Part 7: Frequently Asked Questions:
For how long should I study for the MCAT?
Most test takers study for the MCAT for at least three months, but, this will in part depend on how you are performing on practice tests. How you study is also an individual choice and will depend on your exam history and how you have successfully prepared for past standardized test.
If I underperform on any MCAT section, which can it be without negatively impacting my chances?
As we tell our applicants, underperforming on the CARS section of the MCAT can be forgiven, especially if you earned high scores in the three science sections. This is a common pattern with our students when they apply to medical school which makes sense since many medical school applicants are more gifted in the sciences and math. Your cumulative score matters most.
How Many Times Can I Take The MCAT?
Below are the rules on how many times you can take the MCAT:
In a single testing year, you can take the MCAT exam up to three times.
In a two year consecutive period, you can take the MCAT exam up to four times.
In your lifetime, you can take the MCAT exam up to seven times.
Voids and no-shows count toward your lifetime limits. You can only be registered for one MCAT seat at a time.
Should I Retake the MCAT?
Many students ask if they should retake the MCAT. The answer to this question in part depends on your goals. If, for example, you earned a 506 on the MCAT and you want to attend an osteopathic medical school, there is little need for a retake. However, if your goal is to attend an allopathic medical school, MedEdits would likely suggest retaking the exam after determining what you need to do to improve.
The other reason a student should retake the MCAT is if he or she underperformed for a reason that is easy to identify. Were you sick on test day? Were there stressful exam center circumstances that negatively impacted your test performance? Did you have extreme test anxiety that wasn’t treated or addressed? Were there things going on in your personal life that distracted you?
Sometimes a student may reflexively retake the MCAT when he earns a score below his target goal. However, without identifying what went wrong on test day, or what needs to be done to improve the score, a fast retake rarely results in a significantly increased score. We usually suggest a minimum of a three month interval between exams unless there are extenuating exam day circumstances as described above.
How Do Schools Look At Multiple MCAT Scores?
Medical schools are accustomed to seeing multiple MCAT scores on an application. While some medical schools claim to average multiple MCAT scores or only look at the highest combined score, we find this is rarely the case. Medical schools will see all of your MCAT attempts and results. Three common exam patterns are described below:
One exam pattern we often see is the “outlier.” This student takes the exam two times or more earning lower scores. She then takes the MCAT one last time and bumps her score. The more “low scores” you have on your exam profile, the more likely your one higher score might be interpreted as an outlier. This is a typical “outlier” exam profile: 503, 504, 512.
The other profile we sometimes see is the “creeper.” This student takes the exam multiple times and slowly creeps up. In this profile, the exam scores are likely to be averaged. This is a typical “creeper” exam profile: 505, 507, 509, 512.
The profile we like to see the most is the “learner” profile. In this profile, the student takes the MCAT twice. She doesn’t do as well as she wants on the first exam, waits a few months to figure out what she has to do to improve, and then bumps that score by at least 3 points. A typical “learner” MCAT exam profile is: 508, 514. This is an ideal exam profile.