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How Many Times Can You Take The MCAT?

For many pre-med students, the MCAT isn’t a “one and done” deal. Maybe you didn’t receive the MCAT score you were hoping for, or perhaps you simply felt like your nerves got the best of you on test day—in either circumstance, you are not alone! Rest assured, it is possible (and not uncommon) to take the MCAT more than once. However, there are certain factors you must consider when deciding whether or not to retake the exam. 

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has placed limits on exactly how many times students are permitted to take the MCAT. You can take the MCAT up to three times in one year, four times in two consecutive years, and up to seven times over your lifetime. Get our Guide to Retaking the MCAT. 

How Are Multiple MCAT Scores Viewed by Admissions?

Although you can take the exam seven times in total, it is not recommended. Because medical schools receive ALL of your exam scores, it is important to limit your retakes and be strategic with your testing. Unfortunately, taking the MCAT more than three times can indicate to prospective medical schools that you struggle with the required prerequisites and content. Though it is not impossible to receive acceptance if you test four times or more, your chances are greatly reduced after the third attempt.

Medical schools are chiefly looking to produce doctors that can successfully pass the United State Medical Licensing Exam and become licensed practitioners. Too many MCAT test attempts can affect your admission because it can give schools the impression that you will also have trouble with your medical education and/or passing the medical boards.

Of course, if you do decide to retake the exam, it is important to understand how your scores will be examined by medical school admissions. Whether you take the exam once, twice, or more than three times, all of these scores are submitted to your med school(s) of choice.

Admission departments can evaluate these scores in multiple ways, depending on the school’s specific process. Most schools will take your highest MCAT score into account, but that is not always the case. They may take the average MCAT score of all your tests or the score of your most recent exam. Some schools may consider the highest section score from each test. Each of your MCAT exam scores matter for your medical school application.

How Do You Know If You Should Retake the Exam?

 If you’re unsure about whether it would be advantageous for you to retake the MCAT, you should first ask yourself a couple of questions about your exam experience:

How was your first test score?

It seems like a simple question, but it is important to be honest with yourself. There is a difference between a low MCAT score and a score that didn’t meet your expectations. A good way of evaluating that difference would be utilizing the Medical School Admission Requirement Database to look up what the MCAT is out of and the average MCAT score based on the schools you are applying to. Even if you weren’t satisfied with your score, it is possible that your score is still competitive enough for your application.

How prepared did you feel for your first exam?

If you felt fairly confident and overall prepared for your first MCAT exam, there is a good chance that another attempt may give you similar results.  Therefore, if you found your scores were competitive enough for your applications, it may be best to stick to one attempt. It would be less than ideal to take the exam a second time and risk the same or even a lower score.

On the other hand, if you felt like you were unprepared or too nervous to perform well, it may be worth taking the exam a second time to ensure a better score. 

What would be different next time?

If you do decide to take the exam again, you should try to evaluate what went wrong with your study plan. Did you feel rushed or unprepared for a specific section? Were your practice tests not performed under standard MCAT conditions? In any case, if you’re planning to retake the test, it is vital to make changes to guarantee success.

Asking yourself these questions can keep you from retaking the exam unnecessarily. Ultimately, retaking the test can be expensive. Additionally, depending on when you sat for your first exam, you could be putting yourself in a time crunch. If you are applying later than you planned, you may not have enough time for the preparation necessary to improve your MCAT score. All these factors should be considered before you sign up for a second exam.

How Can You Prepare to Retake the MCAT?

If you have decided that retaking the MCAT is your best chance at success, remember that it’s necessary to change your approach. Take a moment to think back to the day of the exam—was there any moment in particular that you felt like something went wrong? Was it your pacing? Did a specific subject give you trouble? Perhaps your nerves got the best of you. Were you adequately prepared? Is there anything you might have forgotten to bring to the MCAT on test day? Uncovering the aspect(s) of the test that you struggled with is an invaluable part of the retake process. Once you have pinpointed your weak spots, the real work can begin!

First, think about your study routine. Now that you know what you should address, you can adapt your study routine to reflect that. Spend more time on subjects that challenge you, try to fit in more practice exams, and make sure that you’re simulating real testing conditions! Taking a critical evaluation of your MCAT preparation and where you can improve to address your weaknesses will set you up for later success.

As a test taker, you may know from your first go-around, there are many resources out there if you feel like you need some extra help. Feel encouraged to seek out different avenues that you may not have tried before. Sign up for tutoring or enroll in a course, in-person or online. You may find it helpful to put together a study group, but you may also have found study groups distracting. If so, you could try studying more independently this time. 

Retaking the MCAT: Review 

Making the decision to retake the MCAT should require a fair amount of consideration for test-takers; there are a few things that are important to remember:

1. While you can take the MCAT up to seven times over your lifetime, making it more than three times may count against you in the eyes of prospective medical schools

2. Therefore, if your score is objectively competitive (higher than 510 points), it may not be worth it to test again.

3. If you plan to retake the MCAT, take some time to think about what went wrong during your first test, so you can adjust your study schedule/habits to make it right.

4. Don’t panic! Retaking the MCAT is not uncommon, and there are many resources available to make your second MCAT journey successful!

For more tips and tricks for the MCAT, check out Blueprint Prep’s free half-length diagnostic MCAT exam, and free full-length MCAT practice test, or sign up for a free account for even more great MCAT resources

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