How Can I Score Higher on my MCAT Retake?

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Session 50

In our episode today, we dive into MCAT retakes. If you are worried about needing to retake the MCAT, this episode is for you! Take a listen and share it.

In celebration of our 50th episode of The MCAT Podcast, Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) is giving away five ten-pack full-length practice exams to help you maximize your score on the MCAT. Practice exams are one of the best ways to help you prepare to take the MCAT. To enter, text TESTGIVEAWAY to 44222 and we will send you an email on how to enter to win!

Back to our episode today, I’ve been getting a lot of emails from students lately who got their scores back and they’re freaking out wondering if they should take the MCAT again. Ultimately, it all comes down to needing to retake the MCAT, so what do students need to do next?

[02:20] Evaluating Whether You Should Retake the MCAT

Bryan Schnedeker, Next Step’s Academic Director and MCAT Guru, tells us that more of the people come to them for a retake rather than people coming to tutor with them prior to their first try at the MCAT. They get a ton of phone calls everyday from students where they hear some variation on this story: they took a generic group class, they self-studied, or did this and realized they weren’t ready so they need to retake and they’re asking for help.

[03:05] Is the Retake Necessary?

Is the retake actually necessary? Based on what you got the first time and the rest of your admissions profile, do you really have to retake? However, a lot of students skip past these questions because this is the common reaction of premeds who are straight A students and are used to getting 99% of questions right when they get an MCAT score they didn’t expect.

[Tweet “”Step back and be objective. Decide if the retake is really necessary.””]

[04:02] What Went Wrong?

Assuming you really need to retake the MCAT, the next question to ask yourself is what did you do that led to that first score? What were your habits? What were the study methods that generated the score you were unhappy with?

[Tweet “”Be really, really brutally honest with yourself. Was this really your best effort?””]

When you signed up for the class, did you actually do all the homework? When you say you were getting practice scores that were xyz, were you taking them under test-like conditions? Figure out the approaches that led to the unhappy score at first.

[06:07] What’s Going to Be Different This Time?

What are you going to do in terms of how you study and what you study that’s going to change your performance? Data from the old MCAT shows that for lots of students who retake the MCAT, the score is 0 to +1 or -1. Basically, the score doesn’t really change much at all. If you even extend it out to +2 or -2 score change, Bryan explains that you actually start sweeping up the plurality, and in some cases, the majority of students who retake. That said, the students who got a four or more point score increase is only about 20%. So make sure you’re in that percentage of students who have this significant score improvement.

[Tweet “”What’s going to change this time so you get the results you want?””]

[08:58] Getting Stuck in Your Comfort Zone

It all comes down to this human psychology of not wanting to go outside of our comfort zone. For the MCAT, the comfort zone is going to work, doing the normal job, making the money, going to school, doing those classes, hanging out with friends, and spending a couple of hours on the MCAT. Then maybe doing that full eight-hour full-length study session to really test our skills is outside of a lot of people’s comfort zones. So they maintain their same schedule and same trends and don’t improve.

Bryan adds that it can be shocking to be told you’re below average when you’ve been getting A’s your whole life and this shock itself tends to be one of the biggest motivators.

[Tweet “”Something has to change because the MCAT is not going to change for me. I’ve got to make that change.””]

[11:22] Intensity Level and Active Engagement

Are you willing to make the MCAT nearly a full-time job? Can you find three to four hours a day or treat it like a full-time job where you’re waking up in the morning, going to the library and working on MCAT from 9am to 6pm everyday?

The second big part of it is the active engagement with the learning. You can’t just be passive. You can’t just look at a chapter and read all those notes you wrote down or highlighted in the book. It doesn’t matter how pretty and organized or color-coded your notes are. You have to really ask yourself if you actually know this. Can you close your notebook and entirely from memory, give a ten to fifteen-minute lecture on the basic function of the nephron? Can you seriously teach the nephron to your little nephew who’s a high school senior in bio class? If you don’t have that level of knowledge where you can clearly understand and explain the concepts at that level, chances are, you don’t know it well enough for the MCAT so you’ve got to work on it more.

[12:58] Doing An Autopsy on Questions

This idea that you need to do more and take another test after another as your way to succeed is this autopsy afterwards. It’s the review afterwards that actually lets you learn and improve. Sitting down and doing a passage of MCAT verbal practice does literally nothing for your score. It’s in analyzing afterwards and figuring out what are the lessons learned and the takeaway points is where you will improve. But so many people are not willing to do this.

Bryan recommends spending the entirety of the first few lessons taking just five of these questions instead of a hundred and really do an autopsy of each question and get a takeaway point. You should have at least three to four good lessons learned from a passage and a set of questions. If you’re not taking the time to do that to extract lessons learned, that’s how you spent last summer prepping for the MCAT and didn’t get the score you want.

[Tweet “”You put the right time into it but you didn’t put the right kind of time into it.””]

[14:18] The GPS Analogy

A lot of this comes down to being self-aware and doing a good self-assessment on what went wrong and figuring out where to move forward. This is like plugging in directions to a GPS. You know the destination of getting a good score but you need to know where you’re starting from. So, having that good self-assessment and being self-aware of where you fell flat on your first or second test gives you the starting point; and needing to retake it and where to improve on gives you the GPS directions.

[15:14] Enter to Win!

MCAT retake is a very important topic but don’t worry, retaking the MCAT is okay. Again, don’t forget to enter to win one of the five ten-pack full-length practice exams that Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) is giving away to help you prepare for the MCAT. Text TESTGIVEAWAY to 44222 and we will send you an email on how to enter to win! This content will run until July 31, 2017 and winners will be announced on August 1.

If you happen to come across this after July 31, you still have access to everything Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) has to offer including all of their full-length practice tests, books, MCAT course, and their one-on-one tutoring. They have over 100 hours of videos and access to all then full-length practice tests including live office hours. Use the code MCATPOD to save some money.


Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)