"Should I retake the MCAT?" may seem like a question with easy answers, but as with most aspects of medical school admissions, the answer can be complicated. While many medical schools in Canada and the US have clear MCAT score cutoffs, the decision to retake the MCAT is never a simple one.
In this article, we'll help you make an informed decision about whether you should retake the test or try to get into medical school with a low MCAT. If you decide to continue with plans to retake the MCAT, read on to find tips to improve your study and prep strategies leading up to it.
Disclaimer: MCAT is a registered trademark of AAMC. BeMo and AAMC do not endorse or affiliate with one another.
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How Medical Schools Consider MCAT Scores
Albany Medical College – All lifetime scores visible; looks for upward trend
Albert Einstein College of Medicine – All lifetime scores visible
Anne Burnett Marion School of Medicine at TCU – Minimum score 40th percentile
Baylor College of Medicine – No minimum score for consideration
Boston University Aram V. Chobanian & Edward Avedisian School of Medicine – All lifetime scores visible; Super score (average of best scores from each section of each test)
Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University – All lifetime scores visible; Super score (average of best scores from each section of each test)
California Northstate University College of Medicine – Highest total; 497 minimum
California University of Science and Medicine-School of Medicine – Last 3 years of scores visible; 504 minimum preferred
Carle Illinois College of Medicine – Highest total. Last 3 years of scores visible; Minimum score 498
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine – All lifetime scores visible
Central Michigan University College of Medicine – All lifetime scores visible; minimum 500
Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University – Highest total; minimum 497
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science College of Medicine – Considers latest MCAT score but all lifetime scores are visible at time of application
Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science – Last 3 years of scores visible
Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons – Highest total
Cooper Medical School of Rowan University – All lifetime scores visible; 507 required for early decision
Creighton University School of Medicine – Latest score considered but all scores are visible; minimum 498
CUNY School of Medicine – No minimum score required
Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell – Highest total, all scores visible; minimum score 50th percentile
Drexel University College of Medicine – All scores are reviewed, special interest given to most recent
Duke University School of Medicine – Highest score from one specific test; minimum 500
East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine – Reviews all scores within last 2 years prior to application
Eastern Virginia Medical School – Looks at highest score and number of times taken; minimum 502
Elson. S Floyd College of Medicine at WSU – Highest total; MCAT in combination with GPA is considered for secondary application; If GPA is between 3.8 and 4.0, 27th percentile score is required. If GPA is between 3.4 and 3.79, 43rd percentile is required. If GPA is between 2.6 and 3.39, 61st percentile is required
Emory University School of Medicine – All scores visible. Will consider your first 3 MCATs only. If you have more and scores are within their mean, you can request an exception; minimum score 514
Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine – All scores visible, highest total
Florida State University College of Medicine – All scores visible, highest total; minimum 498
Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University – Highest total
Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine at the University of South Alabama – Most recent score
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth – Last 3 years of scores visible; minimum 503
Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine – Highest total; does not consider super scores or composite scores
George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences – All lifetime scores visible. Super score (best scores across all sections and tests)
Georgetown University School of Medicine – Last 3 years of scores visible
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine – Highest total
Harvard Medical School – Holistic review
Howard University College of Medicine – Minimum score 494
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai – Highest total. Lifetime scores all visible. Uses Super score.
