An medical school applicant’s MCAT score is one of the few parts of the medical school applications that is quantifiable. As a result, most premedical students obsess over how high or low their MCAT score is relative to other applicants. You can easily find scores of web pages across the Internet that are filled with requests from one premed to another – “What are your stats?” – referring to GPA and MCAT scores.
While striving to attain that perfect score, there are some aspects of your MCAT score that tell admissions officers more than just a number. Below are a few situations in which your MCAT score may say more about your academic performance than you might originally consider.
High MCAT Score, Bad Grades
Of course, you cannot change the past. There is no way to get a “do-over” when it comes to grades. Ultimately, once the class is complete, you are stuck with the outcome. Many students attempt to compensate for poor academic performance by getting a higher than average score on the MCAT.
Unfortunately, a high MCAT score simply tells admissions committees that you are indeed capable of performing well in medical school, all other things equal. However, your poor grades may be an indicator that you are not disciplined or organized enough to maintain the academic rigors of medical school. In other words, your effort likely does not match your ability.
If you find this to be the case, there’s one way you may be able to make up for your bad grades – more grades. No, do not retake all of the courses in which you previously did poorly. Instead, try completing a master’s degree or post-baccalaureate program to show that you can truly put forth a constant effort.
High Grades, Low MCAT Score
Of course, every premedical student studies more than any other student. You spend hours in the books while every other student is out having fun at parties. Other students are excited to receive passing grades while you dread the day you earn a “C”.
However, if you put forth the effort to do well on exams, you’ll want to mirror those same abilities in your MCAT score. Making high grades and getting a low MCAT score may be an indicator that you do not possess the intellectual capacity for medical school. (Just kidding.) While that may be true for some, it is not the case for most students. Usually, you get a bad score on the MCAT because you didn’t allow enough time to study or you didn’t take enough practice exams.
High grades and a low MCAT score could also be indicative of the difficulty of the courses that you have taken. Premedical students are notorious for taking classes to cushion their GPA. Some students try to take classes when a certain professor teaches a course because that professor grades easier. Even if this isn’t the case, you wouldn’t want that thought in the head of an admissions officer.
If you find yourself with high grades and a low MCAT score, you are not in bad shape. Fortunately, unlike those with bad grades, you can re-take the MCAT easier than you can re-take your sophomore year.
Uneven MCAT Score
So, you received a total MCAT score of 30? Many understand that getting a 30 on the MCAT makes you a competitive applicant. However, not all MCAT scores are considered equal.
Uneven MCAT scores can be incredibly detrimental to your application. First, getting lower than an 8 on any one section is a deal-breaker at extremely competitive programs. Therefore, getting a 13 in biological sciences helps very little if you also scored a 7 in the physical sciences section.
There’s good news. An uneven score is even easier to correct than the previous two situations. Fortunately for you, there’s at least one section of the MCAT in which you are fully capable at scoring high. This means you only need to focus more on the section in which you did not do so great.
All things considered, the MCAT score is more to the admissions decision than a way to judge one applicant relative to another. The MCAT score is used as only a part of the bigger picture that encompasses an applicant’s profile. Just make sure that your MCAT score says exactly what you would like about your potential success.
Image use courtesy of AlbertHerring under the creative commons license.