Retaking the MCAT: What to Know

Taking the MCAT is a hurdle that U.S. medical school hopefuls must clear, and deciding whether to retake the exam after an unsatisfactory first effort should involve several considerations, experts say.

Why is the MCAT important?


Med schools consider multiple factors when making admissions decisions, such as undergraduate GPA, grades in certain science courses, personal statements and letters of recommendation. But the MCAT, officially known as the Medical College Admission Test, “is possibly the most objective measure of what a student knows or is able to do,” says Javarro Russell, senior director of admissions testing service at the Association of American Medical Colleges, which administers the MCAT.

MCAT retake considerations

The MCAT is a four-section exam that lasts seven and one-half hours, and total scores range from 472 to 528. Test-takers who are disappointed with their results should ask themselves some key questions when weighing a retake, experts advise, including:

Is it absolutely necessary that I retest?

How likely am I to improve my score?

Can I afford the cost and time of testing again?

It’s best to resist a “knee-jerk reaction to immediately retake the test” to try to meet med school application deadlines that the test-taker originally targeted, says Marinelli, an expert blogger.

How to prep for an MCAT retest

Med school hopefuls who decide to retake the test should devise a strategy that will increase their chances of scoring higher, experts recommend.

“They should consider going back and trying to figure out how they approached the test and maybe changing that, because doing the same thing will usually get people the same result,” Pinnock says. Applicants should make sure they have the time to prepare, she adds, and also consider their finances, since MCAT testing and preparation can be costly – $330 for the test and as high as $10,000 for some prep courses or tutoring.

It’s important to understand how you learn best, the most effective ways to take in information needed to succeed on the MCAT, and how to set and stick to a study schedule, Russell says.

Should you void an MCAT attempt?

The AAMC allows test-takers to void their MCAT test at the end of the exam, in which case it won’t be scored and medical schools chosen to receive the results will not see the test-taker’s participation.

Experts discourage this action – an irreversible escape hatch – except in extreme, unforeseen cases such as acute illness, death of a loved one or significant technical problems during testing.

(Text Courtesy: US News)

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