Should I Retake a Poor MCAT During the Application Cycle?

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ADG 146: Should I Retake a Poor MCAT During the Application Cycle?

Session 146

He improved from a 488 to a 493 but still needs to improve. He’s in the middle of applications. Should he take it in September or wait and reapply next year?

Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT. Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

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[00:22] Question of the Day

“I took my MCAT and retook it on June 30 of this year. I submitted my application on July 14. I was doing well with the practice exams. I was getting a 501 to 503 range for my last four practice exams. Unfortunately, when I got my scores back on July 30, it was a 493. 

Should I still go on and try to take the exam this September if I retake it? Or should I focus on steering everything towards the next cycle?”

[01:08] A Personal Decision

There isn’t a right answer for this because it really depends on the student and what your potential is for improving on that 493.

501 to 503 for your full length exams leading up to the test is not great, but it’s obviously much better than a 493. And this was already a retake. Our student’s first score was a 488.

With a 488 score, it could be telling of some content knowledge deficits. Hopefully, you improved that with your 501 and 503. And because he was retaking the test.

'Unfortunately, too many students get this false sense of security of scoring a 505. But it's the second time a student took the test even if there's a longer delay between those.'Click To Tweet

Our student explains he was feeling anxious this second time around. Considering he has test anxiety, if he rushed into another test in September, then his anxiety could be even more heightened. It’s going to put a ton of pressure on him to either crush it or just get it done with.

Ultimately, this is a personal decision. There’s no harm in going to retake the test.

At the end of the day, it’s time and money, along with stress and anxiety of whether to continue with the application while working on secondaries. Is he going to be able to study for the MCAT and improve?

The ultimate goal is to continue to improve. You don’t want to take it again and get the same score or worse score. It’s just a waste of time and money. And this is only something he could answer.

[05:08] Time as a Factor

Let’s say, you have a little bit more money to burn for some more practice tests to get other ones that you haven’t taken before. And you go and take it in September but it’s an October release date.

Well, good news UCR will likely have some spots for you, because they give priority to students like yourself. So I think at the end of the day, don’t look at it from a standpoint of whether September is too late.

Look at it from whether you have the time necessary and the funds necessary to do what you need to do to improve your score by September. And if you can do that, take the test.

If you can’t, or if you’re concerned about test anxiety, and other stuff being heightened, because it’s all crammed into the shorter timeline, then there’s no harm in taking a break. Reapply next year so you have more time to study and more time to help with your test anxiety.

[06:54] Holding Off the DO Application

Our student goes on to ask if he should still go on applying for the DO school or put it on hold. But regardless of whether you’re applying to a DO school, if you’re going to wait for the MCAT to prepare for the MCAT better, then don’t submit the DO application.

A 493 for a DO application isn’t good for DO either. so what he’s going to do with the September MCAT will dictate whether or not he’s going to submit his DO application. 

[08:01] Filtering Out MCAT Scores

Q: “I submitted my MD but not verified yet, but then I retook my MCAT in September. Will they see my score as my 493 first and will it get updated automatically?”

A: Technically, you don’t have to check off on the AMCAS application. The schools will not see that you’re taking another MCAT. And they’ll assume that that 493 is your final score, and most likely, they’re just not going to take a look at you. The scores will be filtered out.

What he could do is check that box that says he has a pending MCAT test date or a test score. The schools will see that flag and they could decide if they’re not going to look at your application until that new score comes in.

From the DO aspect, you’ll have to release the scores from the AAMC to the DO application. And then on there, they have the same question of whether or not you’re retaking the test.

'The DO timeline in general is more favorable to later MCAT test dates.'Click To Tweet

A lot of DO schools are even accepting January test dates, much later in the cycle. Again, if your plan is to go ahead and push forward with a September test date, go ahead and get your DO  application in as well.

[10:11] How to Review Your Full-Length Properly

Our student says the reason he wasn’t getting a great score was a mixture of test anxiety and content review deficits.

He says he tried to do the full-length at home within the “exact test environment.” And then he reviewed the day after where he went over each section. By review, he was finding out his rationale, why he did wrong, and see where he could narrow things in two answers. However, he didn’t review it properly because he failed to review his correct answers.

In reviewing a test, take two days to review the test. Or double the time it takes you to take a test in reviewing your test. For instance, if it took you seven hours to take it, it would take 14 hours or two days to review the test.

Specifically, CARS is much harder to review because you have to start digging and looking for the tone you missed the first time. I recommend reviewing CARS on the first day and then the rest of the sections on the second day.

And just as important is to review the right answers because you may be getting them right for the wrong reasons. Reviewing the answers, why it’s right and why the wrong answers are wrong, is going to help you with everything.

“Review every single question, even if you got it right.”Click To Tweet

Blueprint MCATdoes a great job with their full length exams since you can dive into those explanations.

When reviewing your wrong answers, try to categorize them. For example, if it’s an amino acid question or not. Then look at why the wrong answers are wrong and why the right answer is right. And if for example, you realize you missed half of the amino acid questions then you know what to spend more time on next time.

So really go in-depth with your review. The practice problems, whether it’s full length exams or q banks, let those dictate your content review.


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