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Blog / How Long Should You Study For An MCAT Retake

How Long Should You Study For An MCAT Retake?

Written by Keenan on May 6, 2022

Academic preparation is the most significant piece of your application. Overall, your application will consist of letters of recommendation, a personal essay, an activities list, and an interview. Additionally, you should have volunteer/research experience to get into medical school. While all of these aspects deserve equal attention, a low score on the MCAT exam makes it harder to secure entry into your preferred medical school. That’s how to study for the mcat retake is vastly important.

However, Should I retake the MCAT? may seem like a question with an easy answer, but the answer can be complicated, just like the other aspects of medical school admissions. If you are not impressed with your first set of MCAT scores, you need to decide whether or not to retake the test. If you do decide to retake the exam, how long should you study for an MCAT retake?

First, you should know that MCAT preparation doubtlessly requires at least as much time as your most rigorous course regarding time commitment. Each MCAT exam is time-consuming and costly. So it is crucial to weigh the decision carefully before retaking the exam. However, this might make your medical school application timeline feel like a juggling act. Still, you must understand what the MCAT structure is, how it is scored, how frequent it is administered, and how it is used in the admissions process to evaluate your qualifications.

How Important Is Your MCAT Score?

Consider the stats for your desired schools. The schools with the highest average MCAT scores are known to be the best. Both pre-meds and medical schools use it to measure themselves against their competition. So if your MCAT is lower than the school’s average, you will hurt their US News Ranking. And while that doesn’t make it impossible to get in, it does mean you have to have a compelling reason for how you would benefit the school in other areas. Your MCAT score is a good indicator of success in the first two years of medical school. It is good to re-evaluate your performance and test your knowledge again because you would want to start med school with utmost preparation. Academic knowledge is a crucial part of your preparation. Nationally, applicants tend to make very modest gains on retakes, especially if they repeat the test within just a few weeks or months from the original attempt, which underscores how MCAT preparation requires lots of time and practice. The lower the initial score, the larger the retest gain.

A good MCAT score for admitted students in the 2020–2021 academic year was 511 or higher since that is the average score of successful applicants. Although a low MCAT score is generally the biggest application killer, if your score is in the range of admitted students for your preferred school, you should be pleased with your work. Keep in mind that many students get confirmed by the committee with lower MCAT scores during the application process. You might be someone who will be a part of the school’s pet primary care program, for example. Or maybe you have a perfect 4.0 that helps raise the school’s average GPA. Whatever the reason, you will have to be a standout applicant in all other respects to get into a school while being too far below their average MCAT. Medical schools always appreciate honesty and self-reflection and consider your candidacy in a better light.

Should You Retake The MCAT Exam?

Your application will not necessarily get compromised by taking the MCAT more than once unless you receive a lower score on the second exam than on your previous exams. Though this certainly isn’t a situation anyone necessarily wants to be in. Almost 20% of students retake the MCAT exam. According to AAMC, most test re-takers get a higher score on their second attempt. During the 2018-2020 testing years, the average gain was three to four points for people who initially scored 472-517. Those who scored higher originally tended not to improve their scores on a second try.

Before all else, you must evaluate yourself after the MCAT exam by considering which sections you were successful in and with which you struggled. It would be best to address questions like, “did you run out of time on any of the sections?” or” finish any with a lot of time to spare?”, “What made you successful?”, “what made you struggle in each one?”, “Did you study with a plan or without?”, “How often did you use practice questions and exams?”, “Do you feel that your score accurately reflects your ability?”, “Is it basically in sync with what your practice scores were?”, “Which materials did you use?” and so on.

Is MCAT Retake Worth It?

It depends on your situation because each individual’s right answer to this question is different. You have to make a realistic assessment of your case. If you want to hit your target score, you should believe that you have the ability to score much higher on your next test and be sure of having the time and resources to help you get a higher score. Many applicants rush into retaking the test in a month or less, which may not be the best idea. One of the most common mistakes MCAT test-takers make is studying right after getting their scores back. Rushing into something without assessing your needs is mentally (physically and academically) taxing and a certain way to repeat the same ineffective pattern.

