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  • Writer's pictureVik M

Why and How Medical Schools Use GPA and MCAT

As a hopeful medical school matriculant, you may know that your GPA and MCAT will play some role in how medical schools look at you. In this article, I will briefly go over why and how medical schools use these statistics. I have also listed the average GPA and MCAT for every MD and DO granting medical school in the United States in another article on the website.


Without a doubt, your undergraduate GPA and MCAT will play an essential role for medical school admissions. While there lies an individual behind every application, at some point, medical schools will have to choose who they have let into their doors. From their perspective, the task looks daunting as each medical school faces thousands of very qualified individual applicants in terms of experiences and character. Thus, GPA and MCAT come into picture to help provide a metric that can standardize applicants so that they can be sorted.


The foremost reason why medical schools consider GPA is because it is an indicator for your academic performance in medical school. A lot of times during the pre-medical journey, applicants get caught up in pursuing the innovation of research or developing their communication skills with patients. However, one thing to remember is that the medical school pre-clinical (first two years of medical school) curriculum is time-consuming, arduous, and labor intensive. It is going to be hard and there is no way around it. Medical schools want to ensure that you will have the academic prowess and ability to succeed. While GPA is certainly the biggest factor to ensure academic capability, it is important to remember that they will also be looking at the types of classes you are taking. Showing medical schools that you can not only take difficult upper elective science courses but also succeed with an A+ will help them be confident in your abilities. But, always remember that taking harder classes will not excuse a poor GPA. (This topic is further explored in a different article)


However, medical schools run into a problem. While GPA is useful for sorting applicants within each specific undergraduate institution, the variability of grading and difficulty of each school makes it hard to standardize applicants nationally. This is where the MCAT comes into play. The MCAT is used as a tool to standardize and rank all medical school applicants nationally. A common sentiment is that every pre-med shares is that the MCAT is difficult. And, that’s the point! Medical schools don’t want a test where 20% of the test-takers get a perfect score. How would they discern who to admit from those 20%?


Now, we talked a bit about why the GPA and MCAT are important in medical school admissions, but now let's talk about how they are specifically used. In terms of the entire context of your application, the common saying goes, “Your stats get you through the door. The rest of your application is what makes you stay.” What this means is that your GPA and MCAT have to reach a certain threshold before medical schools will even consider the rest of your application (the majority of times). Even if you have stellar extracurriculars, top 20 medical schools are not going to let you in with a weak MCAT and GPA.


Finally, in terms of the actual numbers, a good reference point for specific medical schools is their average GPA and MCAT, which is found in another article on the website. For overall competitiveness, I have attached a table below. These ranges are very approximate but will give you a good idea of where to categorize yourself.

​Competitiveness

GPA

MCAT

Uncompetitive (MD/DO)

< 3.5

< 499

Reach DO

3.5 - 3.6

499 - 502

Competitive DO / Reach MD

3.6 - 3.7

503 - 506

Reach low-tier MD

3.7 - 3.8

507 - 510

Competitive low-tier MD, reach mid-tier MD

3.8 - 3.9

511- 513

Competitive for mid-tier MD, Reach T30 MD

3.8 - 3.9

514 - 516

Competitive T30 MD, Reach T20MD

3.8 - 3.9

517 - 519

Competitive T20 MD

3.9 - 4.0

520+

Competitive any MD school

3.9 - 4.0

523+

*Historically, the statistics for DO (osteopathic) schools have been lower than MD (allopathic) schools. A large majority of candidates prefer to go to MD schools over DO schools. That is why the table is structured as so.

*Reach = Low/no probability of getting in

*Competitive = Good/excellent probability of getting in

*T20 and T30 = top 20 and top 30 respectively

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