MCAT Essay Scoring

Understand Everything about MCAT Essay Scoring

The Writing Sample is one of the sections in the MCAT test. In this section, as in the other sections of the test, a raw score is first given. The raw score is then converted to a scaled score. The essays are scored on the basis of clarity and complexity of thought, coherent ideas and the flair for the language.

MCAT Writing Sample

For the MCAT Writing Sample a topic is given. Instructions for three writing tasks follow this topic. The first instruction, asking you to explain what you think of the topic, is the same for all the topics. The other 2 instructions vary from topic to topic.

Raw Score

Scoring of MCAT essay is done by 2 different readers, a human reader and one computer reader. The scores are given in the 1 to 6 range. Each applicant writes 2 essays. There are totally 4 individual scores. These 4 scores are totaled and this final score is the raw score for the essay section. While the essay scoring is done, the reviewers look at the essay in its entirety. Small grammatical errors are not penalized.

The reviewers do not write any comments on the essay, they only write the score on a scannable sheet. This enables the second reader to review the essay without any influences. If the difference between the scores for the same essay is more than one point, a supervisor reviews the essay.


What it Means


Clarity and complexity of thought and coherent ideas


Clarity with some depth or complexity


Clarity with some evidence of depth


Little problem with clarity or complexity of thought


Problems with clarity and complexity of thought


Lack of understanding of the assignment

The above table gives an idea about how an essay is scored.

Scaled Score

The raw score is converted to an alphabetic scale ranging from J to T. J is the lowest and T is the highest grade you can get. The Writing Sample may also be given an "X" grade. The X grade indicates that the essays were unscorable because they were not attempted, not related to the topic given or not written in English.

The raw scores range from 4 to 24, a 21 point numeric scale. This 21 point numeric scale is converted to an 11 point alphabetic scale. Students can achieve the same scaled score by various means. For Example a person with the scores as 4 and 5 in one essay and 4 and 4 in the other gets a total of 17. Another student can also get 17 with the individual scores as 3 and 4 for one essay and 5 and 5 for the other.

Below average essays are scored J, K or L. Average essays are scored from M through Q and above average essays are scored from R to T. The differences within the categories arise from the difference in clarity and the understanding of the topic.

The essay score is converted to scaled scores to compensate for variations arising due to differences in the difficulty levels between exams. The score conversion is aimed at achieving moderation so that 2 students with the same ability get similar scores irrespective of the test difficulty level.

Importance of MCAT Essay Score

A very high or a very low scoring pattern of MCAT essays is considered by the medical schools during admissions. The essay section is not given the importance the other three sections get, but when it falls in the extreme category then the scores are considered seriously. The average essay score is a P.