If I re-do the MCAT, what do schools look at first…my best score or the latest?
Bottom line: I’m planning to re-do the MCAT….does retaking the MCAT look bad?
First things first: when you re-do the MCAT, the world will know it. Each and every score will be visible and available to any adcom that receives your packet.
So what are some re-taking the MCAT tips? Is it a plus or minus to have multiple MCAT scores floating around? And how are multiple scores treated: do adcoms consider just the latest score, or do they only take your best? Or are scores averaged and massaged into one “virtual score?” The bottom line question is: do pre-meds get credit for multiple tries, especially when their score improves?
The answers vary, depending on the school. At some schools, multiple 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). In what cases is it a little risky to keep taking tests? Could it end up looking a bit desperate? What’s the best MCAT retake advice?
Let’s address these questions one by one…
What’s the effect of having 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 do his/her best.” In this context, multiple scores is a plus, as it speaks to an applicant’s passion: medical school, and eventually medicine, is the only career he/she would consider. The retake MCAT statistics show that the second time improves on the first. However, the second possibility is this:
(2): “To do an MCAT retake (especially multiple times) shows a lack of confidence—or worse, a lack of focus and drive, so even the best score on your final try may (or may not) be indicative of your true 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 isn’t a liability to re-do the MCAT more than once, though when you get to the third or fourth time (and you’re still struggling to get to your target score), I might lean more to answer (2) above.
So how do medical schools treat the scores? Do they average your scores? Or do they take the latest, the best, or a conglomeration of all your scores?
“All of the above” is the only way to answer this all-encompassing question. That’s because every school takes its own approach to judging multiple MCAT attempts. They can either:
—Take the average of all MCAT retake scores;
—Consider only the highest score;
—Take the last of the MCAT scores; or
—Consider the highest score from each section of multiple tests.
So before you delve into a second try, you’ll want to ask the schools you’re planning to attend how they treat multiple scores. If they take an average, and you re-do the MCAT once, you would need to increase your score by four points to get a two point advantage. That could defeat the purpose of working so hard on the second try, unless you’re willing to buckle down and make it count. If you’re retaking the MCAT a third time, this advice is even more important.
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. So which schools do what? Here are a few examples, but you’ll need to do your homework to find out about the medical schools you’re targeting:
Best set of scores
Creighton, Albana, Boston, Yale, VCU, Rochester, Tulane, St. Louis and South Carolina.
Best MCAT scores
University of Virginia, UMass, University of Maryland, Colorado, University of Arizona and Tufts.
Most recent MCAT scores
University of Lousville, University of Oklahoma, Galveston, Case, Baylor, E. Carolina, Texas A&M, Stanford and UC Irvine.
Average MCAT 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 retake the MCAT again and again…
The extra effort you give to getting a good MCAT score (when you re-do 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 break through on your third or fourth try, it could send a message of mediocrity in your approach to your studies and dedication to schoolwork. The best advice for retaking the MCAT is: the first time you take the MCAT, put everything you have into preparing. If you re-do the MCAT, same thing.
What exactly does an MCAT score say?
A study by AAMC in 2010 looked at pre-med students who take the test only once, compared with students who retake 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. So it appears that med school applicants don’t get ahead significantly by retaking the MCAT multiple times, because it simply skews reality as they take the Step 1 when they 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.
So…should I retake the MCAT?
Finally, I can’t say this enough times: DO YOUR BEST the first time so you don’t have to be part of the MCAT retake statistics!!
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