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Should I Retake the MCAT?

Many students who have just received their MCAT scores contemplate whether or not they should retake the exam or hold off on their applications to medical school. Unfortunately, the answer is not cut and dried and not just a matter of what a student has scored. It is individual for everyone and although an applicant is the only one who can decide whether to retake the exam, here are a few things for students to consider when making this decision. Read through the following questions and think about each one. Students may wish to sleep on their decision and then make the choice that they feel is best for them.

Can I 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 – there is also the risk of going down in one or more of the test’s categories. Many schools look at the most recent set of MCATs, which needs to be a consideration. Applicants may wish to ask themselves the following questions:

How did I prepare for the exam? Did I take a prep course?

Do I feel like I did not have enough time to devote to MCAT study because of work or classes?

How did I feel the actual test went – Did I feel ok? Was I overly anxious? Did I have enough time? Were there other distractions on test day?

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? Were you 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?

How was my score?

This is a tough question to answer. The national average MCAT score of applicants admitted to allopathic medical school is around a 509. Some schools have suggested that their ideal is to see scores in the 85th percentile range which is currently about a 511.

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?

Most schools have acceptable averages for each section. Ideally you want to be at or above the 85th percentile for each section. 

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. The average overall GPA for those accepted to medical school in recent years is a 3.7. The average science GPA (or BCPM) is a 3.64. 

What is my overall BCPM GPAs?

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

These are national averages and applicants with lower GPAs from Columbia absolutely get into medical school. It is just helpful to use these numbers as a gauge. You should speak with a premedical advisor to get a sense of what your GPA means in terms of the overall strength of your candidacy. 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 a student be a more competitive applicant if they waited another year, took additional coursework, retook the MCAT, and added additional experiences to their resume?

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