To learn more about your options without retaking the exam, check out Part 1 of this series.
Your MCAT score is crucial to making it to the interview stage of the medical school application process. For those with low MCAT scores who want to attend a US allopathic medical school, the only real option is retaking the MCAT.
Decision Time: You DO Retake the Exam
If you are committed to obtaining an MD, then you should plan to retake the exam. You may take it up to 3 times in a year and 7 times in your lifetime. Ideally you want to ace it the second time, but it’s not uncommon for applicants to take it multiple times. This can demonstrate your persistence and determination to get into medical school. However, it is important to show an upward trend. Schools may average the scores, but they tend to give the latest score the most weight, and dropping even a few points can hurt you.
If you do decide to retake the MCAT, give yourself plenty of time. Too often, applicants sign up for a June or even July test date in the year they want to apply. If they don’t score as high as they hoped, they can’t retake until August or later, requiring they even submit late or push the whole process back another year. Be smart and schedule the test as early as you feel you’re ready.
Keep in mind that many students do not prepare enough for the MCAT, thinking that their coursework is sufficient preparation. This is a faulty assumption, especially for applicants who struggle on standardized tests. Applicants need to study hundreds of hours over several months to review and prepare for the test. Applicants should utilize preparatory courses, private tutors, and varying prep approaches to succeed. Applicants need to have real discipline to do the necessary work – 40 hours a week for several months. It is also extremely important to take practice tests regularly (ideally weekly) in order to master not just the content but also the necessary test-taking skills to succeed under the additional test-day stress.
A last piece of advice: Do not take the test unless you are scoring (on practice tests) above the range that you feel you need for admission. The confidence you possess on test day knowing you were scoring a 512 on practice tests is a large part of the mind-game you must master to succeed. Hard work, discipline, and true motivation are the necessary ingredients to MCAT success.
An experienced medical school admissions consultant can help you figure out which programs to apply to and how to craft an admissions strategy that will get you accepted. Click here to pair up with an expert and get started!By Cydney Foote, former administrator at the University of Washington School of Medicine and author of three ebooks about medical education. Cyd has successfully advised medical school and residency applicants since 2001. Want Cyd to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• Applying to Medical School with Low Stats: What You Need to Know, a free guide
• A Cure for MCAT Anxiety and Lots More MCAT Advice, a podcast episode
• Should I Retake the MCAT – How the Adcom Views Multiple MCAT Scores