After getting your MCAT score back, if you missed the mark you set by even just a little bit or unfortunately a lot, you're likely wondering if you should retake the MCAT.
You're not alone. A lot of top MCAT scorers felt the same way when they wrote the MCAT the first time and got a disappointing score. How do we know?
We've researched and interviewed hundreds of top MCAT scorers over the last several years with the sole purpose of figuring out how they studied for the MCAT, what strategies they used, how they scheduled their prep, and more.
Now we bring all those insights to you and other premeds in the MCAT Mastery Community who want to increase their scores quickly.
We know that getting your MCAT score back marks the end of one of the biggest hurdles to achieving your med-school dream. For some, it's not a clear cut answer if the hurdle has truly ended.
We get that struggle. Some of us at MCAT Mastery faced it ourselves.
Andrew Mannisto for example (an MCAT Mastery tutor), almost gave up his doctor dream after his first MCAT. He made his second MCAT attempt three years later and killed it with a 21 point score increase. You can read his story here after you're done reading this article.
Last year, AAMC data reported that 24% of MCAT takers took the test more than once from 2015-2017. After all, medical school admission greatly relies on your GPA and MCAT score.
To make the best call, we recommend taking the following steps and asking the following questions. We'll explain each one in depth.
Common Questions To Consider When Deciding If You Should Retake The MCAT
"Does retaking the MCAT look bad on med-school applications?"
Often many premeds worry that a retake the MCAT will make their application look bad and are uncertain to risk that not-so-good score for multiple scores that scream "retaker".
Medical schools evaluate multiple scores in a variety of ways. Some may consider your highest score, some may take the average, some consider all scores but weigh the most recent one heavily. Others even look at the highest section scores for all your tests.
A good strategy to help you decide is to ask your target school’s admission office on their system of evaluation.
Now keep in mind that retaking doesn’t necessarily give you a bad image. In fact, how it impacts your application depends on you. Retakes only look bad if you do not improve your first score or worse, go even lower.
Taking the exam again to raise your score also means you were willing to go through the tedious task of studying and preparing which demonstrates your drive and commitment to get into medical school.
"How many times am I allowed to take the MCAT?"
According to the AAMC website, in a lifetime you are allowed 7 attempts. Not only that but the frequency of taking the MCAT is also limited to 3 times a year and 4 times in two years.
Your testing limit also counts voids and no-shows so it’s important to decide well on planning your retake in order to not waste your allowed takes.
Choosing to retake also means scheduling exam applications and readjusting your timeline.
With that in mind, it’s vital that you ask yourself the right questions in order to make a final decision whether to go through the MCAT struggle a second time...
Deciding On MCAT Retake: How To Objectively Evaluate Your Current Score
First you need to consider if you reached a score that makes you a competitive applicant in the medical school you are targeting. This means you should research well about the school’s evaluation system and see to it that you have a well-balanced score to meet that.
Also, it’s important to note that you may be aiming for a very high score and not meet that but still get a decent score.
Check the breakdown of your score to see if you appear weak in areas that your target school places great weight in.
Ideally, you want to be in or above the 85th percentile.
Another rule of thumb is checking if one of your section scores are five or more points lower than below others. In this case, a retake might be necessary.
Does your first MCAT score reflect your true ability?
Look back on your exam day and think about how satisfied you are with your performance.
Examining how you did on your actual test day is a good way to gauge if you want to redo the exam to get the score that you want and believe you can achieve.
Look back to your official practice exam scores (that best predict your performance) and if they are consistently great and higher than your actual MCAT score, then that might be a sign that you can achieve a higher score.
Also, it’s important to not only listen to the people around you about your test result but to self-reflect and do an honest critique of yourself.
What was your MCAT test day like?
Did you have personal difficulties during your preparation or on test day?
If you had an illness, personal struggles or think that the circumstances were not in your favor during your first MCAT, then that might be a valid consideration in choosing to retake.
Have you evaluated what went wrong for your first MCAT and made a plan to improve?
Do you have a good understanding of what went wrong and have the plan and time to address it?
If you already have a strong sense of the mistakes or what you failed to do in preparation of the MCAT, then what you need next is a concrete plan to change that if you are considering a retake. For example, you may want to shift your focus to subjects that you are actually weak in.
It’s also essential that you are certain that you have enough time for preparing for the MCAT again, plus time to apply your revised plan to improve your score. Don’t push for a retake if you’re only going to have to rush your prep.
If you need a mentor to look over how you prepped for the MCAT, what you did wrong, create a strategic MCAT schedule for you, show you how to increase your scores in certain sections, show you how to prep for the MCAT as a re-taker, and keep you sane going through this the second time, then feel free to work with one of us one-on-one 🙂
The Key To A Successful MCAT Retake: How To Reestablish Your Goals and Create A Concrete Plan of Action
When you do decide to have a retake, top scorers recommend that it’s important to remind yourself of what exactly you are aiming for.
Remember to review your target medical schools’ evaluation system and refamiliarize yourself on topics they put great importance to. Set your goal score with the other aspects of your application in mind.
Also make a list of the things you want to change or improve on for the next exam.
If you are deciding to retake the MCAT, then we HIGHLY recommend you read our detailed article on how top scorers retook the MCAT. Read it here.
Remember, in the end, it’s still all up to you. You know yourself better than anyone and retakes should be done only when you feel comfortable and up to the challenge.
If it’s in your best interest and you believe in your capabilities and dedication, then go for it.
Also be wary of overthinking your scores. If you already have a particularly high score or have amazing credentials to boot, then you might want to rethink putting yourself into the grueling task of preparing for the MCAT again.
If you’re still doubting, then know that retaking the MCAT is not the end of the world. It might derail your plans, but it’s a choice that can propel you forward to that medical school dream.
You got this,
The MCAT Mastery Team
Your "MCAT Success" Mentors