Indiana University School of Medicine – Last 3 years of scores visible
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo – Highest total
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine – Highest total. Last three years of scores visible
Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine – Last 3 years of scores visible
Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California – A single strong score is best, but all scores are considered
Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV – Takes latest score as official score. Score must not be more than 3 years old. Taking the test more than 3 times is not recommended; minimum score 499
Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University – All scores visible, but only most recent score is considered
Loma Linda University School of Medicine – Lifetime scores are visible
Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans – Most recent score
Louisiana State University School of Medicine in Shreveport – Lifetime scores visible
Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine – Scores are considered holistically, lifetime scores are visible
Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine – Last 3 years of scores visible; minimum 498 preferred, but if applicants are within 1 or 2 points, exceptions can be made if applicant’s submissions are strong
Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine – Highest total. Scores reported within 3 years of applicant’s matriculant year are considered ; minimum 508
McGill University Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences – Highest total; 80th percentile is considered competitive typically
McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston – Highest total. Lifetime scores visible
Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University – Lifetime scores visible ; Less than 496 not considered competitive
Medical College of Wisconsin – All scores visible. If an applicant has multiple scores, the best scores from the two most recent exams are combined to create the best overall score
Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine – Highest score. All scores visible. Highest composite MCAT score is factored into applicant’s competitiveness; minimum 496
Meharry Medical College – Considers latest score but all are available
Mercer University School of Medicine – minimum score 25th percentile
Michigan State University College of Human Medicine – Emphasis on most recent score. Allows for consideration of multiple scores; trends and highest sectional sub-cores will be used for context
Morehouse School of Medicine – Highest total; minimum score 494
New York Medical College – Most recent
Northeast Ohio Medical University – Highest total; 498 or above preferred
Northwestern University The Feinberg School of Medicine – Emphasis is on most recent score and trends
Nova Southeastern University Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine – Highest total
NYU Grossman School of Medicine – All lifetime scores visible
Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine – Highest score. All scores are visible; minimum 495
Ohio State University College of Medicine – Holistic review
Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine – All scores are available but highest score is factored into admissions priority score; minimum 497
Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine – Last 3 years or scores are available, all will be reviewed
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania – Most recent score
Ponce Health Sciences University School of Medicine – Highest total; minimum 494
Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University – Holistic review
Robert Larner, M.D., College of Medicine at the University of Vermont – Considers all scores, emphasis on highest score
Rush Medical College of Rush University Medical Center – Highest total. All scores visible
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School – All scores visible
Rutgers, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School – Most recent are reviewed, though trends and timing are considered; minimum score 498 with 123 in each section
Saint Louis University School of Medicine – All scores visible, highest taken into consideration
San Juan Bautista School of Medicine – Highest total. Scores have 30% weight in final admissions evaluation; minimum 495
Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University – MCAT considerations and requirements not listed.
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine – All scores are seen but most recent used; minimum 498
Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at the University of Utah – Highest total; minimum 500
Stanford University School of Medicine – Highest total, all scores visible
SUNY Upstate Medical University Alan and Marlene Norton College of Medicine – Most recent
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University College of Medicine – All scores visible
Texas A&M University School of Medicine – Highest total, all scores visible
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Paul L. Foster School of Medicine – Highest total
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine – Highest total; minimum 500
The University of Texas at Tyler School of Medicine – Best score from past 5 years from the year of application submission is used in the evaluation process; minimum 492
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine – Highest total, all scores visible
The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences – Highest total; minimum 496
The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University – Holistic review
Tufts University School of Medicine – Policy is to consider all lifestyle MCAT scores but note highest score total
Tulane University School of Medicine – Highest total
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine – All scores visible; minimum 496
Universidad Central del Caribe School of Medicine – Highest total; minimum 495
University of Alabama at Birmingham Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine – Most recent score; minimum 495
University of Arizona College of Medicine – Highest total. Last 3 years of scores visible; minimum 498
University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix – Highest total. All scores visible; minimum 500
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine – Highest total. Last 3 years of scores visible
University of California, Davis, School of Medicine – Highest total
University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine – All lifetime scores visible
University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine – All scores visible
University of California, Riverside School of Medicine – Highest score written within the last 3 years
University of California, San Diego School of Medicine – All scores visible
