We discuss what to do when you get back an unexpectedly low score on the MCAT. This is the first episode in this series of episodes on this topic.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[02:24] Overcoming the Initial Trauma“The MCAT certainly is the most quantitative... and arguably more objective measure of readiness for med school.”Click To Tweet
If the score you got back is not the score you expected, Dorothy suggests doing some self-reflection on whether you need to forward with your application. Do some risk-benefit analysis between amping up other parts of your application versus amping up your MCAT score.
If you are thinking to apply at the top med schools or top research institutions, You can use the MSAR just as a resource for looking at median MCAT scores for matriculants and applicants to each of these schools.
Then see if you would be comfortable applying to the schools on your list or whether you’re open to applying to other schools. Either modify your expectations or your plans moving forward.
[06:02] The MCAT as One Data Point
The MCAT is one data point. It doesn’t have to be a make-or-break data point. Obviously, there are bad MCAT scores, and you probably are not ever going to get in with that score. There are also scores that are not terrible. They’re not great but they may be good enough at a lot of the schools you’re looking at, even if their median numbers are much, much higher.“The MCAT is just one data point. It has to be good enough for the schools to understand that you're probably going to do well in the classes.”Click To Tweet
And so, relying solely on your MCAT score as your basis for deciding whether you apply to the medical schools or not doesn’t work that way.
In my Application Renovation, there are a lot of students who apply with 527 and 528 who don’t get into medical schools. That’s because there’s so much more than just stats when it comes to applying to medical school.“There's so much more than just stats when it comes to applying to medical school.”Click To Tweet
There’s certainly no make-or-break score. You can spend all day looking at averages. The average score for U.S. matriculants is 511.7 according to AAMC data. For some reason, the MSAR uses median data.
[10:24] Submitting Secondaries
For secondaries, it’s generally recommended to return them within two to four weeks of receiving them. It’s already a pretty tight timeline to write all of these school-specific essay and be proud of the quality of what you’re submitting.
Not having to retake the MCAT or study for anything else, and just turning around those secondaries is already a big time commitment.
Some students might modify what they are applying to. Maybe you applied to 40 schools in your primary. Depending on your score or the feasibility, you can prioritize the secondary for the schools you most want to apply to. At that point, give yourself some time to recoup and retake the MCAT. And then see what happens with your application cycle.
Some students don’t retake and just do what they can. That being said, it’s a very situational thing as to how much time and money you can invest in your secondaries. It’s a very personal decision, depending on what you prioritize.
[12:31] Two Scenarios
First Case Scenario
If you’re not surprised with your MCAT score and you know you weren’t as prepared as you could have been for this exam, it would probably take you a little longer to retake it and do well. You want to make sure you have a substantial enough score increase that’s worth your time and worth the MCAT retake.
If you’re not feeling super prepared for the first time you sit down, and you get back a score you’re not happy with you, you have to do some self-reflection. Figure out why you weren’t able to perform as well and the factors that led up to it.
If you didn’t spend enough time doing content review, or not enough practice, that will probably take more of the traditional MCAT timeline in order to gain that content.
Second Case Scenario
If you had been scoring really well in your practice tests, things are going in a positive trajectory. And then something happened on MCAT day where you just did not do as well. Again, think through the factors that led to your score. Maybe it was the caffeine, your sleep schedule, or maybe some anxiety issues.
If it all boils down to just test day circumstances, you can study for a few weeks, retake it, and hopefully perform to the same level that you were prior to taking it the first time.
[14:32] Building a Plan
I think if you had been doing this prior to taking the first MCAT, a lot of their students at Blueprint MCAT do something called a “lessons learned journal” or (LLJ) where they do practice questions.
Then look into what patterns and weaknesses you tend to fall into. The first thing after getting back a score that you’re not happy with is to do that exercise. If it’s something you’ve done already, you can just go back and read through your LLJ.
If you take another practice test, identify some specific things you can work on moving forward. Then use that to guide your future practice.
Not every story ends with a happy ending, at least the first time around. But that retake hopefully will get you that dream score so you can have an ending, at least as far as the MCAT is concerned.