Finding the Courage to Retake the MCAT
August 19, 2016
After waiting 30 to 35 days to receive your test results, you log in…….and you are not happy with your score. Indeed, after months of studying for the MCAT and developing the list of medical schools that you wanted to apply to, you like practically every other pre-med had a specific score or score range in mind that you expected to earn on test day. Well, despite how far you may be from your target score, the first thing you should do is NOT tear yourself down. A defeatist attitude is just as counterproductive after test day as it is before or on test day. Instead, follow these steps to view and analyze your situation from multiple angles.
1. Take a Vacation from the MCAT -- Do Nothing!
Your eyes are not deceiving you. After receiving your score report, take a week to do absolutely nothing related to the MCAT. Individuals who are not pleased with their MCAT score usually go through a broad spectrum of emotions. And as Robert H. Schuller said, “Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The Spring will come.” In other words, allow yourself time to equilibrate your emotions, so you can think clearer.
2. Reflect on Your Performance While Weighing Your Options
After hitting the reset button, take another look at your score report. Examine your score in each section. Can you pick out any strengths? If so, write them down and pat yourself on the back. Next, look at the areas that you expected to perform better in. Write those down too. Consider your GPA, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation you have or expect to have. Do a little more research on the medical schools to which you want to apply. What is the average MCAT score (composite and per section) and average GPA of their accepted students? Taking into account that those numbers are averages how far off from those numbers are you? How would you rate your overall competitiveness in applying to medical school? Do you really need to retake the MCAT, and if so, how much time do you have to prepare for your retake?
3. Fully Commit to Your Retake and Put the Past Behind You
Now that you have reflected on your situation and potential application file, you can fully commit to retaking the MCAT exam and put your past performance(s) behind you. You know the areas that you need to focus on to improve your score; thus, you can tailor your study methods to meet those needs. Do more practice questions in your weak subject areas. Review MCAT flashcards often to keep important information fresh in your mind. Perhaps you should try a test prep course or study group to keep you on track. Remember that by taking the MCAT at least once before, you are now a professional! You know what the test center looks like, how the computer functions, how you are timed, and when to expect breaks. You even know how the questions are structured! Apply all this knowledge to your MCAT practice tests as well as your confidence level.
Finally, do not feel ashamed about retaking the MCAT. Some of the best students in the world take the MCAT more than once and for a variety of reasons. Striving to improve yourself or represent yourself as best as possible is not a sign of weakness -- it is a sign of maturity.