34 MCAT, low GPA. Retake the new MCAT for MD-PhD?

Sep 8, 2015
1
0
Status
Pre-Medical
Hi everyone,

I took the old MCAT and got a 34 (P13, B13, V8.......) I have done pretty solid research (3 years in 2 labs, 3 publications, 1 national conference best poster, hopefully will get a first-author paper before application cycle), but my GPA is not decent especially in MD-PhD standard (c3.71, s3.79, hopefully will boost to c3.77 s3.83 after senior year).

So should I retake the new MCAT? I know the 8 in verbal is a big problem and 34 is not good enough for good MD-PhD programs, but the new MCAT seems like a quite different exams and studying for it during senior year will be a big headache...

Thanks in advance
 

mimelim

Vascular Surgery
7+ Year Member
Sep 19, 2011
4,878
14,339
Status
Attending Physician
The age old question of whether or not to retake an MCAT can virtually always be distilled down to this:

Retake your MCAT if there is a reasonable chance that you will do significantly better the second time around. Significantly better is defined as 3+ points on the old scale. Do not retake the MCAT because you want or 'need' a better score. By this standard, virtually nobody should be retaking a 35+ because the variability goes up significantly toward the top end of the range. But, a 29 shouldn't automatically retake.

Why do you think that your score will improve? What did you do less than adequately the first time around? If you don't have obvious holes that can be plugged, or good reasons why your first score was lower than it 'should have been', ie you were sick, it is pointless to fantasize about what a higher score will do for you.

Further, in no world is a 3.7 considered a low GPA, even for MD/PhD. Lower than average? Maybe. But, a 3.7 is not going to be the reason you don't get a spot.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Goro

Lucca

Will Walk Rope for Sandwich
Staff member
Administrator
5+ Year Member
Oct 22, 2013
8,216
17,900
City of the Future
Status
Medical Student
34 / high 3.7 is more than enough for many MSTPs all over the country. I wouldn't retake. Use that time to do something more productive, like finish that first author.
 
  • Like
Reactions: DokterMom

GrapesofRath

2+ Year Member
May 5, 2015
5,320
3,803
Status
Non-Student
Strongly discourage re-taking a 34. But if you are considering it at the bare minimum you absolutely need to look at the data of people who retake similar scores to yours.

https://www.aamc.org/students/download/271680/data/retestertotalscorechange.pdf

As mimelim described above 3+ is what constitutes a significant improvement. If your range 26% of people who retook did 3+ points better. That really is not alot. And you can bet a number of those people who did retake had real reason to believe they would improve the first time around ie: they were averaging 41's on their AAMC practice test had a really bad day and got a 34 on the real thing, were really sick, barely prepped, etc. You have to be honest with yourself if one of these factors that really could have limited your score contributed to the 34. If you studied hard and did your best and are merely re-taking because your practice tests were in the 37 range and you only got a 34, well that's a recipe for disappointment. It's incredibly foolish to just assume you are the exception and can buck the trends of history and that you are just magically different from that 74% who didn't improve the way they needed to for the re-take.

Furthermore, I'm even more hesitant to recommend high science lower verbal test takers to retake. Verbal is most resistant to improvement. An 8 will suffice in that section. But if you retake and get a 7, now you have a problem. Be happy and consider yourself lucky you got an 8 because that will suffice but any lower would have caused problems for sure. If you re-take you definitely open yourself up to the possibility of getting that 7.

More important though are two things
a) ADCOMs talk about this all the time but re-taking high scores is considered poor judgment and reveals qualities that ADCOMs don't desire at all. A 34 is a type of score high enough to get people to start questioning your judgment; particularly if you don't get a 520+ on the retake.
b) More importantly: 43% of people who retake didn't do better. 28% did worse. 17% did 2+ points worse. All of these people have hurt themselves for sure. Hell, even re-taking to a 35 or 36 hurts your app to some extent. You gotta consider this.

All in all if you realize there is a 74% chance you are only hurting yourself and even if by chance you are one of the 26% who shows major improvement can still have their judgment questioned and have red flags drawn to that re-take, it shouldn't be difficult to conclude its probably not a good idea to retake.

And btw, while we're on the subject, a 3.7/34 can get you into lower tier MD/PhD programs. The median MD/PhD matriculant has a 3.8/35. You aren't that far off and have strong research experience. You can be potentially competitive. Want to start messing with that? Re-take a very good score.
 
Last edited:

Goro

7+ Year Member
Jun 10, 2010
53,719
79,108
Somewhere west of St. Louis
Status
Non-Student
You can do plenty of research and/or academic medicine with just the MD.

Hi everyone,

I took the old MCAT and got a 34 (P13, B13, V8.......) I have done pretty solid research (3 years in 2 labs, 3 publications, 1 national conference best poster, hopefully will get a first-author paper before application cycle), but my GPA is not decent especially in MD-PhD standard (c3.71, s3.79, hopefully will boost to c3.77 s3.83 after senior year).

