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6 Reasons to Retake the MCAT

8 min


A group of pre-med students retaking the MCAT in a prometric testing center.


Despite months of studying, the day of the MCAT may not go as planned and leave pre-medical students considering whether a retake is necessary. Though the AAMC allows taking the MCAT up to three times per year, it is best practice to minimize the number of times this exam is taken. The golden rule of thumb is to not take the MCAT more than three times before applying and to aim for an upwards trend in the score. Medical school admissions committees will often consider your highest score, but some can consider the average of all scores, or consider all scores but weigh your recent score most heavily. 


There are risks associated with retaking the MCAT that must be considered before committing to a retake. First, it is possible to score lower, which would look worse than not retaking the test in the first place. Also, an increase of one or two points falls within a normal score variation and will only confirm the accuracy of your previous score. Finally, dedicating more study time to the MCAT will take away from other activities that could enhance your application, such as better grades, research, or volunteering activities. 


So what are the reasons that can solidify your decision for a retake?


1. An Unforeseen Event Around the Time of the MCAT


If you experienced a personal difficulty or illness around the time of the test, it is likely that this affected your ability to concentrate and possibly even study effectively for the test. Perhaps you considered postponing at the time, but the circumstances made this difficult, and you ended up taking it anyways, with the hope that it will work out. Given that you are no longer experiencing difficulty in your personal life, this is a great reason to prepare and retake the MCAT.


2. You Were Not Well-Prepared the First Time


Studying for the MCAT generally requires a full-time two months of commitment. If the first time around, you did not spend enough time studying, it is possible that you may increase your score if you retake the exam. You should strongly consider a retake if you did not complete UWorld at least once, did not get through review books, or left some subjects not reviewed. It is common for pre-medical students to underestimate the difficulty of the MCAT. 


3. You Scored Significantly Higher on Your MCAT Practice Tests


If your practice test scores from AAMC and UWorld exams were significantly higher, it is likely that you had a bad test day. Unfortunately, this can happen, and a retake would likely serve you well in this case. However, before you retake the test, reflect on your test day and try to identify anything that may have contributed to your performance. Did you have significant anxiety that made it difficult to concentrate? Did you have a bad headache? Was something else going on in your life that made you worried? Address any factors that influenced your test-taking ability on that day. 


4. Your Score is Not Competitive for Medical Schools


As you have likely heard, medical schools often use the MCAT score and GPA as ways to screen out applications. Schools get thousands of applications every year and there is not enough workforce to review all of these. Since the MCAT is a strong predictor of performance on the USMLE exams, which you will need to take in medical school, it is understandable that this number is so important. If your score is low enough to get your application screened out by most schools, you should retake the MCAT. Getting screened out significantly lowers your chances of a medical school acceptance and unfortunately, it can be a waste of financial resources to apply with the knowledge that medical school admissions committees will not look over your application. 


5. One or More of Your MCAT Section Scores Are Low


Just as medical schools use the overall score to screen out applicants, they often also have cut-offs for each section of the score. Again, if one or more of these section scores is low for you, even if your overall score meets the cut-offs, it is a good idea to study more, focus on your weak sections, and retake the test. 


6. You Know Exactly How to Address the Main Issue


Finally, you should only retake the test if you know what went wrong and have a clear plan for addressing the issue. You must also have the necessary study time. 


Though there are risks and benefits to retaking the MCAT, the above reasons are strong indicators that you should retake it. If you would like further guidance on creating a study plan and improving your score, you should consider hiring an MCAT tutor. Elite Medical is here to help! Schedule your free consultation today to hear about what we can do to help you reach your MCAT goals!

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