What Is More Important For Med School: GPA Or MCAT?

When evaluating your academic performance, medical schools look at your GPA and your MCAT. But which one is more important? 

The quick answer is that it depends on the med school. Some schools prefer GPA as a metric because it represents a strong work ethic over a long period of time. While other schools lean more towards the MCAT because it’s the only standardized measurement of academics available. 

However, every med school agrees that both GPA and MCAT are very important. Although different schools may weigh one slightly over the other, large discrepancies between your GPA and MCAT will always look bad. There needs to be a relationship between your GPA and MCAT that makes sense. 

Your best bet is to achieve competitive stats in both. 

Sometimes though, this is just not possible. Students make mistakes. You may end up with a low GPA or low MCAT score and you’re hoping that one can make up for the other. 

Keep reading so that you can understand whether GPA or MCAT is more important for your specific situation. 

GPA/MCAT Correlation 

For the majority of students, GPA and MCAT are going to be positively correlated. Generally, the higher your GPA the higher your MCAT score will be.

However, we hear about cases where students have really high MCAT scores but low GPAs and vice versa. Why does this happen?

When students struggle with a low GPA due to having a rough start in their college careers, it’s common for these students to make up for their grades with a competitive MCAT score. So in these cases, we would see a low GPA with a pretty high MCAT score. 

It’s pretty common for these students to also have a strong upward trend in their grades. 

Further Reading: How To Get Into Med School With A Low GPA

On the other side of the spectrum, some students end up with a very high GPA due to attending a school with an easier-than-normal curriculum. Then they end up with a low MCAT score due to the fact that their classes didn’t prepare them as well. 

If this is the case, you really want to increase that MCAT score because the disproportionally high GPA will be suspicious. 

Does a High GPA Make Up For a Low MCAT?

Technically speaking, yes. A high GPA can make up for a low MCAT. This is due to the relationship between your GPA and MCAT which together explain your academic performance. 

However, the context of your GPA matters.

Are you attending a university that is notoriously easier? If this is the case, you need to increase your MCAT score because the GPA won’t help much. 

But on the other hand, if you are going to a top-tier college, a high GPA can help a lot with a low MCAT score. It would be easy to write off the low score as a fluke and prove you can handle a tough workload through your GPA. 

Can a Good MCAT Score Make Up For a Low GPA?

Yes, a good MCAT score can make up for a low GPA. Oftentimes this happens because students have a tough start freshman year but then really turn things around. 

Again though, if the difference between your MCAT score and GPA is very large, this will raise red flags. 

This Reddit user summarizes it nicely:

Is There A Point Where Your MCAT Score Is More Important Than Your GPA?

Yes, there is. When your GPA is above 3.5 you start to go into the bracket of students where the MCAT score matters more. 

Because at this point you are already in the competitive GPA bracket. Your MCAT score is going to be the true differentiator. It’s not too uncommon for students to get a 510 or better but it’s very uncommon to see scores that are 520 or better. 

There Are More Important Parts Of Your Application Than Your MCAT/GPA

We talked a lot about whether or not your MCAT or GPA is more important for getting into med school. But I want to remind you that your MCAT and GPA are only part of your application. 

There is a tendency for premed students to place a lot of emphasis on these two metrics. But as med school becomes more and more competitive, admission committees have been looking at applications more holistically. 

You need to make sure that you are spending time doing extracurriculars that set you apart from the crowd. Are you part of any clubs? Are you volunteering? Have you started any projects around your community?

In addition to this, you want to make sure you are getting plenty of clinical exposure so that med schools can see you know what kind of career you are getting into. 

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