Medical School Admission Data by Undergraduate Major

The information presented here is adapted from the CMSC 838S Application Report Analyzing Medical School Admission Data by Vlad Morariu at the University of Maryland and presents medical school admission data from the Association of American Medical Colleges website for the year 2005.

Significant findings included: 1) Biological Sciences majors have low acceptance rates compared to most others and 2) by major, acceptance rates depend more directly on MCAT scores than on GPA.

Biological Sciences majors have low acceptance rates compared to most others

Even though most students who plan to attend medical school study majors in Biological Sciences, these majors do not have higher average acceptance rates than most others.  In fact, Figure 1 shows that Math and Statistics, Humanities, and Social Sciences all have higher acceptance rates than Biological Sciences! It is also interesting to note that Specialized Health Sciences have the lowest acceptance rate.  Figures 2 and 3 show that students in Biological Sciences have good scores in the Biology section of the MCATs (yet only tied for third place with Humanities!), but have poor scores in the other two sections. This hints to the possibility that the Biology section of the MCATs is not the most important in determining admission. Also, Figure 4 reinforces all of the points made so far, but also shows that the Math and Statistics majors are the smallest group of medical school applicants and have the largest acceptance rate. The Biological Sciences is indeed the largest group of applicants with only average acceptance rates.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Bar graph of total GPA and MCAT scores of applicants. Specialized Health Sciences majors perform the worst, and Math and Statistics perform the best.

Figure 2

Figure 2. This heat map again shows that applicants who are Specialized Health Science majors have the lowest scores in the three sections of the MCAT shown above. Not surprisingly, Humanities majors performed the best in the verbal section and Math and Statistics and Physical Sciences majors performed the best in the physical science section.

Figure 3

Figure 3. Bar graph version of data shown in Figure 2. The bar graph makes relationships between scores more evident, but does not provide an overview as quickly as the heat map.

Acceptance Rates

Figure 4. Acceptance rate for applicants. The size of the squares represents the number of applicants for each major and the color represents acceptance rate. Specialized Health Science has the worst acceptance rate, and although Math and Statistics applicants are few in numbers, they have the highest acceptance rate, followed by Humanities majors.


By major, acceptance rates depend more directly on MCAT scores than on GPA 

The last three graphs show how average acceptance rates are related to GPA and MCAT scores for each major. The first two show that Social Sciences is an outlier in both cases, and Humanities is an outlier when compared only with the science GPA. Thus, the GPA scores do not fully predict acceptance rates, at least when the averages are computed by major. When MCAT scores are compared with acceptance rates, the linear relationship becomes very evident. Thus, it seems that the acceptance rate per major is more closely related to average MCAT score than to the GPA of students in that major (even though MCAT scores are probably related to GPA, for the most part). When comparing only to the science GPA, it is not surprising that Social Sciences and Humanities do not fall in line with the other majors; though those majors might have weaker GPAs in the science classes, they have higher verbal skills that bolster their overall MCAT scores. However, the true relationship between acceptance rate and GPA or MCAT score might be more evident if each applicant's values were used instead of the average values per major.

Fig 4

Figure 5. Scatter plots of GPA, science GPA, and MCAT scores versus acceptance rate. Although a linear relationship is generally present, MCAT scores best explain acceptance rates.