Taking the MCAT (Medical College Application Test) usually means you’re ready to take the plunge into med school. Life happens, and sometimes that’s just not the case.
Medical schools accept MCAT scores up to 2-3 years old. The MCAT is used to validate your preparedness for medical school, so anything that’s older than that might make you seem a little rusty.
The exam also underwent some technical changes in the last few years. Before its 2015 revisions, the test hadn’t been updated since 1991. Last year, the process of sending scores shifted again, as new deadlines for schools to receive them and make acceptance decisions were put into place.
Find out the deadlines of your chosen school so you know when to take the test or when to submit your scores.
Bad day? Rough test? Too nervous? There are plenty of reasons why you just didn’t do as well as you hoped on your MCAT. It’s okay to do poorly as long as you’re ready to dust yourself off and try again.
In any given year, you can take the MCAT up to 3 times. The price might start racking up, but you have triple the number of chances to get the score you hoped for.
There are some limitations on this opportunity to retake. You can take it 3 times in one year but the following year you’ll be limited to one attempt. This is reset in the third year, when you are allowed to take it a maximum of three times.
After that, you’ll reach a lifetime limit. After the 7th go at the test, you won’t be admitted to take it again.
Thus, we suggest only taking it when you’re fully prepared, and limiting your retakes to when they’re truly necessary.
If you’re not happy with your score, or the school you have your sights set on more demanding score policy, you should consider retaking the MCAT. There are a few limits as to how many times you may take the test (as discussed above) but that’s not the only thing to consider when you decide to re-register.
Admissions officers will receive the full collection of scores from your attempts at the MCAT, all of which are considered valid. How they weight each score will vary, but there is one thing you want to make very clear when you retake the exam: that you improved.
Before a hasty decision to register again shortly after taking the MCAT, take the time to make absolutely sure you are ready to go into it again. Prepare thoroughly to ensure that your score will in fact improve.
Depending on the school, your collective exam scores may be gauged differently. You can check your target school’s score policy to see exactly which method they tend to use for reading and interpreting your score.
Best case scenario, they’ll gather the best valid scores from each section to gauge your performance. They may also look at the best score as a whole and gauge the performance on each section from there.
There are other scenarios, though. Some schools may decide to take the average of all of your scores, which would be the least favorable result for multiple test scores that fell in different ranges. If your score changes drastically from one attempt to the next, this could work against you.
If a previous test score is lower than your most recent, admissions may only consider the most recent for their admissions decision. Again, depending on whether you improved or not, this could help or hurt.
Some medical colleges will be transparent about how they view these scores. It’s best to know what schools you’re looking at and the expectations they have when you decide to submit scores or retake the MCAT.
Becoming a medical student is a journey that starts with the MCAT. Taking the test and applying right away is the most surefire way to know your MCAT scores are valid. If some time lapses between test taking and submission, it certainly isn’t the nail in the coffin, but the longer you wait the less valid your scores will appear.