University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine – Last 3 years of scores visible. Most recent score
University of Central Florida College of Medicine – Last 3 years of scores visible. Holistic review; minimum 500
University of Chicago Division of the Biological Sciences The Pritzker School of Medicine – Views all scores
University of Cincinnati College of Medicine – Highest total
University of Colorado School of Medicine – Highest total
University of Connecticut School of Medicine – All scores visible
University of Florida College of Medicine – Highest total; minimum 495
University of Hawaii, John A. Burns School of Medicine – All scores visible
University of Houston Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine – Highest total
University of Illinois College of Medicine – Non subsection thresholds, will consider all attempts
University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine – Last 3 years of scores visible; minimum 500 total and 123 in each section
University of Kansas School of Medicine – Highest total
University of Kentucky College of Medicine – Highest total
University of Louisville School of Medicine – Most recent score is primary consideration; minimum 494
University of Maryland School of Medicine – All scores visible. Holistic review; minimum 500
University of Massachusetts T.H. Chan School of Medicine – All scores visible
University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine – Highest total; minimum 504
University of Michigan Medical School – All scores visible. Highest total
University of Minnesota Medical School – Last 3 years of scores visible; minimum 495
University of Mississippi School of Medicine – Highest total. All scores visible
University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine – Highest total; minimum 494
University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine – Highest total; minimum 500
University of Nebraska College of Medicine – Highest total. All scores visible
University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine – All scores visible; minimum 497 (500 for out-of-state applicants)
University of New Mexico School of Medicine – Highest total. All scores visible; minimum 494
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine – Most recent scores; minimum 500
University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences – Looks at most recent total score and breaks it down into each of the 4 areas
University of Oklahoma College of Medicine – Most recent score; minimum 492
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine – Highest total
University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine – Last 3 years of scores visible; minimum 490
University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry – Highest total, in context with other materials
University of South Carolina School of Medicine Columbia – Highest total. All scores visible
University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville – Highest total. Last 3 years of scores visible
University of South Dakota, Sanford School of Medicine – Highest total. All scores visible; minimum 496 composite score
University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Medicine – All scores visible
University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School – Highest total
University of Texas Medical Branch John Sealy School of Medicine – Highest total
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine – Highest total. All scores visible
University of Texas Southwestern Medical School – No minimum score
University of Toronto Temerty Faculty of Medicine – Only most recent score considered; minimum 125 in each section, allowance of 124 in one section
University of Virginia School of Medicine – Most recent
University of Washington School of Medicine – Most recent. Minimum score varies each year
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health – All scores visible; minimum 500
USF Health Morsani College of Medicine – Last 3 years of scores visible
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine – Super score; minimum 70th percentile
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine – Average of all scores taken within 12 months
Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine – MCAT requirements and considerations not listed
Wake Forest University School of Medicine – Highest total. Last 3 years of scores visible; minimum 502
Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine – Highest total; If undergraduate GPA is:
- 3.8–4.0, cutoff is 27th percentile
- 3.4–3.79, cutoff is 43rd percentile
- 2.6–3.39, cutoff is 61st percentile
Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine – Highest total
Wayne State University School of Medicine – Highest total. Last 3 years of scores visible
Weill Cornell Medicine – MCAT requirements not listed
West Virginia University School of Medicine – All scores visible; Scores above 50th percentile preferred
Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine – Most recent score; minimum 497
Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine – Considers scores within the last 3 years when making a decision; minimum 495
Yale School of Medicine – All scores visible
If you would like to watch a video on Retaking the MCAT, check this out:
Canadian Medical Schools
University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine – MCAT is not a requirement
University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry – No MCAT minimum for Albertan applicants. Non-Albertan applicants must score at least 128 on CARS
Université de Montreal Faculty of Medicine – MCAT considerations and requirements not listed
Université de Sherbrooke Faculty of Medicine – MCAT is not used in admissions
The University of Western Ontario - Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry – Scores from most recent test are used; all sections are considered. Results accepted if the test was written no more than five years prior to current OMSAS application deadline
Queen’s University Faculty of Health Sciences – MCAT considerations and requirements not listed
Northern Ontario School of Medicine – MCAT is not admissions requirement
Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty of Medicine – All scores visible
McMaster University Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine – Only uses CARS section score in two section formulae. Considers most recent score; Minimum CARS 123
Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba – Highest total
Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine – Minimum MCAT score is determined in relation to GPA. Refer to table.
University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine – minimum score 124 in each section
University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine – Most recent score; Minimum score set by admissions each year
How Important is My MCAT Score?
