Understanding Your MCAT Scores

For exams administered from 1991 through January 2015

How are MCAT scores from 2013 through January 2015 different compared to previous years?

With the removal of the Writing Sample from the 2013 and 2014 exam, test takers only received scores for the three multiple-choice sections (Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, and Biological Sciences).  In addition, they received a total score computed by taking the sum of the three scored multiple-choice sections. For test takers who took the exam prior to 2013, their total score is a combined multiple-choice score conjoined with the Writing Sample score.  For example, the writing score for the exam is converted to an alphabetic scale ranging from J (lowest) to T (highest). e.g., 42T

How are the multiple choice sections of the MCAT exam scored?

Each score that you achieve on the three scored multiple-choice sections is based on the number of questions you answer correctly. This raw score is a reflection of your correct answers only. This means that a wrong answer will be scored exactly the same as an unanswered question; there is no additional penalty for wrong answers. Therefore, even if you are unsure of the correct answer to a question, you should make your best guess.  The scores from each of these three sections will be converted to a scale ranging from 1 (lowest) to 15 (high).  For example, if your raw score on one of the sections is between 40 and 43, your converted score might be 11. Scores ranging from 44 to 46 might have a converted score of 12, and so forth.
How was the Writing Sample section of the MCAT exam scored (prior to 2013)?

For test takers who took the Writing Sample section prior to 2013, their raw score on the Writing Sample was determined by adding the scores they received on each of the two essays they wrote.  Because two different readers rated each essay, the total raw Writing Sample score was the sum of the four scores: two for the first essay and two for the second. This sum on the Writing Sample was converted to an alphabetic scale ranging from J (lowest) to T (highest). Note that an X indicates that one or both of the essays were not able to be scored, because they were either completely off-topic, blank, unintelligible, or written in a language other than English.

The sum can result from different combinations of individual scores. (Individual scores are assigned along a 6-point scale.) For example, a student whose scores were 4 and 5 on the first item and 4 and 4 on the second—a raw score of 17—would have received the same alphabetic score point as a student who scored a 3 and 3 on the first essay and a 5 and 6 on the second.

Why are raw scores converted to scaled scores?

The conversion of raw scores to scaled scores compensates for small variations in difficulty between sets of questions. The exact conversion of raw to scaled scores is not constant; because different sets of questions are used on different exams. The 15-point scale tends to provide a more stable and accurate assessment of a student's abilities. Two students of equal ability would be expected to get the same scaled score, even though there might be a slight difference between the raw scores each student obtained on the test.

Is the exam graded on a curve?

Test takers often ask if earning a high score or higher percentile is easier or harder at different times of the testing year. They ask whether they have a better chance of earning a higher score in April or in August, for example. The question is based on an assumption that the exam is scored on a curve, and that a final score is dependent on how an individual performed in comparison to other test takers from the same test day or same time of year.

While there may be small differences in the MCAT exam you took compared to another examinee, the scoring process accounts for these differences so that an 8 earned on physical sciences on one exam means the same thing as an 8 earned on any other exam. The percentile rank provided on your score report simply indicates the percentages of test takers that received the same score or lower scores than you did. 

How you score on the MCAT exam, therefore, is not reflective of the particular exam you took—including the time of day, the test date, or the time of year—since any difference in difficulty level is accounted for when calculating your scale scores (see above for information about scaling).