Does the MCAT predict medical school and PGY-1 performance?

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Military Medicine








© Association of Military Surgeons of the U.S. All rights reserved. Background: The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a high-stakes test required for entry to most U. S. medical schools; admissions committees use this test to predict future accomplishment. Although there is evidence that the MCAT predicts success on multiple choice–based assessments, there is little information on whether the MCAT predicts clinical-based assessments of undergraduate and graduate medical education performance. This study looked at associations between the MCAT and medical school grade point average (GPA), Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) scores, observed patient care encounters, and residency performance assessments. Methods: This study used data collected as part of the Long-Term Career Outcome Study to determine associations between MCAT scores, USMLE Step 1, Step 2 clinical knowledge and clinical skill, and Step 3 scores, Objective Structured Clinical Examination performance, medical school GPA, and PGY-1 program director (PD) assessment of physician performance for students graduating 2010 and 2011. Results: MCAT data were available for all students, and the PGY PD evaluation response rate was 86.2% (N = 340). All permutations of MCAT scores (first, last, highest, average) were weakly associated with GPA, Step 2 clinical knowledge scores, and Step 3 scores. MCAT scores were weakly to moderately associated with Step 1 scores. MCAT scores were not significantly associated with Step 2 clinical skills Integrated Clinical Encounter and Communication and Interpersonal Skills subscores, Objective Structured Clinical Examination performance or PGY-1 PD evaluations. Discussion: MCAT scores were weakly to moderately associated with assessments that rely on multiple choice testing. The association is somewhat stronger for assessments occurring earlier in medical school, such as USMLE Step 1. The MCAT was not able to predict assessments relying on direct clinical observation, nor was it able to predict PD assessment of PGY-1 performance.

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