When applying to most medical school, having a good MCAT score is a key part of being a competitive applicant.
But what if you scored poorly on the MCAT or don’t want to take the MCAT at all?
Are there schools that do not require the MCAT? The answer is yes! There are several baccalaureate-MD programs, such as BA/MD, BS/MD, and BFA/MD that do not require you to take the MCAT.
In addition, there are early assurance and guaranteed admission programs, where you do not have to take the MCAT. Finally, there are also some DO schools and Canadian schools that do not consider the MCAT in their admissions processes.
This guide will go over these kinds of programs, what score you will need if you want to take the MCAT, how to improve your MCAT score, and how to get into med school with a low MCAT score.
BS/MD, BA/MD, & BFA/MD Programs That Don’t Require the MCAT
These programs allow students to complete both undergrad and medical school within the same institution. Each of them has its own specific admissions requirement and are usually extremely competitive.
In addition, you will have to meet certain standards during undergrad (such as maintaining a certain GPA or taking certain prerequisite courses). What these programs have in common is that they all do not require the MCAT to attend their medical school.
Here are some great schools with baccalaureate-MD programs that do not require you to take the MCAT:
- CUNY School of Medicine. Their BS/MD program emphasizes a holistic evaluation of applicants. Students can apply after they graduate high school.
- Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University. The BS/MD program at Marshall University offers West Virginia residents the opportunity to earn their BS degree and go right into medical school. After getting into the program, students will have to fulfill certain requirements to maintain their acceptance.
- Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University. The BS/MD program at Rutgers University does not require the MCAT if you have taken either the SAT or ACT. Their program takes 7 years to complete.
- University of Florida College of Medicine. Their Medical Honors Program (MHP) gives exceptional and motivated students the opportunity to complete undergrad and medical school in 7 years.
- University of Rochester. The Rochester Early Medical Scholars (REMS) program allows smart and talented students to go through undergrad knowing they have a spot ready for them in the University of Rochester Medical School.
- Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University. Their Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) allows students to complete both undergrad and medical school in 8 years.
Guaranteed Admission & Early Assurance Programs That Don’t Require the MCAT
An early assurance program (EAP) allows undergraduate students to secure a spot in their college’s affiliated medical school. Typically, students will apply during the the end of their second year of undergrad. However, some programs have students apply even earlier, such as during their senior year of high school.
An early assurance program is essentially the same thing as guaranteed admission. In most cases, they are just two terms used to describe the same idea, which is guaranteeing a spot in the medical school class by applying before the typical application cycle.
Double check with each program you are interested in to make sure they are referring to the same thing when they use these terms. Each program will have a different timeline and process for admissions.
One benefit to an early assurance program is not having to worry about requirements and daunting med school application timeline have to go through during their junior and senior years, such as taking the MCAT.
In addition, knowing that you have a spot in your school’s medical program can help ease much of the application stress that may have otherwise come with applying during the normal cycle.
Here are some great schools that have an early assurance or guaranteed admission program where taking the MCAT is not required:
- Dartmouth University Geisel School of Medicine. Third-year Dartmouth students that have met certain requirements are eligible to apply for the early assurance program.
- Georgetown School of Medicine. Georgetown students can apply during their fourth semester of undergrad (end of second year).
- Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. This early assurance admissions program emphasizes a holistic evaluation of applicants. As a result, they do not require the MCAT. Students who meet the eligibility requirements and are entering their second year of undergrad can apply.
- UC Riverside School of Medicine. The Thomas Haider EAP is open to both current UC Riverside students and recent UC Riverside graduates. It is geared towards aspiring physicians who are looking to practice in Southern California.
- University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences. Their Medstart early assurance program gives third year undergrad students the chance to apply to their medical school.
DO Medical Schools That Don’t Require the MCAT
Although the average MCAT scores for matriculants in DO schools tends to be lower than with MD schools, the MCAT still plays a major role in the application process. So, like with MD programs, there are not too many DO programs that let you skip the MCAT.
In fact, there is only one osteopathic medical school (and their associated campuses) that does not require the MCAT:
- Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. They do accept the MCAT, if you have taken it. Otherwise, they use your GPA and SAT/ACT scores to calculate an Academic Index Score, which they use to help make their admissions decisions.
Can I Get Into Med School Without Taking the MCAT
Yes, it is possible to get into certain medical schools without taking the MCAT. Though, you must keep in mind that the vast majority of schools require you to take the MCAT. As a result, your options become more limited should you choose to skip the exam.
Your best bet is to apply to one of the baccalaureate-MD programs mentioned in one of the sections above. The programs listed in that section do not require you to take the MCAT. Another option is to look for early assurance/guaranteed admissions programs that do not list the MCAT as a requirement.
Finally, the last option is to look for schools that do not require the MCAT for their traditional application route. There are some MD and DO programs where you will not need to take the MCAT to apply.
For example, the Avalon University School of Medicine, a Caribbean school located in Curacao, does not require its applicants to take the MCAT. However, taking the MCAT can help with placement into certain aspects of their program.
Some Canadian medical schools, such as the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, do not require you to take the MCAT. However, if you have taken it, they can factor it into their evaluation of your application.
>> Read More: How to Get Into Med School With a Low GPA
What MCAT Score Do I Need to Get Into Medical School?
A good MCAT score is, in general, 511 or higher. Scoring somewhere close to this number will make you a good applicant at most medical schools. Scoring below this number will decrease your chances of getting accepted into medical school.
If you want to get into a top-tier medical school, your MCAT score will need to be even higher. Typically, the average MCAT score for matriculants at these schools is around 520. Overall, a great MCAT score is considered to be 515 to 528 (the highest score possible).
