Dilemma - Retaking a 34?

mejorization

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    I took the 8/19 MCAT and got a 34Q (9VR/13PS/12BS). I am thinking about retaking the exam, since I had been scoring much higher on AAMCs. (Average =~ 38). I foolishly signed up for an 8am exam though I know I'm not an early bird and felt completely out of my element during the exam, especially during the VR section, even though I had done much of my practice exams at 8am. Definitely taking a 1pm administration if I decide to retake.

    Now I know the general consensus on SDN is that I should not retake such a solid score, even if it's unbalanced. But I really feel cheated out of a great score, as 34 is lower than ANY practice exam I had taken; the 9VR is particularly worrying. Since I have no idea exactly what I want to do with my MD at this point, I really don't want a poor MCAT score to close the door on acceptance to a better medical school, and thus the specialties I'll be able to go into.

    Another point that a professor mentioned to me is that since my score is already 2 points higher than the average MCAT score at my state school (UNC-SOM), retaking a 34 might give the adcoms the impression that I'm uninterested in attending the state school, independent of whether I do better or worse. This adds an extra dimension to my dilemma. Do you guys think the adcoms operate by this logic? If so, I would essentially be killing my chances at the school most likely to accept me in order to boost my chances of acceptance at a higher tier medical school, which would be *****ic.

    What do you guys think? Should I retake? I know it's a risky move but I know I can do better on this damned exam!


    Edit: Here's some more info:
    cGPA: 3.93, sGPA=3.89
    I have a good amount of volunteering, research, clinical experience, etc. I attend UNC Chapel Hill.
     

    gettheleadout

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      If I were an adcom and saw a kid retake a 34 and got a 38, I would not be impressed.

      In fact, I would probably be questioning your judgement skills and your gunnerish attitude. Would I want a classmate who thought getting around the 90th percentile on the MCAT was not enough? I wouldn't deep-six for you for this, but this firmly goes in the negative column.
      I think this is making a couple big judgments. I'd hope an adcom wouldn't really judge this way.
       

      mcarrick

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        If I were an adcom and saw a kid retake a 34 and got a 38, I would not be impressed.

        In fact, I would probably be questioning your judgement skills and your gunnerish attitude. Would I want a classmate who thought getting around the 90th percentile on the MCAT was not enough? I wouldn't deep-six for you for this, but this firmly goes in the negative column.

        Interesting
         
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        Chrome19

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          I personally wouldn't retake a 34. But if I felt I had a strong chance of scoring 36+ I would retake. I don't think an adcom would view a retake negatively, especially if you score higher. Average scores at top schools sit at about 36-37.

          OP, you know yourself better than anyone as well as your true ability. It's ultimately your decision.
           
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          JohnnyBravo

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            "once you hit 33, you have the requisite cognitive ability to do well" - I only scored a 30 on my MCAT. I'm pretty @$#%@# smart too. Top of my class in fact. I'm depressed now that I know I unfortunately lack the cognitive ability to do well in med school...

            "9 on VR won't get you ANY admissions". My VR was 9. Got 10 offers (including one from your mom) , 3 to top 10 schools.

            As was previously explained, the MEDIAN is not the same thing as an average/mean. This is not a perfect bell curve. Please stop using the median as though it was the mean. You're going to confuse people.

            To answer your question from my opinion: 38 on your FIRST definitely looks better than a 34 and may help you get a couple more top tier interviews. Like others have said, now that you already have a very good (but admittedly not amazing) score under your belt, taking it a second time will really open you up to all types of questions and raised eyebrows. If you score a 40, maybe it will get you some bonus points somewhere, but I think it will largely detract your chances at most places, or do nothing at all. It's obviously your call, and maybe some will see it as confidence and drive to be better.

            To respond to another part of your post, not going to a "top-tier" school will not in any way affect your ability to match into a field of choice. I have many friends in barely-known schools. Several of them have matched into very competitive programs that don't even offer residencies at their schools (derm, plastics, uro). Yes, it might be harder, but it's not going to close doors as long as you do your part. What will be a bigger challenge is going to a school that doesn't offer a residency in the specialty you are interested in.

