If you’re like many MCAT takers, your section scores are unbalanced. Today we discuss how those unbalanced section scores might affect your medical school application, and what you should do to correct course after an unbalanced MCAT score.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[01:13] How Unbalanced Is Your MCAT Score?
A question I get every now and then is from premed students who have a good overall MCAT score of, say, 506, 507, or 509, but it’s a very unbalanced score. Their sciences are 130s, but they have a low CARS score, something like 123.
We actually just heard from a student who improved from a 497 diagnostic test to a 512. It’s a phenomenal score, but he got a 123 in CARS, his lowest verbal score ever. So even with a 512, since he got a low CARS score, he had to retake the MCAT. Such a low CARS score would get his application thrown out by a lot of medical schools.
There are certain schools, including a couple of Canadian schools, where they really take a close look at your CARS score. The logic here is that they know they can teach you the science, but if your verbal skills and reasoning skills aren’t good, those won’t necessarily improve from medical school.
So, when asking how bad it is to have an unbalanced MCAT score, that depends on the nature of it, how extreme it is, and what schools you’re applying to.When asking how bad it is to have an unbalanced MCAT score, that depends on the nature of it, how extreme it is, and what schools you're applying to.Click To Tweet
[If you’re struggling with a low CARS score, check out The MCAT CARS Podcast, all about helping you improve your CARS score.]
[03:22] Some Schools Filter Out Low CARS Scores and Other Low Section Scores
Typically, I would recommend students to make the most informed decisions possible with their application. This information includes the fact that schools have the ability to filter their applications based on a specific section of the MCAT. A lot of schools will filter out anything below 124 or 125 in a subsection. So if you’re getting a 123, you’re going to be filtered out by some schools.A lot of schools will filter out anything below 124 or 125 in a subsection. So if you're getting a 123, you're going to be filtered out by some schools.Click To Tweet
Holistic Application Review?
A lot of premed advisors out there want to say that most schools have a holistic application review now, so you won’t be hurt by a low CARS score, for example. While I agree with that to some extent, the truth is there are thousands of applications, and schools don’t have the time to look at all of them. So they will rank them and put the highest MCAT/GPAs first. Maybe before they even get down to your application in the stack, they’ve already interviewed everybody they want to interview for the application cycle.
So your application might not get ever looked at by certain schools if your scores are too low. But there are still going to be some schools that will take a look at you. So when you get a low subsection score, you have to assess whether or not you can actually boost up your section score in a short period of time. And based on that, you can decide on whether you want to continue with the application cycle this year or wait till the next year.Medical schools don't have time to look over all the applications they receive. So they rank them and put the highest MCAT/GPAs first.Click To Tweet
[05:05] What to Do After an Unbalanced MCAT Score
Every student is unique. That’s why at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep), they spend so much of their focus on one-on-one tutoring. You need to do some self-assessment when considering doing an MCAT retake. What are you going to do differently?You need to do some self-assessment when considering doing an MCAT retake. What are you going to do differently?Click To Tweet
In the case of the student mentioned above who got a 123 in CARS, our recommendation was to do just one more tutoring session with Next Step and then retake the MCAT. This student had literally never scored below 125 in CARS ever before. His baseline when he started his MCAT prep was 125, and he was getting 126 and 127 on his practice tests. So his low CARS score of 123 was a fluke, and he needed to retake immediately.
On the other hand, with some other students, their low section scores are actually in line with their practice tests. So they just need to keep working, and it will likely take longer. Do they have another three months to essentially just re-study really hard for this specific section? Then you look at your application timing and decide if you can still apply for this year or not.
[08:38] The Value of One-on-one Tutoring
Check out what Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) has to offer, specifically with their one-on-one tutoring. They are the key to performing well on the MCAT especially if you’re struggling. If you’ve taken a Kaplan or Princeton Review course and you’re still not doing well, take a look at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) one-on-one tutoring.
I’ve had one student who went with Kaplan and only scored a 499. So he got his money back based on Kaplan’s higher score guarantee. Then he worked with a tutor at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) for two weeks. He took his first full-length and scored a 506.
A one-on-one tutor is there to help you score the best that you can score. The individualized attention can help you raise your score. Go check out Next Step’s offerings here.
Links and Other Resources
- Check out my book about the MCAT, co-written with Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep): The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT.
- Related podcast: Do Medical Schools Superscore the MCAT for Multiple Attempts?
- Related episode: How Can I Prepare for and Improve My CARS MCAT Score?
- Need MCAT Prep? Get tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)!