4th Times The Charm: Have I Taken The MCAT Too Many Times?

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Session 232

This student has taken the MCAT three times and hasn’t done too well. They’re worried that if they take it again it will be a red flag to medical schools.

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Question of the Day: She’s Taken the MCAT Three Times – What’s Next?

Our student says:

“I have taken the MCAT three times, and I’ve read on Reddit and all over the internet schools, that after like three times, it looks concerning and some schools might not look at me. I don’t want to take it when I’m not ready again. But also, I don’t want to wait another year to take it, but I don’t know what to do.

The first time I scored really bad, I got a 482. I should not have taken in that time. I didn’t take the prereqs before. It was just a dumb decision to take at that time. And then I took it four months later, and I got a 485. So I moved three points. But it’s still not good. 

Then I waited a year and I had six months that wasn’t in school. This time I thought I was very well-prepared. I did practice exams. I was getting like 505-506 and it felt adequate. I was never scoring below 500. And when I got my score back, I was shocked. I don’t understand what happened. Maybe it was my test anxiety. But none of my practices were this low. I got a 486. So I just don’t know where to go.

I did every practice possible, every resource – Blueprint MCAT, AAMC, real-test conditions, like seven hours and I’d take the lunch break – I did everything right. And I just don’t understand what happened.”

Dealing with Test Anxiety

    • This student mentioned that in their previous attempts, they experienced significant pressure and felt like they were always underperforming in exams. This pattern seemed to have persisted throughout their academic life, starting from their LSAT where they struggled to achieve a satisfactory score. However, during the most recent exam, she felt a sense of control and calmness throughout the entire duration, leaving them with a positive feeling.
    • Consider seeking help from a professional.

    • If you’re experiencing test anxiety, like our student today, and it has been an ongoing issue for you, it may be beneficial to consider seeking help from a test anxiety specialist before attempting the exam again.
'There are psychiatrists and psychologists out there who work specifically with students with test anxiety.'Click To Tweet
  • Consulting with professionals who specialize in this area can provide you with strategies to manage your anxiety and improve your performance. 
  • Listen to PMY 337: How to Overcome Test Anxiety and Take Back Control where I talked with Dr. David Puder, a psychiatrist who deals with med students who have test anxiety around the board exams.

Overcoming Exam Uncertainty: Strategies for Success and Test Anxiety Management

    • If you’re uncertain about what to study for the upcoming exam because you feel like you’ve covered all the material and completed test exams from various companies, consider using QBanks, such as that of Blueprint MCAT, to practice and reinforce your knowledge. Focus on completing as many practice questions as possible rather than solely relying on full-length exams.
    • According to Rachel Grubbs, my Mappd co-founder and an experienced figure in the test prep industry, it is important to allow a sufficient amount of time to pass between taking full-length exams to get a more accurate prediction of one’s score. This helps avoid overestimating performance based on previous scores. 
    • While it can be challenging, especially since this student has already taken the test three times, it is crucial to address any psychological aspects that may be affecting test performance. While some schools may have limitations on the number of times the MCAT can be taken, many students have successfully taken it multiple times.
'Students just continue to build up this test into a bigger beast the more times they take it.'Click To Tweet
  • At the end of the day, it is important not to let the test become an overwhelming obstacle with each attempt. Seeking guidance and support from professionals can be beneficial in managing test anxiety and improving performance.

This student mentions she’s also currently doing a master’s mainly because she thinks this is how she should deal with her test anxiety. But what she needs is not a tutor, but a therapist. It’s talking to someone about test day anxiety strategies leading up to that day to make sure she’s best prepared walking in and out of test day.

    • What If You Still Get a Poor Score the Fourth Time

    • Students who struggle with the MCAT despite having good GPAs may find that attending international medical schools, such as those in the Caribbean, can be a viable option. While these schools still have standardized tests and test anxiety remains a factor, the absence of the MCAT can alleviate some of the pressure.
    • Addressing Your Test Anxiety Issue

    • For individuals grappling with test anxiety, it is important to acknowledge that medical schools will still include rigorous assessments. However, seeking alternatives like international medical schools offers an opportunity to navigate different testing environments and develop strategies to manage anxiety. While the MCAT may pose a unique challenge, addressing test anxiety remains a fundamental step toward achieving success in medical education.
    • Taking the MCAT Up to Seven Times

    • You can take the MCAT up to seven times and how medical schools will look at that depends on the school. Maybe you’re just not able to handle standardized exams or maybe you’re just making bad decisions taking tests without being prepared.
  • You are theoretically prepared if you’re getting 505s on full-length exams but then if you come out with a 486, then, obviously, there’s some disconnect there.
  • Looking at the Schools’ Cut-Offs

  • 500 is a pretty easy normal cut-off for many schools. And whether they’re going to screen those who get lower than 500, will also depend on the school. And most schools don’t usually make such information public.
  • Ultimately, this student should just stop worrying about taking the exam and focus on the test anxiety piece first.



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