            Either way, good luck!

            Hey Man,

            I mean no disrespect. I just picked 33. Anyone who scores a 30 or better is more than smart enough. I simply wanted to point out the erroneous notion that a 34 and 38 are looked upon as equal. Look at MDapss for confirmation. Now, you have to consider ECs', but by and large a 37+ MCAT is expected and if you DON'T have it, you had better have amazing EC's to make up. Which is why Lord Jeebus' post is so enlightening.
             

            JohnnyBravo

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              I think this is making a couple big judgments. I'd hope an adcom wouldn't really judge this way.

              They wouldn't, a buddy of mine got a 35 and retook and got a 39. He got into Columbia, Penn, Stanford, and Yale amongst others.

              In closing, the MCAT ISN'T EVERYTHING. However, if you're targeting top schools, then yes a 37+ MCAT is a huge asset. Moreover, consider percentiles. A 33 MCAT is a GREAT SCORE. However, that puts you in the bottom third percentile of accepted students at pretty much any school with a median of 35+. Moreover, it sucks, but look at GPA percentiles.

              Columbia Medical School (online MSAR) .10 percentile for GPA is 3.5. the .90 percentile is 3.9 with a median of 3.81. What does this mean? Well most good applicants have 3.7 to 3.8 GPAs. So, for the most part, GPA is worthless. What is the best manner of differentiating between students? Oh yea, the MCAT. It is imperfect, but I'm tired of seeing numerous saying there is no difference. Numerically there isn't, but statistically there is a GIANT CHASM between a 34 and a 38.

              So, apply accordingly. Good luck to all of you. Lord Jeebus' post SURPRISED me. He told a kid to retake a 35 to get a 38. A 38 is 98-98.8 percentile. So when Adcom's see such a score, it gets their attention fair or not. The median MCAT is 32/33. So, fair or not fair, most committee members at elite schools won't be impressed with a 34.

              Finally, remember there are more more QUALIFIED APPLICANTS than seats. So, everything matters. Unless you have great EC's or something noteworthy, the MCAT is the BEST manner to separate yourself from the pack.
               
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              JohnnyBravo

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                That was my score, exactly. I got into the school I wanted which is a top tier.

                You are effing crazy for thinking about retaking it.

                If I'm not mistaken you were non-traditional? I'm sure you had a 3.9 and amazing EC's. For the average 21-year old with a good gpa, decent ecs, a 34 vs 38 may play a huge role. Again, this issue isn't black or white. We don't exactly know. What we do know is that percentile wise there is a huge difference between a 34 and a 38. With respect to accepted students, the chasm is even greater.

                A 32 MCAT at University of Chicago puts you in the bottom 10th percentile. That's just ridiculous. You need to have a balanced application. However, lets face it, most 21-year old applicants don't and the MCAT is their biggest asset.
                 

                Isoprop

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                  Well a buddy of mine retook a 32 to get a 38 and got rejected from Columbia, Penn, Stanford, Yale, etc. What does that tell you?

                  Seriously some of you guys' reasoning is just absurd.

                  OP: you have just won the $10,000 lottery, but you feel the need to use that money to win the megamillion jackpot. Even if your dream school is top tier, I strongly urge you to not retake your MCAT.
                   

                  Jolie South

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                    If I'm not mistaken you were non-traditional? I'm sure you had a 3.9 and amazing EC's. For the average 21-year old with a good gpa, decent ecs, a 34 vs 38 may play a huge role. Again, this issue isn't black or white. We don't exactly know. What we do know is that percentile wise there is a huge difference between a 34 and a 38. With respect to accepted students, the chasm is even greater.

                    A 32 MCAT at University of Chicago puts you in the bottom 10th percentile. That's just ridiculous. You need to have a balanced application. However, lets face it, most 21-year old applicants don't and the MCAT is their biggest asset.

                    I definitely did not have a 3.9 GPA. I was average in that part of my application, and anyone relying solely on GPA and MCAT without fairly good ECs is going to have a "come to Jesus" moment when the end of the season arrives and they haven't done that well. If this OP is using a retake to overcome a lackluster application, I really don't think that it's going to do as much for him/her you think.