So should I retake the new MCAT? I know the 8 in verbal is a big problem and 34 is not good enough for good MD-PhD programs, but the new MCAT seems like a quite different exams and studying for it during senior year will be a big headache...

Thanks in advance
 
  • Like
Reactions: p0gono

xc_stallion92

2+ Year Member
May 13, 2015
352
375
Status
MD/PhD Student
3.5/ 517 checking in. 3 MD/PhD II's this cycle so far to decent schools. You're probably fine, although I can't really speak to the effect of having an 8 on verbal.
 

Lawper

cat in a box
Gold Donor
5+ Year Member
SDN Ambassador
Jun 17, 2014
36,859
108,597
space chat
The age old question of whether or not to retake an MCAT can virtually always be distilled down to this:

Retake your MCAT if there is a reasonable chance that you will do significantly better the second time around. Significantly better is defined as 3+ points on the old scale. Do not retake the MCAT because you want or 'need' a better score. By this standard, virtually nobody should be retaking a 35+ because the variability goes up significantly toward the top end of the range. But, a 29 shouldn't automatically retake.

Why do you think that your score will improve? What did you do less than adequately the first time around? If you don't have obvious holes that can be plugged, or good reasons why your first score was lower than it 'should have been', ie you were sick, it is pointless to fantasize about what a higher score will do for you.

Further, in no world is a 3.7 considered a low GPA, even for MD/PhD. Lower than average? Maybe. But, a 3.7 is not going to be the reason you don't get a spot.
Don't re-take an unexpired 34.
Strongly discourage re-taking a 34. But if you are considering it at the bare minimum you absolutely need to look at the data of people who retake similar scores to yours.

https://www.aamc.org/students/download/271680/data/retestertotalscorechange.pdf

As mimelim described above 3+ is what constitutes a significant improvement. If your range 26% of people who retook did 3+ points better. That really is not alot. And you can bet a number of those people who did retake had real reason to believe they would improve the first time around ie: they were averaging 41's on their AAMC practice test had a really bad day and got a 34 on the real thing, were really sick, barely prepped, etc. You have to be honest with yourself if one of these factors that really could have limited your score contributed to the 34. If you studied hard and did your best and are merely re-taking because your practice tests were in the 37 range and you only got a 34, well that's a recipe for disappointment. It's incredibly foolish to just assume you are the exception and can buck the trends of history and that you are just magically different from that 74% who didn't improve the way they needed to for the re-take.

Furthermore, I'm even more hesitant to recommend high science lower verbal test takers to retake. Verbal is most resistant to improvement. An 8 will suffice in that section. But if you retake and get a 7, now you have a problem. Be happy and consider yourself lucky you got an 8 because that will suffice but any lower would have caused problems for sure. If you re-take you definitely open yourself up to the possibility of getting that 7.

More important though are two things
a) ADCOMs talk about this all the time but re-taking high scores is considered poor judgment and reveals qualities that ADCOMs don't desire at all. A 34 is a type of score high enough to get people to start questioning your judgment; particularly if you don't get a 520+ on the retake.
b) More importantly: 43% of people who retake didn't do better. 28% did worse. 17% did 2+ points worse. All of these people have hurt themselves for sure. Hell, even re-taking to a 35 or 36 hurts your app to some extent. You gotta consider this.

All in all if you realize there is a 74% chance you are only hurting yourself and even if by chance you are one of the 26% who shows major improvement can still have their judgment questioned and have red flags drawn to that re-take, it shouldn't be difficult to conclude its probably not a good idea to retake.

And btw, while we're on the subject, a 3.7/34 can get you into lower tier MD/PhD programs. The median MD/PhD matriculant has a 3.8/35. You aren't that far off and have strong research experience. You can be potentially competitive. Want to start messing with that? Re-take a very good score.
Funny how medical schools will punish OP for even having an 8 on VR, and yet will still punish OP for retaking a 34 in hopes of scoring >10 on VR. Heck, even if OP retakes and scores the same or up to 2 points, but with all subsections >10, he will still get punished for retaking a 34 even though the new score is balanced.

Are schools really this fickle?
 

GrapesofRath

2+ Year Member
May 5, 2015
5,320
3,803
Status
Non-Student
Funny how medical schools will punish OP for even having an 8 on VR, and yet will still punish OP for retaking a 34 in hopes of scoring >10 on VR. Heck, even if OP retakes and scores the same or up to 2 points, but with all subsections >10, he will still get punished for retaking a 34 even though the new score is balanced.

Are schools really this fickle?
People absolutely get into medical school with the OP's type of GPA and MCAT despite an 8 in verbal. They aren't exceptions to the rule at all. The 8 is part of the reason why it's foolish to retake; the chance of getting a 7 on the retake which would cause legitimate problems is too high.
 

