In a 2012 survey, 51% of medical school admissions officers said that an applicant’s MCAT score is the most important part of his or her application. According to the AAMC , the average MCAT score of matriculants was 31.2. In 2001, the mean MCAT was 29.6. It is no wonder that now, more than ever, there is enormous pressure on potential applicants to score well on the MCAT.
The best scenario for anyone is to only take the MCAT once. Unfortunately, the test is designed to have the median score range from 24-25, which means at least half the test takers get 25 or below, a score too low to meet most medical school standards. This means that a large percentage of people will probably need to retake the test if they want to go to medical school. In the event of retaking the MCAT, it is best to retake the MCAT only once. You definitely do not want to retake the MCAT more than twice. If you are one of those people who have already taken the MCAT and weren’t satisfied with your score, here are some questions you need to ask yourself before you decide to take the test again.
||Read: Should I Retake the MCAT?||
1. Was your actual MCAT score reflective of your ability?
If you were averaging 33+ on your practice AAMC tests but on the real test, you scored a 30, this is a good reason to retake the MCAT. The 30 is more likely due to nerves, pressure, lack of sleep, or sickness than lack of knowledge and ability. If you are confident that you could score at least 3 points better you should retake. However, if you studied to the best of your ability and still couldn’t get the score you were aiming for, there is little reason to believe that taking another test will result in an improved outcome. At this point, you might be better suited to accept your score and apply for lower tier schools or possibly even consider other career options.
2. What schools are you aiming for?
Before you retake the MCAT, it is essential to know what kind of schools you are reaching for. For example, if you scored a 31 and the schools you want to apply to are top tier schools, you will most likely need to retake. However, if your goal is to get into any medical school, then there are many MD schools like Loma Linda or Rosalind Franklin where the average MCAT score of matriculants is 30. You must understand your limitations. If you already tried your best and got a 31, then unfortunately you will have to let go of your dreams of Harvard Med. Be realistic about your goals and try to meet them to the best of your abilities.
||Read: How Do I Decide What Schools To Apply To?||
3. What would you do differently to perform better?
If you are going to retake the MCAT, you need to use a different strategy. Obviously the strategy you used before did not work and a change needs to be made. The change could be as simple as taking a day off before you take the test (in the case that you were burnt out before your test) or as difficult and complex as completely changing your study schedule and taking a MCAT prep course. Don’t just expect to magically improve your score without making any proper adjustments.
4. Are you an underrepresented minority?
Like I said in my previous article, ethnicity does matter for admissions. It’s not racism; it’s an effort to bring more underrepresented minorities into medicine. If you wrote a 30 and are an African-American, your score is competitive for almost every MD school in the nation because the average MCAT of an African-American matriculant is 26. However, if you are Asian or white, the average MCAT of a MD matriculant is a 30, meaning you will most likely have to retake the MCAT if you want to be a competitive applicant.
5. Do you have a balanced sub score?
Not all 35’s are created equal. If you get a 15 on Biological Sciences (BS) and Physical Sciences (PS) but a 5 in Verbal Reasoning (VR), that is very different from a 13 BS, 11, PS, and 11 VR. The applicant with the second score has an advantage in admissions. Medical schools could screen out the applicant with the first score due to a poor VR. Many schools even have cut offs for their applicants. Even though schools make exceptions, often times, a low sub score in any section can lead to an automatic rejection. So, if any of your sub scores are below 7, especially VR, you should heavily reconsider retaking the MCAT.
6. How badly do you want to become a doctor?
In a sense, the MCAT is a weeder. The test is supposed to be hard to “weed out” less committed applicants. Thus, the MCAT works to not only challenge your scientific knowledge, but also your drive to become a doctor. Are you willing to go the extra mile in order to improve your score? Are you ready to make the necessary sacrifices to overcome the MCAT hurdle? If you are honest with yourself and you know that you’re not, the post MCAT time might be a good time to re-evaluate your future.
Retaking the MCAT is a big commitment. Therefore, before making the decision to it, do your research and be well informed. You don’t want to retake the MCAT if you don’t have to.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ProspectiveDoctor. Follow ProspectiveDoctor on Twitter @ProspectiveDr