Along with your undergraduate GPA, your MCAT score is a central quantitative measurement of your academic proficiency. It may seem like any other standardized test, but the way admissions committees look at your MCAT scores is actually fairly complex. Although there are some medical schools that don’t require MCAT, the majority do. So, let’s focus on what the MCAT means. Here are the two main reasons admissions committees care so much about MCAT scores:
1. MCAT is a purported indicator of future success
To start, it’s important to understand that the MCAT is seen as a significant indicator of future success in both medical school and a career in medicine. Why? In large part, this is due to the specificity of information tested by the MCAT. Its four sections cover fields that are fundamental to becoming a competent medical professional, regardless of specialty. For instance, doing well on the MCAT biology questions in the BBLS section is so integral to medicine that it’s considered a predictor of successful USMLE-1 scores and is therefore given extra attention by many medical schools. Similarly, your performance on MCAT psychology and MCAT chemistry questions will be scrutinized by medical schools. Admissions committees want to see that you not only have potential to be an effective medical practitioner, but that you can also excel in future examinations required to get you into the field fully.
2. MCAT is used to “rule out” certain applicants using cutoffs
Admissions committees will therefore often use the MCAT score as a first-round evaluative tool, with low scores almost always overshadowing more qualitative elements like your extracurriculars for medical school and recommendation letters. Given how many applications these committees sort through, many admissions teams will utilize hard cutoffs on the MCAT and GPA to “thin the herd” immediately. All the public service and flattering words in the world can’t replace the dire reality of a 480 MCAT score. On the bright side, a good MCAT score can help offset a weaker/sub-median GPA. It won't compensate for a poor personal statement or a lack of letters of recommendation, but the relationship between GPA and MCAT scores is fairly linear, meaning that more of one can, to a small extent, make up for less of another. If your GPA and MCAT are both on the lower end of acceptability, retaking the MCAT is a prudent and necessary move.
How Often Can I Retake the MCAT?
You can take the MCAT up to 3 times during a given year, 4 times in a 2-year period, and 7 times in your lifetime. Note that if you sign up but are a no-show for the exam, this counts toward that total. Even with a gap year before medical school, odds are you’ll be working within that middle ground of 2 years, so we’ll just say 3–4. If you’re thinking about a 6th or even 7th test, you should definitely consider MCAT private tutoring or an MCAT prep course, or even medical schools that don’t require the MCAT.
Of course, just because you can retake the test doesn’t mean you necessarily should. Deciding to retest demands a significant investment of time, money, and energy, so before you commit to doing so, there are some crucial factors to consider. Among them, you will need to know how to study for the MCAT, which we will explore later on.
Are you looking for a shorter MCAT study schedule?
Should I Retake the MCAT?
Determining if your current score is high enough is naturally the first question you should answer when considering a retake. About 95% of examinees have tested at most once or twice, but only about 1% of people will take the MCAT more than three times. Obviously, the rate of retesting lowers as the number of retakes increases. If you have decided to retake the test: don’t panic. Plenty of students do it and succeed as a result.
You should be aware of a few stipulations to consider when you’re deciding to retake the test, and what your new results should accomplish:
1. You must show an upward trend
An important caveat when comparing your score is that you absolutely must score better on a retake. Retaking the test and getting a lower score signals a lot of negative things to admissions committees, not the least of which is the fundamental suggestion that you may not be learning from your mistakes.
2. Make changes to your prep to guarantee success
If your original MCAT study schedule and practice program failed you, then you should be able to prove your adaptability by making changes that have a positive impact and consider aspects such as MCAT timing that are affecting your score. Adaptability and flexibility are vital qualities in both medical students and practicing physicians, and you don’t want to give the impression that you lack either. Some students will need to consider how to improve their MCAT reading comprehension, or a new CARS strategy for slow readers. It all depends on your results and what your weaknesses are.
3. Look at percentile scores to know what to aim for
Tests are retaken by students at all ranks, but most test retakers are in the 66th percentile or lower. Many schools don’t just have a threshold, they consider MCAT scores based on other scores that year; they care as much about the percentile in a given cohort as they do the raw number. This is what schools mean when they say they are looking for “competitive” scores. You can use that as a factor in deciding for or against a retest.
With that said, evaluating whether your score is sufficient is your first step, long before considering ways to improve your preparation strategy. There are three main components to evaluating your score, each of which is important.
Some things to keep in mind if you are considering retaking the MCAT:
Overall Score Distribution
The AAMC has provided an extremely helpful table charting the overall acceptance rates based on GPA and MCAT. Some basic guidelines can be pulled from this data:
School-Specific Averages and Thresholds
The above numbers are an overall average created by combining data from all surveyed medical programs. However, each school has their own average MCAT data based on the statistics of prior year’s matriculants. Additionally, most medical schools will provide an MCAT bottom threshold or “floor” for their matriculants to even be considered.
