How the MCAT Works

Scoring the MCAT

Approximately 30 days after taking the exam, you'll receive an official MCAT score report with four separate scores for each section of the test. The multiple-choice sections are given a "scaled" score from one to 15. Since there are many more than 15 questions in each of those sections, the score does not represent a "raw" tally of right and wrong answers. Instead, it is weighted to reflect the difficulty of the test questions.

Every MCAT exam contains slightly different questions of varying difficulty. Your scaled score reflects the difficulty of the questions you answered correctly. Therefore, it's possible for two people with very different raw scores to get the same scaled score. The goal is to create an accurate assessment of overall skill level of the test-taker. The same test-taker would be expected to receive the same scaled score on any specific MCAT exam, even if his raw scores are different [source: AAMC].

Each of the two essays in the writing section is scored twice, once by a human reader and once by a computer. Each essay is assigned a raw score from one to six. Those four raw scores (two for each essay) are added up to a total raw score. The total raw score is then converted to an alphabetic scale from J though T, with J being the lowest score and T the highest (presumably A through F was too boring...).

The average MCAT score on each of the three multiple-choice sections is eight and the average score of the writing section is O [source: The Princeton Review]. That average scores goes up considerably depending on the competitiveness of the medical school. The average accepted student to Harvard Medical School, for example, scores an 11 on Verbal Reasoning, 12 on Physical Sciences, 12 on Biological Sciences and Q for the Writing Sample [source: The Princeton Review].

You can send your MCAT scores directly to the schools to which you're applying through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). Once you register online for the service, your latest scores will be automatically sent to the schools of your choice.

If you want to send your scores to a school that doesn't participate in the AMCAS, you can access the online MCAT Testing History System (MCAT THx) with your AAMC ID and specify the schools to which you want to send your scores or print out a score report and send them by mail [source: AAMC].

Keep reading for more information on graduate school admissions.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • AAMC. "2010 MCAT Essentials"
  • AAMC. "Registration Tips"
  • Arenson, Karen. "Computer Gets it Wrong in Medical Admission Test." The New York Times. January 30, 2007
  • Kaplan. "How the MCAT Program Works"
  • Kaplan. "MCAT Physical Sciences"
  • Kaplan. "MCAT Verbal Reasoning"
  • Kaplan. "MCAT Writing Sample"
  • The Princeton Review. "MCAT Information"
  • The Princeton Review. "MCAT Physical Sciences"
  • The Princeton Review. "MCAT Scoring"
  • The Princeton Review. "MCAT Writing Section"
  • Ray, John. "MCAT to be significantly shorter, completely computerized in 2007." The Daily Orange. Syracuse University. October 18, 2006