First and foremost, you need to be in the right mindset. It would help if you took a few weeks off to reflect on how you can improve compared to the first time you prepared for the MCAT. In the end, there’s no magic formula that guarantees MCAT success. Nonetheless, knowing yourself, including your study habits and desires, will go a long way toward building your confidence. It’s your thought process AFTER you get your score back that matters, not before. First, the key is to face your feelings and accept them. Then, give yourself time to heal naturally, and restart studying when you feel fresh, genuinely motivated, and clear-headed. It’s important to remember that you and only you can make the decision and take full responsibility for the results. Your goal is to feel confident. One of the most effective ways to feel genuinely confident is preparing the right way, specifically when retaking the MCAT.

When Should You Retake The MCAT?

Before committing to an MCAT retake, you must secure adequate amounts of three elements to ensure a higher score; time, energy, and strategy. Devoting your time and energy to retaking the MCAT represents loss of opportunity. You could be pursuing other enjoyable or fulfilling activities such as shadowing, research, and volunteering that deepen your medical school application.

While you want to know your grades before sending them to school, your brain is probably still unconsciously stressed and worried about your performance on the exam, so you should take at least a few weeks off before starting a serious restudy. If you have already taken the MCAT once, you may feel somewhat comfortable with most of the content. Studying the second time should be more strategic, focusing on test-taking skills, and targeting your weaknesses, especially if your practice test scores were generally in your target range. Therefore, you might need less dedicated study time than you did at first. In this scenario, we usually recommend a minimum of three months of preparation to restudy for the MCAT. Review your material and notes from before, but focus more on practice passages, replicating exam conditions, and learning relaxation techniques that might help you curb anxiety. Otherwise, consider taking a gap year to make sure you’re going to send the best possible version of your application.

How Often Can You Retake The MCAT?

The MCAT is administered multiple times during a year, from late January through early September, and offered at numerous of test sites in the United States, Canada, and worldwide. Ideally, applying to medical school is about a year-and-a-half-long process: from the fall of the year before through the fall/spring of the actual application year. So, if you had planned to apply in 2021 and registered in 2022, you should have your MCAT squared away by February or March 2021 at the latest.

It’s possible to take the MCAT:

-Up to three times in one year

-Up to four times over two years

-Up to seven times in a lifetime

How do Admissions View Multiple MCAT Scores

Bear in mind that all your scores will be seen by medical schools, which is just as significant as the AAMC’s guidelines concerning retaking the exam. However, admissions committees will use MCAT scores in different ways. Generally, admissions committees will expect an impressive score increase on your second exam, not a kind of increase that might just be the result of you taking the test a second time.

Depending on the program, schools may:

-Consider your highest score

-Take the average of all your scores

-Pay more attention to your most recent score

-Consider your highest section score from each test

 Reasons You Should Not Retake The MCAT

· If you’re unsure why you failed (and not because of the lack of preparation), it can be challenging to improve your score.

· If you’ve already scored exceptionally well (high enough for the schools you’re targeting).

· If you have taken the MCAT for two times or more before, taking the MCAT multiple times is not advisable.

· If taking the MCAT will delay your medical school application review, consider postponing your application to medical school—the latest we recommend taking the MCAT in June of the application year.

Best Tips For Re-Takers

Tip 1: Humans are creatures of habit. Therefore, it’s extremely easy to fall back into the same patterns you used the first time you took on the MCAT. So do things differently the second time around; The resources of your use , the subjects you focus the most time on, the way you practice full-length MCAT tests, the amount of time you spend, and … should be scrutinized entirely.

Tip 2: Don’t be afraid of reutilizing MCAT resources and materials. This provides a surprising advantage in that you can compare your performance this time around to your last performance on each question. If you got a question wrong both times, it likely signals a flaw in your review tactics.

Tip 3: Focus on your weaknesses without ignoring your strengths. If you performed significantly better on one or two sections than the others, it’s tempting to focus solely on reviewing and practicing the sections you performed poorly on. However, since MCAT content can be forgotten extremely quickly, make sure to study thoroughly and at least maintain your acumen rather than letting any area slip.

Retaking the MCAT is a challenging process, but with the right study techniques and balance, it is possible for you to succeed and, more importantly, bring out your best. First, you just need to reshuffle your approach to studying, reviewing, and flexing your knowledge through practice. Then, as we’ve pointed out in this guide, recognize how things can be improved and re-strategize.

As you consider the pros and cons for retaking the MCAT, Jack Westin is here for you every step of the way. From our FREE Question Bank to our World-Class Tutors, we have the tools to help you get into medical school.

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