Take the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine in Minnesota. Among the most prestigious medical programs in the world, its median matriculant GPA was a whopping 3.93 and MCAT score a staggering 520 – not a small feat for any student, and keep in mind these are median numbers! A fair share of students admitted to the Mayo Medical School will exceed even these lofty achievements. Going back to the AAMC’s table above, a student with a 514 MCAT and 3.7 GPA could, in a vacuum, appear to have a 66.5% chance of being admitted. However, the school-specific numbers for Mayo put this MCAT score decisively in the lower end of possibility and would almost assuredly initiate a retest if Mayo Medical School is the only school you are applying to.
Cutoffs add another level of brutal clarity to these comparisons. Continuing with Mayo as our example, they note on their admissions page that their MCAT threshold for further consideration is the 75th percentile, meaning a score of 508 at least. So, our beleaguered imaginary student with a 507 is unlikely to receive a secondary application.
Keep in mind, not every school has an explicit, or at least public, MCAT threshold, so while you should seek these out by consulting their admissions materials as well as the AAMC’s MSAR database, it’s possible you’ll have somewhat limited matriculant numbers to work from. Ultimately, though, retesting in many senses is a drastic and very demanding measure. Unless your heart is set on only 1 or 2 schools where your MCAT and GPA are too low, you should instead consider finding other schools whose thresholds are more accommodating to your performance.
Score Scaling by Race/Ethnicity
One last component in determining your MCAT score’s viability is the potential for weighting based on race or ethnicity. Many, if not most, medical programs are mindful of maintaining a racially and ethnically diverse student body, so additional consideration may be given to students from historically underserved or economically disadvantaged groups. We can see on the AAMC’s table of Matriculant MCAT data by Race/Ethnicity that the average student identifying as either White or Asian is admitted with an MCAT score of 512.6 or 514.4, respectively, while students identifying as American Indian or Alaskan Native matriculated with an average MCAT score of 504. Students identifying as Black or African American matriculated with an average MCAT score of 505.7.
If your MCAT score is below your racially adjusted average then you absolutely should consider retaking the test. That 507 is well below average if our hypothetical student identifies as Asian, and as such should be a clear indication that they should retest. In general, though, scaling based on race and ethnicity is tricky to extrapolate for many schools, so you should in most cases defer to comparisons based on overall and school-specific numbers, and consult racial/ethnicity averages only to clarify the former two.
How Do Medical Schools Handle Multiple MCAT Scores?
Medical schools use one of three methods for consideration when a candidate has multiple MCAT scores:
Pros and Cons of Retesting
- Improve your score -- The first and most important advantage of taking the MCAT again is that you’ll have an opportunity to get a higher score than you did before. According to the AAMC, the median gain was two to three total score points for examinees who tested a second time with initial scores ranging from 472−528. So, many applicants can reasonably expect gains if they take the MCAT a second time.
- Revise your strategy -- Sometimes, the reason applicants don’t get a desired score on the MCAT on their first try is an inadequate study strategy. Perhaps they didn’t study enough because their schedule was inefficient. Errors like these can be fixed if you decide to take the MCAT again, which will likely result in a higher score.
- You won’t have to limit your choices -- If your score prevents you from getting into the school you’ve always dreamed of going to, you might consider taking the MCAT again. Keep in mind that as shown in the list above, many schools will consider all your scores, while others will consider only your most recent ones. It might be better for you to apply to schools that evaluate only the most recent score, so keep that in mind before you decide.
- The exam is stressful -- Preparing for the MCAT is a long, difficult process to endure. Taking the MCAT once can take a toll on you, so doing it again is not ideal. Making sacrifices with your time an energy to improve your performance should be taken only if necessary.
- Medical schools will see all scores -- As you will see from the above, most medical schools will have access to all your scores. They will take each into consideration, so even if your second or third score is better than your first, there’s a chance that one bad score can still ruin your chances of getting accepted.
- Your score might be lower -- Of course, there’s always a chance that your retest score is worse than your previous one. This would be a result of inadequate preparation, or a failure to realize the mistakes you made in your preparation the first time around. Therefore, you will need to make sure that you have an effective study plan and consider using an MCAT tutor.
