Should I Retake the MCAT?

Should I Retake the MCAT OR DAT?

It’s important to know that the MCAT is not a test you should plan to take multiple times, the way you might have with the SAT/ACT. It is a long and expensive test and your plan should be to give yourself many practice tests but then just take it once officially. However we realize that the best laid plans don’t always work out. If you receive your score and you aren’t happy with the outcome and are wondering whether to retake the exam or postpone your application, here is some information that might help with your deliberations.

The answer about whether to retest or postpone is not cut and dry–unfortunately it’s not just a matter of what your score is. The answer is individual for every applicant. Read through the following questions and think about each one. After you spend some time reflecting on these points, you should also schedule an appointment to discuss your particular situation with a premedical advisor. 

Can I realistically do better?

Some students feel like they were as prepared as they could have been the first time that they took the test, and even with more studying, they are NOT confident that they could do better. Remember – with a retest there are three options for your new score: go up, stay the same, or go down. Two of the three possibilities are not optimal. There is the very real risk of going down in one or more of the test’s categories. Many schools look at the most recent set of scores, which needs to be a consideration. Some will look at the highest of the last two administrations. Applicants may wish to ask themselves the following questions:

How did I prepare for the exam? Did I like the materials I used? Did I take a prep course or utilize a number of different prep materials?

Do I feel like I had enough time to devote to test prep or was I spread too thin because of work or classes?

How did I feel the actual test went – Was I overly anxious? Did I have enough time? Were there other distractions on test day? Did I finish all the sections or did I have to guess on a few questions?

What are my current commitments? Do I have time to truly dedicate myself to re-preparing for the exam?

What is the relative risk of going down on any section? Was I surprised by a higher score than expected on any sections? 

Do I feel that my score accurately reflects my ability? Is it basically in sync with what my practice scores were?

Looking at my past history, how have I tended to perform on standardized tests?

Am I mentally prepared to take on the task of retesting? Do I have the motivation and energy required?

If I am planning to apply this cycle - do I have enough time to retest without it negatively impacting the timing of my application? 

Is my score strong enough to apply?

This is a tough question to answer. The national average MCAT score of applicants admitted to allopathic medical school changes every year but generally hovers around the 510-512 range. Some schools have suggested that their ideal is to see scores in the 85th percentile range. 

What schools do I want to apply to? What are their average MCAT scores and gpas?

What was my breakdown? Are there individual scores that may be viewed as a weakness?

Ideally you want to be at or above the 85th percentile for each section. Are there any sections particularly low? Is my low section(s) ones that I think I could improve?

Are there any other considerations that can be taken into consideration when interpreting MCAT scores? Students should consider whether or not they've got learning challenges, or whether English is their second language.  

How competitive are the other aspects of my application?

It’s important for students to view themselves realistically. It can be helpful to talk to a premedical advisor to help you accurately assess the strength of your application. 

What are my overall and BCPM GPAs?

Are my grades at the average, above the average, or below the average?

There are national averages and Columbia averages for successful applicants and it’s important to meet with a prehealth advisor so you can compare yourself with other Columbia applicants as the national averages can be misleading. Numbers are not everything and medical schools do practice holistic review. However, there are ranges at which the likelihood of success drops quite low. A premedical advisor can help you assess the overall strength of your metrics.

Would I be a more competitive applicant if I  waited another year, took additional coursework, retook the MCAT, and added additional experiences to my resume?

Taking additional time before applying will almost always make an applicant a stronger candidate. Because the trend is overwhelmingly in favor of applicants taking gap time, slowing down the process to gain experience and greater maturity is often a good idea.  Another year of strong grades or another year of greater job responsibility can help make your candidacy more competitive amongst such a deep applicant pool. This is a good topic to discuss with an advisor. Although gap time is a positive thing, what is right for each individual really varies.


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