Should I retake the MCAT?
It’s not uncommon for applicants to retake the MCAT, even during the same application cycle. But before you make your decision, take these factors into consideration. You might also want to refer to my post, “What’s Considered a Good Score on the MCAT?”
- Don’t compare your MCAT score with your classmates’ scores, but with those of students accepted to the schools you want to attend. For a lot of schools, a 28 or 30 is a very respectable number. If you’re set on going to others with higher MCAT averages (see the MSAR guide), you should probably retake it. Also, keep in mind, while improving your score will improve your standings with adcoms, you’re taking a risk that your score will go down on your second try, or that you won’t do any better. Neither of those outcomes will reflect well on you. In my opinion, when your question is “To retake, or not retake?” the most important thing to ask yourself is, “am I willing to put in time and effort I wasn’t willing to put in the first time around?” If you can answer yes and follow through, it’s likely that you’ll be happy with the score you get on the retake.
- Keep in mind that timing is everything. If you sign up for an early test date (let’s say April 1st), you’ll get your scores in 6 weeks and still have time to retake the MCAT that same year. However, if you wait much longer (say, July) to take the MCAT for the first time, you won’t see your scores until August, and retake would mean submitting your application long after most applicants have started receiving interviews. If you’re that guy, you might be better off taking your time to prepare for a retake and waiting a year to re-apply. There’s no shame in that.
- If you were extremely anxious your first time taking the MCAT, it’s very likely that a retake would go better, assuming you can relax a little the second time around. That’s because nervousness literally blocks high-level brain functioning. For example, I know someone who was pretty rattled his first time around and scored far lower than he was averaging on practice exams. But then, having taken it once already, he felt far more calm because he knew what to expect, and raised his score by a whopping 4 points on his second try. That’s huge.