It depends on the med school. But, the easy answer is: MCAT.
Some med schools believe that GPA is a better indicator of future success because it measures your work ethic and determination. However, your MCAT score is the only factor that is completely objective. It is the only factor that can compare all students evenly.
Admissions counselors can support every decision they make with a student’s MCAT score, and they have no problem making definitive answers based on your MCAT.
But, some schools will place equal importance on MCAT and GPA.
Some med school admissions counselors use a metric to form an aggregate value of your GPA and MCAT score. They use this complex metric: MCAT + (GPA*10) - 1, which boils down to every 1 point of your MCAT being equal to 0.1 point of your GPA. Think of it this way, you get one point for each point on your MCAT, and an additional point for each 0.1 point of your GPA.
So, if your combined MCAT score is 25, and your GPA is 2.5, your aggregate score is 50. But, it’s not that simple because it’s not all about your aggregate score. Most colleges have MCAT/GPA benchmarks that you must meet to be considered.
You can look through our MCAT tutors to get a sense of what a strong med school candidate looks like.
Top med schools want to see a strong balance between your GPA and MCAT. In theory, you could score a 38 on your MCAT (which will put you above most med schools’ average score) and have a 2.9 GPA. That would yield an aggregate score of 67, which is fairly competitive. But, most schools would rather see a 3.5 GPA and an MCAT score of 32.
Some top schools require at least a 3.5 GPA and at least a combined MCAT score of 30. And if you don’t have these scores, you won’t even be considered. A 3.5/30 will make you relevant at most medical schools, but you may need 3.5/33 to be competitive. A high MCAT score can bring up a lower GPA – and vice versa – but only to a certain extent. A low score on either will draw red flags, making you unlikely to be accepted.
Other schools look at your objective factors as a checklist, meaning there is no real difference between a 3.9 GPA and a 3.6 GPA. If you have a 3.5 or better, you meet that credential, and then you are still being considered. This can be the same for your MCAT score.
Learn how MCAT tutors can help you improve your chances of acceptance into a top med school.
But, 3.5 is the minimum GPA you should achieve, and anything less than that could hurt your chances of being accepted into a top medical school.
Med school admissions counselors all say they look at students holistically, considering GPA, MCAT, experience, interview, research, resume, etc. However, at most schools, you have to get past the GPA and MCAT benchmarks first.