Check out how MSAR can help you get into medical school.
How to Use School-specific Information to Apply Strategically
Once you’ve researched your preferred schools and identified their MCAT criteria, you may be wondering how to use that information to actually influence your application. Let’s say you just scored a 510 on the MCAT and your top-choice medical school has an MCAT requirement of 512. You’re just below the cutoff, and retesting can boost a score over that 512, statistically speaking, so why not study hard, retake the test, and get that boost?
You remember to check the school’s multiple MCAT test policy, and it turns out they average the tests. If you score 512, your average will be 511 – better than 510 but still not the threshold. Alternatively, you could have a worse outcome and test at 508 the second time, bringing your average down to 509. In that circumstance, it might be a better idea to just sit at the 510 and count on your GPA, medical school secondary essays, letters of recommendation, or other aspects of your application to speak for you.
Before making the decision, though, see if you can find out what the average MCAT is for matriculating students at the school. Some schools have a lower MCAT average than their theoretical cutoff point. If they do, there may be other factors you can use to get accepted. Be sure to look at all factors, as discussed above, in deciding if and when to retake the MCAT.
If you’re still unsure about retaking the MCAT in light of the scoring criteria above, there are a few more non-quantitative considerations before committing to retesting.
Need to increase your MCAT score? Watch this:
When Is It Advisable Not to Retest
The most obvious time to not consider a retest is if you honestly feel you have brought your very best game to the MCAT, and you will not get a higher score. You are the only person who can truly answer whether you have more to give, so apply as much self-analysis as you can to move forward. Some questions you can ask yourself are as follows:
1. Is your MCAT score important to the school you are applying to?
Get to know the admissions processes of your top-choice schools. A difference in method could change your results. Queen’s University School of Medicine, for example, has a step-by-step review process, first reviewing GPA, then moving on to MCAT only if you meet the GPA standard. In this case, you can’t rely on the whole of your application to get you over a deficiency in any one area, and your decision might be different depending on your scores. In other words, a holistic assessment of your application may affect the extent to which your MCAT score has influence.
2. Is your application aligned with your top-choice schools’ priorities?
You do some research and find out that the schools you are applying to don’t place much weight on the MCAT, or place more weight on GPA or essays, or something else. Don’t bother using up your time to study for a test that isn’t influential for these schools.
3. Is your application otherwise strong?
The MCAT is only one part of your application. If you have a robust GPA and an impressive record of accomplishments – lab work or research papers, for instance – the MCAT might not drag you down. You might be better served, in that circumstance, to let your overall record speak for you.
4. Does your application need work?
The inverse might, paradoxically, be true. Say you have a good MCAT – maybe not great, but okay – and you have one more course to finish up; furthermore, you need this course to boost your GPA. You know you have to devote a lot of time to that course and the rest of your application, so you might want to focus on that, instead of tackling something that isn’t likely to be a major problem. Remember, to retake or not is a question that can only be answered by carefully considering multiple inter-related factors. If you think another aspect of your application needs more attention than your MCAT score, you may want to skip retaking the test.
5. Is this your fifth time retaking the test and your scores aren’t changing, no matter what you do?
Taking the MCAT once or twice is normal. Taking it three or four times isn’t unheard of, but if you need to take the MCAT over and over again, just the act of retesting could, eventually, become a point of concern for a medical college – especially if you are only getting average scores each time.
You might find yourself looking at test score after test score that reads “501” or within one or two points of what you need. If this “tight grouping” appears in your scores, regardless of your study strategy or how you change up your approach to the test, it may be that a higher number won’t materialize.
However, when you improve, it tells a different story. So, if you retest, make sure you are improving. Even getting the same score a second time looks bad on an application because it may indicate that you aren’t learning from your mistakes, are unsure of yourself, and don’t have forward momentum. A lower score or the same score isn’t good; improvement is the only option.
6. Do you even know why you didn’t score higher?
If you can’t imagine how to study better, how to approach the test while you’re taking it, or how you can achieve a higher score, you won’t be able to correct your approach. See if you can articulate what you can do better. The more specific you can get, the better your chances of improvement; if you cannot articulate a problem, you cannot fix it, but if you can name the problem, you can come up with ways to surmount it.
