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Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Retake the MCAT

The average MCAT score of all MCAT test takers is 500.9. According to the AAMC, 53,371 students applied to medical school in the 2019-2020 application cycle. The average MCAT score of these applicants was 506.1 but the average MCAT score of matriculants was 511.5. Considering that a 511 is an 83rd percentile MCAT score and a 512 is an 85th percentile, this means that the average matriculant to medical school received an MCAT in the top 15% of all MCAT test takers. It is no wonder that now, more than ever, there is enormous pressure on potential applicants to score well on the MCAT.

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The best scenario for anyone is to only take the MCAT once. Unfortunately, the test is designed to have average MCAT score of about 500, which means at least half the test takers get 500 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 no more than three times. 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 510-512s on your practice AAMC exam but scored much lower on test day, this is a good reason to retake the MCAT. The lower score 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 4-5 points better you should definitely retake.

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 512 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 average MCAT score of matriculants is 512. You must understand your limitations. If you already tried your best and got a 512, then unfortunately you will have to let go of your dreams of Harvard Medical School. 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 giving yourself more time to prepare for the exam (in the case that you were burnt out before your test) or as difficult and complex as completely changing your study schedule and working with an MCAT tutor. Don’t expect to magically improve your score without making any proper adjustments.

4. Are you an underrepresented minority?
Ethnicity does matter for admissions. It’s an effort to bring more underrepresented minorities into medicine. If you wrote a 510 and are an African-American, your score is competitive for many MD school in the nation because the average MCAT of an African-American matriculant is 505.7. However, if you are Asian, the average MCAT of a MD matriculant is a 513.9, meaning you will most likely have to retake the MCAT if you want to be a competitive applicant.

||Read: Diversity In Secondary Medical Applications||

5. Do you have a balanced sub score?

Not all MCAT scores are created equal. If you get a 131 Chem/Phys 123 CARS, 129 Bio/Biochem, and 130 Psych/Soc, that is very different from a 128 Chem/Phys 128 CARS, 129 Bio/Biochem, and 128 Psych/Soc. While both scores are a 513, 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 CARS score. 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 124, especially CARS, 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.

||Read: Path To Medical School Part 4: How Do I Know That I Want To Become A Doctor?||

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.

Edward Chang

Edward Chang is the Co-founder and Director of Operations of He graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is currently a urology resident at the University of Washington. He also attended UCLA as an undergraduate, graduating with a major in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. If you are interested in contributing to, please contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @EdwardChangMD and Prospective Doctor @ProspectiveDr.

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