Should I Retake the MCAT?

You’ve devoted months—and perhaps even quite a bit of money—to preparing for the Medical College Admission Test, and now that you’ve received your score, all you can wonder is, “Should I retake the MCAT?”

Ultimately, everyone has their own opinion about whether a retake is necessary. One way to approach this question is to review the data utilized by medical school admissions committees, as well as several applicable studies.

So—should I retake the MCAT?

Consider this study, which was a meta-analysis of 23 other studies. It examined MCAT scores and their correlation to medical school GPAs and USMLE Step 1 scores. The highest predictive validity (or correlation) was seen between MCAT results and USMLE Step 1 scores (though this correlation was “small to medium”). This is important to note, as the Step 1 exam partially determines what field(s) of medicine you will be competitive for. Therefore, admissions committees may place significant weight on MCAT scores.

[RELATED: What is an Average MCAT Score?]

Next, what do studies say about retaking the MCAT? This study concluded that the average of the earlier and later score on two MCAT attempts had the highest predictive validity. The second highest predictive validity was awarded to the earlier MCAT score. Another study had similar findings. When multiple scores were present, the average score was the best indicator of USMLE Step 1 scores. If you believe that you can significantly improve your MCAT results, and your target programs average scores or consider the highest result, it may be worth retaking the MCAT.

The AAMC (or Association of American Medical Colleges) maintains a chart of retesting data for the 2008, 2009, and 2010 exam years. Though this chart relates to the prior version of the MCAT, it suggests how much of a score difference you may see on a retake based on how you fared the first time.

Very large increases are primarily common with lower scores. If you fall into this category, you should consider retaking the MCAT. If your target medical school takes the average of your MCAT scores, remember that an incremental improvement may not make much difference.

By this point, you may be leery of taking the MCAT at all. That is not the intention. The MCAT is an important aspect of medical school admissions, but it is not the only factor in your application. With the appropriate deliberation and preparation, including taking MCAT practice tests or working with MCAT tutors, you can make the most of your MCAT test date (whether it’s your first or second!).

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