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  • Writer's pictureVik M

MCAT and Step 1 Scores

Why do United States medical schools use the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)?

One of the reasons is that the MCAT can be used to predict your success on the Step exams. For context, the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a three-step examination for medical licensure in the United States. Step 1, Step 2 CK and Step 2 CS are the exams medical students must pass in order to be eligible for medical licensure. Thus, medical schools are incentivized to want students who will score well on the Step exams, because that means their students are more likely to be doctors, increase the chances for competitive residencies, and increase the prestige of the medical school.

Evidence for the correlation between the MCAT and the Step exams is found in a 2020 Cereus article. The title of this article is the "Correlation of Medical College Admission Test Scores and Self-assessment Materials with the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 Performance" and it was written by Zachary A. Seal, Wouter Koek, and Ramaswamy Sharma.

The study found that there is a positive correlation between MCAT scores (average score of 510.1 ± 6.3) and Step 1 scores (average Step 1 score of 246.1 ± 14.2). This means that students who scored higher on their MCAT had a higher chance of performing well on Step 1. As I mentioned, this can help students and program directors to have a better understanding of the candidate's readiness for the program, performance on the Step 1, and future success.

While that was the main point I wanted to make, there is some certain hidden valuable information in the article about preparing for the MCAT, which I have included below.

In addition to MCAT scores, the study also looked at the predictive value of practice tests from the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and UWorld. The study found that while new NBME practice tests were more predictive of Step 1 scores than old NBME tests, UWorld test scores were the most predictive.

It is important to note that the students who used the new NBME practice tests scored significantly higher than those who did not use them. Additionally, students who utilized any of the UWorld practice tests performed significantly better than those who only used NBME practice tests.

The study revealed that taking six or more practice tests had a significant positive impact on the Step 1 scores. The research determined that the ideal number of tests to take was between six and nine. Additionally, the updated Step 1 score predictor was found to be highly accurate, with a predicted score being within 3.8 points or 1.6% of the actual Step 1 score.


Seal Z A, Koek W, Sharma R (April 02, 2020) Correlation of Medical College Admission Test Scores and Self-assessment Materials with the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 Performance. Cureus 12(4): e7519. doi:10.7759/cureus.7519

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