How are the multiple-choice sections of the MCAT exam scored?
Your number correct scores on the four multiple-choice sections of the MCAT exam are based on the numbers of questions you answer correctly. Wrong answers are scored exactly the same as unanswered questions and do not affect your score. There is no additional penalty for wrong answers, so even if you are unsure of the correct answer to a question, you should make your best guess.
The number correct score for each section is converted to a scaled score ranging from 118 (lowest) to 132 (highest). For example, if your number correct score on one of the sections is between 35 and 37, your converted score might be 123. Number correct scores ranging from 46 to 48 might have a converted score of 128, and so forth.
Why are raw scores converted to scaled scores?
In a given testing year, there are many different test forms administered, any one of which you could see on your exam day. The different forms of the exam are designed to measure the same basic concepts and skills, but each form contains different sets of questions. While care is taken to make sure that each form is about equivalent in difficulty, one form may be slightly more or less difficult than another. The conversion of number correct scores to scaled scores, through a process called equating, compensates for small variations in difficulty between sets of questions. The exact conversion of number correct to scaled scores is not constant because each conversion is tailored to the specific set of questions included on a test form.
The scaled score, reported on a 15-point scale, tends to provide a more stable and accurate assessment of a student’s performance than the number correct score. Two students with equal preparation who answered different sets of questions would be expected to get the same scaled score, even though there might be a slight difference between the number correct scores each student obtained on their test form.
Is the exam graded on a curve?
Test takers often ask if obtaining a high score is easier or harder at different times of the testing year, or, in other words, if the exam is scored on a curve. For exams graded on a curve, a final score depends on how an individual performs in comparison to other test takers from the same test day or same time of year.
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.
Although there may be small differences in the form of the MCAT exam you took compared to another examinee (because you answered different sets of questions), the scoring process accounts for these differences. For example, a 124 earned on, the Critical Analysis and Reasoning section of one test form means the same thing as a 124 earned on that section on any other form. How you score on the MCAT exam is not reflective of the particular form you took or the group of examinees you tested with—the test date or the time of year—since any difference in difficulty level is accounted for when calculating your scaled scores (see above for information about scaling).
Why does it take a month to receive scores?
AAMC scales and equates each exam after each test day. This takes 30 to 35 days. The scaling and equating process is done to account for small differences in the difficulty of test questions when we convert the number of questions you answer correctly to the MCAT score scale. This time also allows students to submit any concerns they have about exam questions or testing conditions. The AAMC then reviews and investigates each concern. So, due to this careful analysis and review of feedback from each exam date, we aren’t able to provide a score immediately after you complete your exam.
Understanding Percentile Ranks
The percentile ranks provided on your score report show the percentages of test takers who received the same scores or lower scores on the exam than you did. They show how your scores compare to the scores of other examinees.
Every year on May 1, the percentile ranks are updated using data from the most recent three years. These annual updates ensure that the percentile ranks reflect current and stable information about your scores. This means that changes in percentile ranks from one year to another reflect meaningful changes in the scores of examinees, rather than year-to-year fluctuations. Updating percentile ranks is consistent with industry practice.
You can view the percentile ranks here. For more information, see the FAQ How do I understand my percentile ranks?
If you look at your scores in the Score Reporting System after May 1, you will see these percentile ranks. Please note that percentile ranks will not change much from one year to the next.