How is the MCAT Scored?

An MCAT score report consists of three portions: Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Verbal Reasoning. These sections are marked on a scale of 1-15, for a total of 45. In 2013, the average applicant scored a 28.4 overall, while the average matriculant (accepted student) earned a 31.3. An explanation of what each result means in regard to percentiles can be found here.

It is important to note that the examination is not curved against others who sit for the same assessment. The AAMC utilizes a formula, which is not public, to project the percentage of test-takers who will answer a question correctly. They then assign numerical ranges to the test based upon this data. This can prove frustrating, as the percentage needed to earn a specific numeral score varies from MCAT to MCAT. However, it is relatively consistent across tests and accounts for the difficulty of different versions of the examination. When completing practice tests, a detailed score report with ample information about performance on specific types of passages, question types, and subjects is provided, but a score report from a true test contains just the 1-15 score for each section. Here are five strategies for MCAT practice tests that you may want to use.

Biological Sciences consists of biology and organic chemistry, but it is typically geared heavily toward biology. Physical Sciences consists of general chemistry and physics. When individuals discuss the science portion of the test, they are referring to these two sections. Both contain 52 questions that must be answered within 70 minutes. Both also contain stand-alone questions and passages. The passages frequently involve analyzing experimental data, while the standalone questions are generally fact-based. This portion of the MCAT essentially covers the 100-level biology, general chemistry, and physics courses, as well as the 200-level organic chemistry classes that are typically required for applying to medical schools. Exam content differs significantly from the finals generally assigned in those classes, in that it is more concept-oriented than detail-oriented. Calculators are neither permitted nor useful for this portion of the test, as any calculation that is required to arrive at an answer will be very basic. 

The Verbal Reasoning portion involves no outside knowledge, but requires a significant amount of time practicing techniques in order to feel comfortable with it. There are 40 questions from seven passages, which must be answered in 60 minutes. The passages vary drastically in terms of content, requiring analysis of historical, persuasive, philosophical, and scientific writing. It is impossible to predict what type of passages will be presented. Certain selections are simple in nature, while others utilize elaborate vocabulary and complex sentence structures. They can thus be difficult to comprehend. A number of strategies exist for addressing these passages, but one key to understand is that no outside knowledge should ever be used to answer the questions. The MCAT requires the test-taker to analyze the text itself for all responses.

The MCAT can only be completed at specific testing centers, must be registered for well in advance, and utilizes rather stringent security protocols that are explained in detail on the day of the assessment. It is a computerized test and breaks are permitted between portions of it. However, test-takers may not leave the testing center or use their cellphones during these breaks. While studying for the test, you may want to consider an MCAT tutor.