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Medical Schools Tiers and the Scores You Need

Written by Jack Westin on Nov 26, 2019

Although it’s not a perfect science, the various medical schools can be broken up into 6 different medical school tiers. Looking at them from this point of view will help you determine which schools you have a chance of being accepted to. You wouldn’t want to waste your time applying to only top tier schools when you don’t have the GPA or MCAT scores to be considered.

Jack Westin’s 6 medical school tiers will help you identify what requirements you need to fulfill for each tier so that you can decide which schools you should apply to.

Medical School Rankings

  • Top Tier Medical Schools
  • Mid Tier Medical Schools
  • Low Tier Medical Schools
  • D.O. Medical Schools
  • Canadian Medical Schools
  • International Medical Schools

Top Tier Medical Schools

The top tier medical schools consist of the top 10 medical schools in the United States. They are some of the most recognizable, and if you’re a medical student or are considering becoming one, you’ve probably heard of them. They consist of Harvard, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins, to name a few. 

Competitive scores for these schools include a GPA of 3.8 or higher and an MCAT score of 518 or higher. It’s also crucial that your MCAT score be evenly divided across all four sections, such as a score of 129 on each. If you have a high MCAT score but didn’t do as well on one section (126 or lower), it’s likely that admissions officers will no longer consider your score competitive. That being said, there are no guarantees when it comes to medical school admissions. Admissions officers look at your entire application, and your MCAT score is only one piece of the puzzle.

Mid Tier Medical Schools

The mid tier medical schools consist of schools that rank between 10-20. They include schools like UCLA, UCSD, and NYU.  

Competitive scores for mid tier schools include a GPA of 3.7 and an MCAT score between 508-516. A score of 508 with a 127 on each section is the least competitive, while a score of 516 with a 129 on each section is the most competitive. If your score on any section is below 126, it’s possible that your MCAT score will no longer be considered competitive. 

Mid tier schools take the same holistic approach to considering applicants as top tier schools. If you think your application is competitive but your MCAT score isn’t as strong as it could be, call the school and ask before you pay to apply.

Low Tier Medical Schools

The low tier medical schools consist of schools that rank outside of the top 20. They include state schools such as the University of Florida(UF) or the University of Colorado(CU). 

Competitive scores for this group include a GPA of 3.5 or higher and an MCAT score of 508 or higher. If you scored a 124 on one section of the MCAT, you could still be competitive, but scoring a 124 on two sections might take you out of the running. For low tier schools, it’s best to score a 127 on each section. 

D.O. Medical Schools

D.O. schools are the fourth most competitive tier. They include schools such as the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM), and the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM). 

Competitive scores for this group include a GPA of 3.3 or higher and an MCAT score of 500-508, with around 125 on each section. 

Canadian Medical Schools

The fifth group is the Canadian Medical Schools, such as Laval University, or the University of Toronto. 

When it comes to the MCAT, the schools in this group really only care about one section of the MCAT: CARS. To be competitive in Canada, you will need a score of 128 or higher on the CARS section. Canadian admissions officers won’t look too closely at your scores on the other sections of the MCAT. Instead, they are more likely to take your science GPA into deeper consideration.  

International Medical Schools

The sixth group is International Medical Schools, which are schools outside the United States and Canada, such as schools in the Caribbean or Israel. 

Competitive MCAT scores for these schools vary considerably, with many medical schools in Israel having similar standards to schools in the United States, whereas schools in the Caribbean often do not. It’s best to check with these schools directly if you’re considering applying. 

Is it possible to get into med school with a low GPA?

It is possible, but not altogether probable. Admissions officers will be looking at your past success in order to predict your future success, so your GPA is a critical indicator for them, especially when it comes to your science GPA. That being said, admissions officers will be looking at your entire application, including your MCAT score, volunteer work, and leadership capabilities. If your GPA shows improvement over time, that will also be taken into consideration, as it indicates a clear ability to improve upon previous mistakes. 

Can you get into medical school with a low MCAT score?

This, as well, is possible, but not very likely. Your MCAT score isn’t everything, but it is still a key piece of your application. 

If your total MCAT score is less than 500, it is unlikely you will be accepted to any MD programs, and likely not to any D.O. programs either. If you’re unhappy with your MCAT score, keep in mind that you can take the test again.

💡 Worried your MCAT score might not be high enough to qualify for the medical school tier you want? Watch our video on whether or not you should retake the MCAT.

Build A Medical School Application That Stands Out

Applying to medical school is a confusing, tedious, and time-consuming process. Understanding which school you are best suited for based on the quality of your application is a big part of the battle. 

Whether it’s choosing which schools are the best fit for you, writing a personal statement, or preparing to take the MCAT, we will guide you through the entire application process. We help our students reach their full potential on every aspect of their medical school application.

Our team of editors and advisors (including Jack) have years of experience and are ready to help you overcome any challenges that may stand in your way.

Join the Waitlist for Medical School Admissions with Jack Westin.



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