The MCAT is a test students must take before being admitted to medical school. While some students may find these changes daunting, some medical school leaders say that although MCAT scores are significant, they’re just one piece of the pie.

Making the grade

“Medical school applicants are made up of more than just their MCAT score, but that score is certainly important,” says Heidi Chumley, MD, executive dean and chief academic officer at American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine. “Although there is no correlation to the type of physician that you will be based on your MCAT, there is real correlation as to whether or not you will meet the requirements to be licensed as a physician—mainly, passing the licensing examinations—based on your MCAT.”

“Success is not only determined by the student, but also by the learning environment their medical school creates for them: the curriculum and how it is taught, the culture, faculty, student support services and everything else that makes up their medical school experience.”

The MCAT, revised for the first time since 1991, will now include sections in natural, social and behavioral sciences, as well as a critical analysis and reasoning skills section, according to the MCAT website.

The value of a test score

Chumley pointed out that she herself viewed the MCAT as a tool used to sculpt the U.S. medical school student population. However, she observed that U.S. medical schools’ emphasis on the MCAT often limited opportunities for students who lacked high test scores but possessed other credentials characteristic of high achieving students and successful physicians.

According to a recent MCAT report, the mean MCAT score between 2011-2013 was about 25, the average MCAT score of incoming students at Chumley’s school. “We know these students, their

strengths and their drive,” she said. “Everything we do is centered on serving that student and empowering them to succeed as a caring, committed physician.”

She emphasized that students whose scores are close to that average are no less likely to succeed in medical school than a student admitted to a U.S. medical school with a 30 MCAT – as long as the school has the right pieces in place to enable those students to succeed.  

“Success is not only determined by the student,” Chumley said, “but also by the learning environment their medical school creates for them: the curriculum and how it is taught, the culture, faculty, student support services and everything else that makes up their medical school experience.”