                    To be honest, you can get in with a 34. Med school is med school. The rest depends on you. If you're a rock star in med school with off the charts Step I, AOA, and research, it's not really going to matter where you came from.

                    How do you know that a 38 on retake is going to be that impressive anyways? Someone that has already taken the test should automatically score higher the second time.
                     

                    Isoprop

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                      How do you know that a 38 on retake is going to be that impressive anyways? Someone that has already taken the test should automatically score higher the second time.

                      You would think so right? But in fact, I have taught and tutored many students who had their second MCAT score go DOWN especially if they had a good score to begin with. Retaking a high MCAT score is a huge risk. Even though OP said he feels cheated out of a great score because of his practice tests, in fact he could have been very lucky and got a great score.

                      Practice tests scores are almost meaningless. They give you an idea of how you might score but they are poor predictors of your actual MCAT score.
                       

                      mcarrick

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                        Well a buddy of mine retook a 32 to get a 38 and got rejected from Columbia, Penn, Stanford, Yale, etc. What does that tell you?

                        Seriously some of you guys' reasoning is just absurd.

                        OP: you have just won the $10,000 lottery, but you feel the need to use that money to win the megamillion jackpot. Even if your dream school is top tier, I strongly urge you to not retake your MCAT.

                        You would think so right? But in fact, I have taught and tutored many students who had their second MCAT score go DOWN especially if they had a good score to begin with. Retaking a high MCAT score is a huge risk. Even though OP said he feels cheated out of a great score because of his practice tests, in fact he could have been very lucky and got a great score.

                        Practice tests scores are almost meaningless. They give you an idea of how you might score but they are poor predictors of your actual MCAT score.

                        I'm sorry, but you really don't know what you're talking about.

                        No adcom will look at a 38 negatively simply because it is someone's second time taking the MCAT. You're going from below average at a top-tier to one or two standard deviations above. How that is negative, I have no clue. (Of course, the OP has to first score higher but you are making it seem as if it will be bad even if he scores a 38 the 2nd time).

                        Also, for the vast majority of people, practice tests are a great predictor of their score. OP was just unlucky.
                         

                        MShopes

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                          You guys are talking like he is sure he will get 38 or even above his previous score the next time he takes the MCAT. What if he scores the same or even less? That would look really bad....even if the OP is sure of his content and know that he can score higher, maybe he will have a bad day or the test will hit his weaker areas and then he do worse.
                           

                          Isoprop

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                            I'm sorry, but you really don't know what you're talking about.

                            No adcom will look at a 38 negatively simply because it is someone's second time taking the MCAT. You're going from below average at a top-tier to one or two standard deviations above. How that is negative, I have no clue. (Of course, the OP has to first score higher but you are making it seem as if it will be bad even if he scores a 38 the 2nd time).

                            Also, for the vast majority of people, practice tests are a great predictor of their score. OP was just unlucky.

                            You've missed the point. The 32 ->38 was a counterexample to the post above mine. Retaking a good score to get a great score is not necessarily negative, but it isn't going to make the impact that you and other people here suggest.

                            If we compare two applicants just on stats alone: 3.9/34 vs 3.9/38, you might believe that the latter applicant would always be chosen over the former. But you would be wrong! After you get a great GPA and MCAT, the "softer" qualities of the applicant is much more important. The 34 vs 38 MCAT score will matter very little.

                            You will often hear adcoms talking about how well an applicant will "fit" into med school. We're not talking about your ECs or your LORs per se here either. We are talking about your personality and how well you get along with interviewers. Every medical school, even top tier ones, will waitlist more qualified medical students because an applicant with lower stats fits the profile they are looking for.

                            You guys are all saying that retaking and getting a 38 would increase his chances at top tier schools. I'm saying that if you got into Harvard with a 38 MCAT score, you probably would have gotten in with a 34. Very few adcom members would look at a 34 and think this was only a marginal candidate.
                             
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                            Isoprop

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                              Also, for the vast majority of people, practice tests are a great predictor of their score.

