Do schools take your best score, or average your score on multiple tries when you re-take the MCAT?
Whether or not it’s worth it to re-take the MCAT is addressed in a couple of other posts I’ve written, but I’ve dedicated very little attention to the impact on the adcom committees of multiple MCAT attempts. Is it a plus or a minus to have multiple MCAT scores floating around? And specifically, how do medical schools treat the scores? Do they take the latest, the best, or a conglomeration of your best scores? Do they average all scores? Do I get props for trying again and again?
The answers to all of the above are “yes.” Depending on the school, your scores might be massaged into a simple average, or an adcom may only consider your latest, or best score (the two may not be the same). Since none of your scores (when you re-take the MCAT) are hidden from the committee who determines your fate, is it a little risky to keep taking tests? Does it end up looking a bit desperate?
Let’s address these questions one by one…
Is it a plus or a minus to have multiple MCAT scores floating around?
The short answer is, it depends. On what? On the individuals sitting on the admissions committee, of course! If you ask, they’ll give you one of two answers: (1) “Taking the MCAT two or more times shows a student’s dedication and determination to show us his/her best.” It speaks to the applicant’s passion: that medical school, and eventually medicine, is the only career he/she would consider. In that context, multiple tests is a plus. Then there’s the second response (2): “Taking the MCAT more than once (especially to re-take the MCAT multiple times) shows a lack of confidence—or worse, a lack of abilities, and even the best score on the final try may not be indicative of the applicant’s abilities.” In short, if it takes four times to get a score that meets a school’s MCAT bottom line, then adcom committee members may be asking…”Can this student perform at the level needed to do well at our school?”
My response after hearing from numerous adcom committee members makes me lean towards answer (1). It probably won’t be a liability to re-take the MCAT more than once, though when you get to the third or fourth time, I might be more likely to jump to the reasoning adcom member (2) above uses.
How do medical schools treat the scores? Do they average all scores? Or do they take the latest, the best, or a conglomeration of your best scores?
“All of the above” is the only way to answer this all-encompassing question. Here are some approaches schools take to judging multiple MCAT attempts:
—Take the average of all scores
—Consider only the highest score
—Take the last score
—Consider the highest score from each section of multiple tests
You’ll need to ask the schools you’re planning to attend how they treat multiple scores before you decide to re-take the MCAT. If they take an average, and you take it twice, you would need to increase your score by four points to get a two point advantage. That might defeat the purpose of working so hard on the second try.
If, on the other hand, your school(s) take the best scores (or even better, the best sets of scores from different tests), you can see how your score could jump significantly with a second try.
Best set of scores
Looking at some policies for different medical schools, here are a few that take your best set (best test): Yale, VCU, Rochester, Tulane, St. Louis, South Carolina, Creighton, Albana and Boston.
Best MCAT scores
Then, here are a few who take your best scores (vs. set of scores): University of Virginia, UMass, University of Maryland, Colorado, University of Arizona, Tufts.
Most recent MCAT scores
And for those who take your most recent: Case, Baylor, E. Carolina, Texas A&M, Stanford, UC Irvine, University of Lousville, University of Oklahoma and Galveston.
Average MCAT scores
And schools that consider all your scores (either averaged or weighted using their chosen factors): George Washington, Georgetown, Loma Linda, Robert Wood Johnson, Iowa, U Tennessee, Memphis and West Virginia.
Do I get props if I re-take the MCAT again and again…
As I said above, I believe the extra effort you give to getting a good MCAT score (when you re-take the MCAT) will usually be rewarded. The only exception I would make is that if you take the test over and over without preparing carefully each time, it will show. If you keep getting disappointing scores, only to finally come through on your third or fourth try, it could transmit a message of mediocrity in your approach to your studies and your dedication to schoolwork. The first time you take the MCAT, put everything you have into preparing. If there’s a second time, same thing.
Your MCAT scores speak volumes
A study by AAMC in 2010 looked at pre-med students who took the test only once, compared with those who re-take the MCAT multiple times. The study compared all the different approaches by medical schools to count multiple MCAT attempts. It showed that repeaters who are given any more weight than a simple averaging of scores (taking highest, most recent or highest sections) did worse on their Step 1 tests than those with the same MCAT score. These same figures are not yet available for the 2015 MCAT, but it appears that med school applicants don’t get ahead significantly by taking the MCAT multiple times, because it simply skews reality as they take the Step 1 and end up in the same place their first MCAT score positioned them. In other words, the first MCAT (or an average of scores for multiples) is a good predictor of where a your abilities lie. Since med schools know this, more may be moving to the approach of using averaged scores rather than best scores.
Again, this reinforces the need for you to DO YOUR BEST the first time!
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