When should you retake the MCAT?

Like reapplying to medical school, retaking the MCAT does not inherently look bad. That said, you should strive to take the MCAT as few times as possible

For that reason, each time that you retake the MCAT, you should study diligently in order to meaningfully raise your score, which will demonstrate your commitment to becoming a physician and your determination to improving your application profile. If you’re able to show an appreciable score jump from one test to the next, the majority of medical schools won’t see having retaken the MCAT as an issue.

Retaking the MCAT comes with potential rewards and risks. As such, you’ll want to carefully assess if another attempt is worth the effort and uncertainty. The answer will depend on your existing score, the potential you show through practice exams, the MCAT averages of your target medical schools, and your ability to put in the work towards studying hard.

For some, a retest may not be necessary. However, if your initial test score isn’t what you’d hoped for, you know you’re capable of more, and you can dedicate significant time and effort to substantially improving your score, retaking the MCAT may be well worth your while.

You should consider retaking the MCAT if…

Your highest overall score is not competitive for your target schools. When constructing your early school list, you should review the average GPA and MCAT score for each medical school (found also on MSAR). If your stats are considerably lower than the schools you’re eyeing, you may have to retake the exam.

Your section scores are significantly imbalanced. Some medical schools expect students to achieve minimum section scores. While it’s difficult to know each school’s thresholds, it may be worth taking the MCAT exam again if one of your section scores is 5 or more points below all others.

You did not sufficiently prepare for the previous attempt(s). It’s no secret that the MCAT is an incredibly difficult exam. Yet, students routinely underestimate its toughness and don’t prepare well enough. If you didn’t study hard (i.e., 20+ hours/week) for at least two months, you probably didn’t maximize your scores.

You were ill or had to navigate another personal difficulty on or around your test date. Unfortunate things come up, sometimes during particularly inconvenient times. If life threw you a major curve ball right around your MCAT test date, you likely didn’t perform at your best and may want to retake the exam.

Your practice test scores were considerably higher than your actual scores.

You have a strong sense of what went wrong previously and have a clear plan to address it. For instance, you may have paced yourself poorly during the MCAT. Or you may have underestimated the social sciences section and not studied enough relative to the other sections, which led to lower performance. Regardless, you should honestly evaluate and address the primary reason(s) why you scored lower than expected.