In this episode, Ryan talks with Bryan Schnedeker, the Academic Director at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) and the National Director for their MCAT Programs. Today, we talk about MCAT retakes, what it exactly means to retake the MCAT, things to consider, and assessing what went wrong with the first MCAT you took.
Ideally, the MCAT should only be taken once. This test is a beast. You should not go into the MCAT lightly, or expecting to take it multiple times. That said, if you’re not happy with your MCAT score and you want to retake it, this episode will provide with you with everything you need to know.
[Related episode: Should I Retake the MCAT?]
Here are the highlights of the conversation with Bryan:
Anxiety is the biggest thing you have to deal with when it comes to retaking the MCAT. But you’re not alone: up to 15% of folks retake the test (that means around 6,000 out of 50,000-70,000 MCAT takers).
Should you retake the MCAT?
- Don’t make a decision right away
- Talk to your parents, friends, and premed advisors
- Approach it in the most rational way possible
[Related episode: Common MCAT Prep Mistakes and How to Avoid Them]
Simulating the AAMC practice test:
- Go to the official website for AAMC practice tests
- Take the test under realistic, timed conditions
- Don’t use a calculator for the physical sciences or chemistry sections
- Try to mimic the real experience as much as possible
“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent.”
How to Study for the MCAT Properly
Taking a practice test will give you a sense of where you are right now, but it doesn’t raise your score. Diagnosis doesn’t cure the disease. The actual treatment is when you review your test and learn from it.
Take anywhere from 3-4 days to as much as 2 weeks in between practice tests to analyze your test, question by question, and extract all the possible lessons learned.
Keep track of your work in a Lessons Learned journal.
Factors to consider when deciding whether to retake the MCAT:
Look at the reality and the risks.
- High risk: Getting roughly the same score or a lower score
- Rule of thumb: Your next MCAT must be 3 or more points higher
Clarify your goals and your options:
What is your goal?
- If it’s simply to get into healthcare, there are several other options out there other than being an MD.
- But if you specifically want to be a physician, there are usually ways to improve your application enough to get there.
- How “competitive” does your MCAT score actually need to be?
What options are you willing to consider?
- MD vs. DO schools
- Caribbean schools: the Caribbean schools will take lesser MCAT scores
When you’re deciding to retake the MCAT:
- Call the medical schools. Get information straight from the horse’s mouth.
- Ask to speak with someone from the admissions office, and get their opinion.
- Go to the premed/prehealth advisor or committee of your undergrad school.
Not all schools will want to talk to you or give you advice, but many of them will.
Factors to consider when retaking the MCAT:
Time and resources
Retaking the MCAT means going back from scratch and earning your points again. It can even be more work.
Overcoming bad habits
You may have developed some bad habits while preparing for the MCAT the first time, so you have to keep your eyes open and understand that it’s a big, daunting task to re-prepare for the MCAT.
The two biggest factors for success in the MCAT:
- Study groups
Gather a group of 3 to get the social support you need to really stick to it and overcome the challenge.
The benefits of having a study group:
- Applying the adage of “See one. Do one. Teach one.”
- Lets you teach each other. Actively teaching will solidify your knowledge better than anything else can.
- Working with students with different skill sets.
Your dream team for a study group:
- One person strongest in physical sciences
- One person strongest in verbal
- One person strongest in biological sciences
Don’t let your study group be limited by geography. Utilize the power of technology (Facebook, Skype, etc.).
Tips to get the MCAT score you want:
- Doing the same thing is going to get you the same results.
- Figure out what you did wrong last time and what you need to do differently.
- Don’t make the mistake of not taking enough practice tests or not learning from them.
- Figure out what you’re doing with your practice tests. Are you using them correctly?
[Related episode: How Can I Score Higher on My MCAT Retake?]
Should you buy more books?
- Use the books you have correctly, and it will get you where you need to go.
- Know your MCAT books perfectly from front to back.
How to study your MCAT review books: Take a multi-pass approach
- Skim through the book.
- Read again and study the diagrams.
- Take notes while reading again slowly.
- Go through and answer the questions.
- Put it away for two days for information to be encoded in your long term memory.
- Read the questions again.
- Repeat the process for mastery.
What kind of outside help do you need?
- Take a look at your available resources and take advantage of them.
- If you took a course and the teacher wasn’t so good, shop around. Sit in on a number of classes until you find a teacher you like.
- Provides boutique tutoring style
- “For you” mentality as the driving force of their existence
- One-on-one tutoring as the best learning environment
- 40% of their business consists of MCAT re-takers
- Re-takers need one-on-one guidance
- Majority of takers and re-takers who come to them have taken MCAT lecture classes from other companies
Some pieces of advice for premed students:
Stay positive. Your attitude shapes your reality. Do a positive review of your MCAT material to help build your confidence. At least once a week, just review all the questions you got right. Change your focus, and the MCAT goes from a negative to a positive experience.Change your focus, and the MCAT goes from a negative to a positive experience.Click To Tweet
Links and Other Resources:
- Official website for AAMC practice tests
- Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” for 10% off Next Step full-length practice tests or “MSHQTOC” for $50 off MCAT tutoring or the Next Step MCAT Course at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)!
- Related episode: How Can I Score Higher on My MCAT Retake?
- Related episode: Should I Retake the MCAT?
- Free MCAT Gift: Free 30+ page guide with tips to help you maximize your MCAT score, which includes discount codes for MCAT prep as well.
- Dr. Gray’s book about the MCAT, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT.