraduate grades, MCAT score numbers are the result of a standardized and objective test whereby the verbal reasoning and critical thinking abilities of the students could be checked and compared in addition to their cognition of the subjects like Physical and Biological Sciences. Based on the AAMC aggregated data for 2008-2010, the average total MCAT scores of applicants to medical schools was 28.3.
Each of the multiple choice sections of the MCAT test has a maximum score of 15 points (aggregating to a maximum of 45 points); however, a perfect score is not that common. A score of 30 is considered good, while anything above 36 places you amongst the top best in the country. The Writing Sample part of the test is scored separately using a letter (from J to T in ascending order) and this is also considered for your medical school admission.
However, it does not mean that a good MCAT score alone can guarantee you a seat; nor can we assume that a high GPA can get you through. According to the AAMC aggregated data for 2009-2011 again, the acceptance rate is only 23.1% with an MCAT score in the range 39-45 (but with GPA in the range of 2.6- 2.79 only). And, the acceptance rate was 66.6% with GPA in the range 3.8-4.0 and MCAT score in the range 27-29. And this clearly indicates that a better combo of GPA MCAT is what works. Depending upon the policy of the medical school you apply to, a high GPA might sometimes make up for a not so great MCAT score and vice versa. A more holistic evaluation based on interviews, resume, and the overall application can also elevate your chances despite poor GPA MCAT scores. Another important factor that could work for or against your application is the number of applications a school receives. The more the number of applications, the more competitive the selection or screening criterion becomes, and GPA, MCAT scores, or GPA MCAT combined are used to screen out rather than select the candidates. While many prestigious schools try to work with such heavier cutoffs and limit the number by raising their benchmarks, the relatively ordinary schools stick to lower benchmarks and might apply more lenient selection criteria.
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