The absolute minimum MCAT score is 472. However, scoring below 500 significantly reduces your chances of getting into any medical school. AAMC data from the 2017 to 2020 admissions cycles reported that only about 20% of applicants who scored less than 500 were accepted into any medical school.
How to Get a Better MCAT Score
Getting a good MCAT score is a challenging, but attainable goal. First, you will need to sharpen your studying habits and test-taking skills. Then you will need to bring your A-game on the day of the test by getting enough sleep, managing your energy, and controlling your test anxiety.
Here are the best things you can do to get a good MCAT score:
- Study, study, study. This should go without saying, but studying is key. You will be using all the good study habits you have developed during college to prepare for this exam. Focus on understanding concepts, making connections between topics, and critically thinking your way through information.
- Know how the MCAT works. Understanding the structure and content breakdown of the MCAT is important in being able to study for and take the exam. Ideally, you should not be surprised by anything the test writers throw at you.
- Take practice tests. You can take practice tests at different stages of your studying process. For example, you can take one when you start studying to get a baseline of how much you know. Then you can take another one midway to see if you have improved. When you have finished reviewing the test content, you should focus on taking as many practice tests as possible to get ready for the actual exam.
- Develop good test taking skills. Knowing the content on the test is one thing. Understanding how to take the test is another thing. You should spend some time practicing basic test taking strategies such as process of elimination, paying attention to keywords, and understanding the intent of the question.
- Follow a study plan. Creating a study plan will help you stay organized. There is a lot of content tested on the MCAT, so it is easy to quickly fall behind. You should plan for at least 3 months of studying for the exam. However, on average, students set aside 4 to 6 months to prepare.
- MCAT Question of the Day. There are several platforms that offer daily MCAT questions. Obviously, do not rely on these as your main source of studying. However, they are a convenient way to sprinkle in some review into your daily schedule. They can also help you hone in on topics you may be struggling with.
- Take a prep course. If you learn better when you have a structured schedule, then taking a prep course may be helpful. These courses vary in length and cost. Some of them may cost a couple thousand dollars. They are offered through a variety of formats, such as in-person, online, synchronous, and asynchronous.
- Get plenty of sleep the days leading up to it. Many college students get through their exams by pulling all-nighters. However, the MCAT is not a test you want to take while sleep deprived. A lack of sleep impairs your ability to think clearly, even more so considering the exam is usually around 7 hours long. Having good sleep hygiene on the days leading up the exam will ensure that your brain is working at an optimum level.
- Manage your test anxiety. Nerves during the exam is a common issue that stops students from scoring as well as they would like. There are many strategies to reduce test anxiety. The easiest way is to take a lot of practice tests in simulated conditions, so that you become more comfortable with the test environment. In addition, you can work with a therapist or other mental health professional to learn specific techniques to manage your test anxiety.
- Review concepts with other students. Discussing ideas and concepts with other students can be an effective study strategy. You will be able to identify gaps in your knowledge and also refine your understanding of the numerous topics on the exam. Not to mention, studying with friends can give you that extra boost of motivation you need to push through.
- Be familiar with the test center procedures. Be aware of what you can and cannot bring to the testing site. Make sure you have any required documents and identification. Finally, you should know how to get to the testing location and set aside enough time to commute, so that you arrive a little earlier than the start time.
How to Get Into Med School With a Low MCAT Score
If your MCAT score is low, you may be concerned about your chances of getting into medical school. Although the MCAT is an important objective component of your application, there are other ways to show admissions committees that you are a strong candidate.
This section will go over other parts of your application you can improve to make up for your lower MCAT score.
- Get a lot of clinical experience. One of the most important parts of applying to medical school is getting clinical experience, which involves providing patients with direct care. This can be done through paid work (such as working as a medical assistant before med school), shadowing, or volunteering. A significant amount of meaningful clinical experience can help boost your application, even if your MCAT scores are low. Clinical experience shows admissions committees that you have a strong grasp of why you want to enter the healthcare field as a physician. You can see the best premed and med school gap year jobs here.
- Have solid letters of recommendation. MCAT scores are an important objective part of the medical school application. However, they can only tell admissions committees so much about you. This is where letters of recommendation come in. A strong letter can help give schools a more complete picture of who you are, such as your work ethic, your interpersonal skills, and drive to succeed. These are all important attributes that cannot be revealed through an MCAT score.
- Write strong personal statements. If you have any life circumstances that may have contributed to your low MCAT score, you can mention them in your personal statement. This is your chance to explain not only how these circumstances have affected your academics, but also how they have shaped you into the person you are today. A strong personal statement does not make excuses. Instead, it shows how you have become a stronger applicant after getting past significant obstacles in your life.
- Apply to schools that take applicants with lower MCAT scores. Some schools are less competitive and accept applicants with lower MCAT scores. For example, matriculants at DO programs tend to have lower average MCAT scores than those at MD programs. The same can be said about the Caribbean MD programs, which accept applicants with less competitive stats.
- Maintain a good GPA. Having a strong GPA as close to 4.0 as possible can help strengthen your application, even if your MCAT score is lower than you would like. Maintaining a high GPA throughout college shows that you are consistent, have a strong work ethic, and take academics seriously.
- Get involved with extracurriculars. Medical school admissions committees value applicants who are involved, well-rounded, and have demonstrated success outside of a traditional academic setting. Ideally, you should get invested in a few causes that you really care about, instead of spreading yourself thin over many different activities. You should aim to meaningfully involve yourself by holding leadership positions.
>> Read More: Is It Hard to Get Into Medical School?