If you can’t imagine what went wrong, but you know you need to retest due to a low score, you should enlist the aid of a keen outside eye on your MCAT prep. A tutor or MCAT teacher will be able to pinpoint your problems, identify what went wrong and give you strategies to compensate and improve your score.
Check Out Our Video Here For More Discussion of Diagnostic Tests:
If You Decide to Retest…
So, you’ve decided that you want to retake the MCAT. Great! You have done a thorough evaluation and know you only stand to gain by taking a second test. How do you make sure that history won’t repeat itself? Adopt a winning strategy to hit the score you need.
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The main takeaway with all of these considerations is that you should start preparing and studying for the MCAT as early—and as intelligently—as possible, and if your first attempt doesn’t meet the criteria above, you shouldn’t despair. Retaking the MCAT once or even twice is not uncommon, despite serial retakes being frowned upon. Don’t let an initial defeat dash your hopes of a career in medicine, and by all means make a very careful and calculated decision when it comes to retesting. Utilize experts, stay focused, but relax! Much of what you’re being tested on is information you’ve already absorbed in one way or another, and it’s entirely possible to bomb the MCAT due to nerves short-circuiting your recall. Part of the value in adopting a good strategy is to minimize, if not eliminate, incessant doubt or second-guessing throughout your preparation, so make good plans and trust them. There’s plenty of time to let the adrenalin flow when you’re serving a residency in emergency medicine—don’t burden these early ordeals with panicked self-sabotaging.
1. Should I retake the MCAT?
Because retaking the MCAT is such a demanding and drastic choice, the answer to this question is ultimately “only under certain circumstance.” If your most recent test was bad—but not bad enough to consider scrapping the MCAT entirely—then maybe. If you have your heart set on a specific school or schools, and your MCAT or GPA misses their cutoffs, then maybe. In general, retesting should be viewed as a last resort under specific circumstances—not a haphazard decision based solely on bumping your score up a few points.
2. Is there a lowest acceptable score for the MCAT?
Not exactly, but based on current data a score below 498 should warrant a retest. As always, consult the admissions information provided by the specific schools to which you’re applying.
3. How high should my MCAT score be?
In general, don't settle for one specific score. Prepare, study, and aim to get the highest score possible in your first test sitting. Don't settle for the minimum requirements, which is likely to discourage your study habits and determination. If you're applying to extremely competitive programs, though, you'll want to aim for their school-specific matriculant median score, regardless of overall data. So with that last point in mind, the only explicit number that applies is what your chosen schools accept; don’t just look at their cutoff number, aim for the numbers that actually get in to the school. Otherwise, aim high and do your best.
4. How can I improve my MCAT score?
You’ve come to the right place to ask that question! In addition to combing through practice chemistry questions and physics prep guides, we recommend talking to an MCAT tutor or admissions expert to fully flesh out a strategy that fits your time and energy levels. Practice may not make perfect, but it can get you out of the 500s and toward that lofty 520 a lot better than simply rereading your course notes for the millionth time (though you should do that too!).
5. Should I retake the MCAT if I scored especially poorly on a specific section?
In most cases, no, although there are some exceptions to this. McMaster, for instance, only looks at scores in the CARS section, so if your overall score was decent but your CARS score was bad, you may want to consider retaking the MCAT. If you find yourself in a situation like this though, you should spend a great deal of thought considering whether another school that doesn't weigh a specific section would meet your needs.
6. What school has the highest median matriculant MCAT score?
New York University's Grossman School of Medicine and UPenn's Perelman School of Medicine both top the charts with a staggering 522 median matriculant MCAT score.
7. What school has the lowest median matriculant MCAT score?
With a shared median accepted score of 499, the two schools friendliest to lower-scoring students are the Universidad Central Del Caribe School of Medicine and the Ponce Health Sciences University School of Medicine, both in Puerto Rico. However, there are numerous schools that don't require the MCAT at all, which should warrant your consideration if you've scored poorly on your initial test.
8. How many times can I retake the MCAT?
You can take the MCAT up to 3 times during a given testing year, 4 times in a 2-year period, and 7 times total in your lifetime.
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