Lawper

cat in a box
Gold Donor
5+ Year Member
SDN Ambassador
Jun 17, 2014
36,859
108,597
space chat
MANY people get into medical school with the OP's type of GPA and MCAT despite an 8 in verbal.
It's below the 10th percentile for many schools nonetheless. But let's generalize this in the case of having a 34 but an 8 in any section (say an 8 in BS). Will schools still outright dismiss OP for retaking a 34 and having a more balanced equivalent, within +2 range?

What about someone who scored a 34 but had a 6 subsection score that is not necessarily verbal? Cumulative scores matter, yes, but balanced scores matter more, and retaking a 34 to produce a more balanced score becomes important.
 

GrapesofRath

2+ Year Member
May 5, 2015
5,320
3,803
Status
Non-Student
It's below the 10th percentile for many schools nonetheless. But let's generalize this in the case of having a 34 but an 8 in any section (say an 8 in BS). Will schools still outright dismiss OP for retaking a 34 and having a more balanced equivalent, within +2 range?

What about someone who scored a 34 but had a 6 subsection score that is not necessarily verbal? Cumulative scores matter, yes, but balanced scores matter more, and retaking a 34 to produce a more balanced score becomes important.
There is clearly a difference between an 8 in BS and an 8 in Verbal. An 8 in BS and yes I think a re-take could be in order. Goro and other ADCOMs say this all the time; verbal is the section which is applicants are given the most slack for. 7 and under from what ADCOMs have said on here and what schools policies and other info suggests is where the problems definitely start happening with verbal. OP fortunately doesn't have a 7.

https://www.aamc.org/students/download/271686/data/retestervrscorechange.pdf

Look at the re-take stats in general for people who get 8's in verbal. Only 31% improve 2+ points which is the type of improvement needed( getting a 9 when you have an 8 on your record the first time isn't going to really help your cause). 20% who retake an 8 get an 8 again which doesn't help and can only hurt. 24% who re-take do worse. These people really dig themselves a hole. An 8 will suffice. The odds of re-taking and really doing better aren't favorable(and this doesn't even account for the other sections where retaking 13's more than half the people who do do worse the 2nd time around).
 

Lawper

cat in a box
Gold Donor
5+ Year Member
SDN Ambassador
Jun 17, 2014
36,859
108,597
space chat
There is clearly a difference between an 8 in BS and an 8 in Verbal. An 8 in BS and yes I think a re-take could be in order. Goro and other ADCOMs say this all the time; verbal is the section which is applicants are given the most slack for. 7 and under from what ADCOMs have said on here and what schools policies and other info suggests is where the problems definitely start happening with verbal. OP fortunately doesn't have a 7.

https://www.aamc.org/students/download/271686/data/retestervrscorechange.pdf

Look at the re-take stats in general for people who get 8's in verbal. Only 31% improve 2+ points which is the type of improvement needed( getting a 9 when you have an 8 on your record the first time isn't going to really help your cause). 20% who retake an 8 get an 8 again which doesn't help and can only hurt. 24% who re-take do worse. These people really dig themselves a hole. An 8 will suffice. The odds of re-taking and really doing better aren't favorable(and this doesn't even account for the other sections where retaking 13's more than half the people who do do worse the 2nd time around).
Just to clarify, i agree with the consensus that a 34 with an 8 VR should not be retaken. However, what i sharply disagree is a badly unbalanced 34 with an 8 in one of the sciences or <7 in verbal should not be retaken because a 34 is "good enough". It really goes in a case by case basis, unless the applicant scored >38.

That and a balanced retake with marginal, or same, improvement in a retake should never be dismissed.
 

gyngyn

Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Lifetime Donor
7+ Year Member
Nov 4, 2011
24,155
40,128
Status
Attending Physician
It's below the 10th percentile for many schools nonetheless. But let's generalize this in the case of having a 34 but an 8 in any section (say an 8 in BS). Will schools still outright dismiss OP for retaking a 34 and having a more balanced equivalent, within +2 range?

What about someone who scored a 34 but had a 6 subsection score that is not necessarily verbal? Cumulative scores matter, yes, but balanced scores matter more, and retaking a 34 to produce a more balanced score becomes important.
With essentially perfect scores in the sciences, nobody is going to ding OP for an 8 in verbal.
 
  • Like
Reactions: GrapesofRath

GrapesofRath

2+ Year Member
May 5, 2015
5,320
3,803
Status
Non-Student
Just to clarify, i agree with the consensus that a 34 with an 8 VR should not be retaken. However, what i sharply disagree is a badly unbalanced 34 with an 8 in one of the sciences or <7 in verbal should not be retaken because a 34 is "good enough". It really goes in a case by case basis, unless the applicant scored >38.
If OP had a 6 in verbal and a 34 overall yes a re-take would be a good idea. Nothing is 100% absolute. But 14/6/14 cases are rather rare and clearly not the case here.