Understanding Your Hard Numbers
The MCAT’s only role is to predict your grades during your first year or two of medical school. For admissions officers to make that prediction, they fundamentally rely on two numbers: GPA and MCAT scores. While your undergraduate grades correlate strongly with grades in med school, when admissions committees combine your GPA with your MCAT score, they get a much more accurate prediction.
You can see a strong correlation between your combined GPA and MCAT numbers and your odds of getting into med school in the following chart:
Note: MCAT scores below 21 and GPAs below 2.8 are not listed, as the odds of admission for such applicants are generally quite low. For the full chart, see Chapter 5 of The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam.
Chances are there’s not much you can do about your GPA by the time you start prepping for the MCAT – you’re either near the end of your college career, or already past it. The good news is that even though your GPA is almost set in stone, this chart shows that you can have a huge impact on your chances with even modest gains in your MCAT performance.
Take, for example, the typical med school matriculant – someone with a GPA that falls in the 3.6-3.79 range. If you were such a student, and you took an MCAT practice test and got a 22 or 23, you’d be pretty concerned. Your odds of getting to a med school are only 18%! But starting with practice scores in the low 20’s is quite common. Our tutoring students often struggle at first.
With a bit of practice, you could bring that score up a few points (to a 29% chance of admission). If, however, you’re the kind of hard worker whose managed to get such a good GPA, chances are you’ll also want to work hard on the MCAT. If you put in plenty of time and effort, you can reasonably expect to see that initial score of 22 jump 8 to 10 points or more. That’d put you solidly in the group that has a comfortable 70-80% chance of admission – a pretty safe bet!
On the other hand, you may have struggled as an undergrad and have a GPA that’s closer to a B than an A. All is not lost! While a 3.2 GPA does put you at a disadvantage, that just means you’ll have to work extra-hard on your MCAT prep.
A below-average MCAT score will mean slim chances of getting in (13% to 26%), but if you invest heavily in prep, you can get yourself into a solid position. The right combination of practice tests, thorough study materials, and expert guidance can help get that MCAT score well above the coveted 30. With a score of 33, you’re now above the halfway mark in your chances of getting in. While it’s not a slam dunk, it’s still a pretty solid bet – and more than worth the investment of time prepping. Combine that 3.2 GPA and 33 MCAT with some excellent work experience or activities, and suddenly you’re in pretty good shape.
Speaking of work activities, it’s also important to remember that med schools place a strong emphasis on the “soft factors” in the admissions process. Common factors they consider include:
- Breadth and depth of coursework
- Selectivity of undergraduate institution
- Letters of recommendation
- Extra-curricular activities, work, volunteer work, research
- Personal statements/essays
- Life experience
It’s important to take the MCAT/GPA chart with a grain of salt when considering your own situation. It provides a useful, but very rough, guide to seeing what your chances are of getting in.