If you want to enter medical school following completion of an undergraduate program, you must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and submit the scores to your prospective schools as part of your application package. The MCAT is a standardized admissions test that a majority of pre-medical students take to show that they have the base knowledge and skills necessary to complete medical school curriculum.

The 2015 MCAT Exam includes three different sections, and students must receive an acceptable score on each section before earning acceptance to a respected medical school program. What many prospective med school students do not realize is that their admissions scores will expire. If you are planning to take the MCAT after you graduate, but well before you apply to med school, you should find out just how long your scores are valid.

What is an Acceptable MCAT Score to Gain Admission to Med School?

If you want to become a licensed Medical Doctor practicing in the United States, you have no choice but to pass medical school. Once you complete a medical school program, you must also complete several years as a resident, where you will work under the supervision of another experienced physician. But before you are able to take courses in a med school, you need to first show the school’s admissions council that you possess the competency to grasp the advanced-level content that will be covered.

Every medical school has their own MCAT score requirements, and they can range dramatically depending on the competition. While admissions councils review both the undergraduate GPA and MCAT scores, you still need to score well on the test. The total possible score is 45 points, with each section of the test worth 15 points, and the average student will score a 24. While a competitive score is 30, students applying to the top-ranked med schools should aim to earn between a 34 and 36. You must remember that MCAT scores are taken much more seriously than other types of admissions tests when you are entering into an allopathic med school.

If You Earn a Stellar Score, How Long Will It Be Valid?

Preparation is extremely important when you are planning to take the MCAT. Since your score could make a difference in acceptance to med school, you need to allow extensive time for preparation and study; the MCAT content is not something you can cram right before the test. If you decide that you want to take the MCAT and apply for school at a later, you should be aware that your scores are only valid for three years. Some schools even limit scores to within two years of application date. If life happens and you are not able to apply for medical school within that timeframe, you must retake the MCAT exam.

Make sure that you are familiar with all of the medical school admissions requirements at least a full year before you plan on applying. Make a checklist and check each item off of the list as you satisfy the requirement. Take the appropriate coursework, earn acceptable MCAT scores, and get all of the references in order to market yourself as the best possible student.