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How are MCAT Scores Calculated?



The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a typical requirement for aspiring medical professionals, serving as a critical benchmark in their journey toward admission to medical school. Understanding how the MCAT is scored is essential for prospective applicants, as it not only demystifies the evaluation process but also sheds light on the significance of each section and overall performance. The MCAT is scaled and equated so that scores have the same meaning, no matter when you test.


Multiple-choice Sections on the MCAT

The number of questions you correctly answer determines your scores on the four multiple-choice parts of the MCAT exam. Incorrect responses carry the same weight as left unanswered and have no bearing on your final score. You should estimate the answer to a question even if you are unsure what it is because there is no extra penalty for incorrect replies. 


Each section's number accurate score is translated into a scaled score ranging from 118 (lowest) to 132 (highest). For instance, your converted score could be 123 if your accurate score on one of the sections is 35 to 37. A converted score of 128 might be obtained for number accurate scores between 46 and 48, and so forth.


Does the MCAT have a curve?

The MCAT exam is not graded on a curve.  Instead, the MCAT exam is scaled and equated so that scores have the same meaning, no matter when you test or who tests at the same time you did.


Because you answered separate sets of questions, there might be some variations in the format of the MCAT exam between you and another examinee; nevertheless, these variations are considered throughout the scoring process. For instance, a score of 124 on one test form's Critical Analysis and Reasoning part is equivalent to a score of 124 on any other form. Because any variation in difficulty level is considered when calculating your scaled scores, your MCAT score is not affected by the specific form you took, the group of examinees you tested with, the test date, or the season.


Understanding Percentile Ranks

The percentile rankings are updated annually on May 1st using information from the last three years. By updating the percentile ranks yearly, you can be sure that the data about your scores is accurate and up to date. This indicates that rather than representing year-to-year fluctuation, changes in percentile rank from one year to the next represent significant changes in examinee scores.


The percentages of test takers who scored higher or lower than your applicants on the exam are indicated by the percentile numbers on their MCAT score reports. They compare your applicants' test results and those of all test takers.


How the AAMC Scores the MCAT

After you take the exam and submit your answers, the AAMC subtracts an unknown number of experimental questions per section - for instance, 10 - and counts the remaining questions for each section. So, let's say you got five non-experimental questions wrong on C/P (Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems); you would have a raw score of 44/49 for that section.


Then, the AAMC converts that raw score to a scaled (118-132) score. They do this by offering a range of raw scores for each scaled score. For your current exam, 47-49 is a 132, 44-46 is a 131, 40-43 is a 130, and so on.


They determine the cutoffs for each scaled score based on how people did on those questions in the past. This is what people mean when they say the exam is predetermined; the difficulty of the exam is assessed based on how people did on those questions in the past (presumably as experimental questions), not in your current administration.


Consider this hypothetical scenario: on a given MCAT, the 50th percentile on the P/S (Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior) section happened to be a 51/59. This indicates that this version of the P/S section was easier compared with another exam with a much lower 50th percentile for P/S (38/59). To account for the variation and the uncertainty, the test makers must grade the exams on a scale.


Conclusion

Comprehending the intricacies of MCAT scoring offers valuable insights into the evaluation process and the significance of each section. Beyond merely assigning a numerical value, MCAT scoring reflects a holistic assessment of an applicant's readiness for medical school, encompassing academic proficiency, critical thinking skills, and the ability to apply scientific knowledge in real-world scenarios. By understanding how the MCAT is scored, aspiring medical professionals can better prepare themselves for this pivotal examination, ultimately positioning themselves for success in pursuing a career in medicine.


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Thanks for reading!

- Mahima Bhat


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