No matter how confident you are, it’s a good idea to know how many times you can take the MCAT.
You see, there’s a bit of confusion out there when it comes to this topic. This is because there’s a difference between how many times you can take it, and how many times you should.
But don’t worry, this post will make that crystal clear.
The reason it’s important to know how many times you can take the MCAT is it helps you prepare. When you know you don’t have unlimited attempts (spoiler alert) it gives you that extra incentive to establish a plan and perform.
Let’s get started.
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How Many Times Can You Take The MCAT?
Taking the MCAT is a huge step in your educational journey. It’s what years of education have led up to and you’ve probably studied for months in preparation.
But what happens if after taking the test and waiting diligently on your scores, you realize that you didn’t do as well as you thought?
Luckily, the MCAT is not a one-off test. You can retake it to improve your score and make your medical school applications more competitive.
In fact, retaking the MCAT is fairly common. Many students retake the test at least once to see if they can some type of improvement in their scores.
The Association of American Medical Colleges, or AAMC, is quite generous with its retake policy. There are some limitations, but most students will not need as many chances as AAMC provides.
In total, students are allowed to take the MCAT seven times.
This is the lifetime policy. If you don’t achieve your desired score after seven attempts, you’re out of luck.
Those attempts cannot be taken one after another. You can only take the MCAT four times over a two-year period, or three times in a single year.
How Many Times Should You Take It?
Now, just because you’re allowed to take the MCAT up to seven times doesn’t mean that you should.
The MCAT is designed to show admissions panels that you understand the course material and that you’re prepared for the rigors of medical school. Taking the test too many times is like a red flag indicating that you’re struggling.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just your highest score that’s sent to schools with your application.
Medical schools have access to all of your scores from every retake. Thus, they can see how many times you’ve taken the test and how your scores have changed with each attempt.
Most admissions panels will only consider the highest score when trying to decide if you’re a good fit.
But, that’s not always the case.
Some programs will take a look at the score for the most recent retake and compare it to the larger pool of applicants. Others will combine all of your scores to get an average.
No matter which score holds the most weight, the admissions panel will see all of your attempts. Whether it’s intentional or not, the number of attempts you make could have an effect on the admissions decision.
Generally, medical schools prefer that students take the MCAT no more than three times.
It’s still possible to get accepted retaking the test more than that, but it’s relatively rare.
Another way to put this is your chances of getting accepted drop significantly after your third attempt.
Why is that? Well, it usually comes down to the United States Medical Licensing Examination or USMLE.
The USMLE is the final test that you’re going to take to become a licensed practitioner. With the USMLE, there is a retake policy. But, it works very differently from the MCAT.
Once you pass the USMLE, you cannot retake the test to improve your scores.
When you have more than three MCAT attempts in your application, it sends a bad message to the admissions panel. The medical school is focused on providing you with the best education possible so that you’re fully prepared for the USMLE.
Numerous MCAT retakes show that you might have to take the USMLE several times before you pass as well.
How To Make Sure You Don’t Retake The MCAT Unnecessarily
Before you decide to retake the MCAT, there are several things to consider. Naturally, it’s normal to want to improve your scores as much as possible.
But, it’s not always necessary.
Since you want to avoid taking the test too many times, it’s important to reevaluate where you stand before you rush into anything.
Examine your MCAT scores and see how you stack up against medical school requirements. Use the Medical School Admission Requirments database to compare your scores to the schools you’re interested in.
While you might have gotten an MCAT score that’s a bit lower than you wanted to, your scores could still be competitive against the pool of applicants.
Another thing to think about is whether or not your retake is going to be worth it. Think about how prepared you were going into the MCAT the first time. Did you feel confident and fully prepared? If so, you might not see a significant increase in your final score.
Taking the MCAT is not cheap. If you don’t think that there’s anything you can do differently to see a noticeable improvement, you might want to forgo another attempt.
Finally, there’s the issue of time. The medical school admission cycle timeline is well-established. If you did things right, you should have some extra time to retake the MCAT.
But what if you applied late?
Schools need to have your finished application and MCAT scores by a certain date. Sometimes, retaking the test will only delay the process. Plus, you’ll need time to prepare.
With everything else that’s going on, you might have less time to study for the MCAT during your second attempt than your first.
The last thing you want to do is get a lower score. So, you might want to reconsider a retake in this instance.
How To Make Sure You’re Ready To Take It Again
If you decide to retake the MCAT, it’s important to change your approach. You didn’t do as well as you wanted the first go around. This means there’s probably some room for improvement with how you prepared.
Take a minute to think about where things went wrong the first time.
Was there a specific section that gave you trouble? Did you have issues with pacing? Reflect on the testing experience and identify those problems.
Next, you’ll need to assess your MCAT study routine. The goal is to address your weak spots, so you’ll likely need to make some changes. Think about your study methods and whether or not those methods benefited you.
For example, you might have not done enough practice drills. Alternatively, you could have done the practice tests without simulating real MCAT testing conditions.
Now that you have a bit more experience, you can really take this opportunity to improve your preparation routine. You understand how the MCAT works, what it looks like, and how it feels to be in that testing room.
Use that knowledge to your advantage and adjust your study routine accordingly.
Want Someone In Your Corner?
If you need some help preparing for the MCAT (or simply want to make sure you score well when it matters) we’d love to talk to you.
These days almost every premed student is using some form of assistance when preparing for the MCAT. Tutors, practice tests, you name it.
It’s no wonder why the application process is getting so competitive!
Over the years we’ve helped hundreds of students get accepted into med school, and get a killer score on the MCAT. If you want an experienced teacher to help guide you through the process drop us a line!