                              And I can tell you with great certainty that this is false. Practice test scores do not accurately predict your real exam score. If someone showed me their practice test scores, and their average score was a 38, then I can say that that student will PROBABLY do well on the MCAT. I wouldn't be able to say, "well, you should be able to score at least XYZ when you take your MCAT."
                               

                              JohnnyBravo

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                                You've missed the point. The 32 ->38 was a counterexample to the post above mine. Retaking a good score to get a great score is not necessarily negative, but it isn't going to make the impact that you and other people here suggest.

                                If we compare two applicants just on stats alone: 3.9/34 vs 3.9/38, you might believe that the latter applicant would always be chosen over the former. But you would be wrong! After you get a great GPA and MCAT, the "softer" qualities of the applicant is much more important. The 34 vs 38 MCAT score will matter very little.

                                You will often hear adcoms talking about how well an applicant will "fit" into med school. We're not talking about your ECs or your LORs per se here either. We are talking about your personality and how well you get along with interviewers. Every medical school, even top tier ones, will waitlist more qualified medical students because an applicant with lower stats fits the profile they are looking for.

                                You guys are all saying that retaking and getting a 38 would increase his chances at top tier schools. I'm saying that if you got into Harvard with a 38 MCAT score, you probably would have gotten in with a 34. Very few adcom members would look at a 34 and think this was only a marginal candidate.


                                Okay isoprop, my point was that retaking a 35 and getting a 39 wouldn't be looked down upon. Obviously, it was one example. Your buddy didn't get in. We know that going from a 32 to a 38 made him more competitive than a 32. A 32 is bottom 10 percentile a Columbia.

                                You also missed my point, which was that with otherwise mediocre ecs, a 38 will make an applicant MORE competitive. I never said it guaranteed someone. There are certain medicals schools, Penn, Wash U, Duke, and Columbia that place a premium on a high MCAT. The OP probably aspires to such schools. My point was that retaking would give him a better shot. That can't be ARGUED. How much CAN. All I said was that retaking would help. Then everyone said it was pointless.

                                At the end of the day, MOST people won't get into columbia. However, your buddy knows that it wasn't because of his MCAT. Very few WHITE, ASIAN, etc applicants get into Columbia with a 32. Take from that what you will. I'm happy this was brought up because going back to 2004 people have debated the advantages of going form 32/33 to 36/37.

                                In closing, a poster last year retook a 40 and got a 41. He still got into UChicago. So all of you saying a school will look down upon a retake is laughable. Even if you go down it's okay, just don't tank.
                                 

                                JohnnyBravo

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                                  And I can tell you with great certainty that this is false. Practice test scores do not accurately predict your real exam score. If someone showed me their practice test scores, and their average score was a 38, then I can say that that student will PROBABLY do well on the MCAT. I wouldn't be able to say, "well, you should be able to score at least XYZ when you take your MCAT."

                                  I couldn't agree more. The MCAT is so variable. I've seen way too many people like Boz go from 29 to 38. There is a poster who went 28 29, 39. Hmmmmm
                                  It's a good test and statistically valid. However, I laugh when they say that every MCAT is equal. If you know electostatics, fluids, and optics cold but blow at chemistry and get all physics, you're going to get 13+. I've seen it happen. A kid gets a 14 on one test then a 10 on another.
                                   

                                  JohnnyBravo

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                                    And I can tell you with great certainty that this is false. Practice test scores do not accurately predict your real exam score. If someone showed me their practice test scores, and their average score was a 38, then I can say that that student will PROBABLY do well on the MCAT. I wouldn't be able to say, "well, you should be able to score at least XYZ when you take your MCAT."

                                    I have found the point of dissension. You are saying that going from a 34 to a 38 is really difficult and the gains are probably not significant.

                                    I'm saying that if one is able to go from 34 to a 38 then there can be no doubt that there is a boost. To me whatever boost is gained is worth it.

                                    In closing, it's up to the individual. I just hate people coming in and saying there is no benefit. There clearly is. It's up to you to decide if it's worth studying again for a boost which is huge according to one adcomm but we don't know how representative this view is.
                                     

                                    mejorization

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                                      I couldn't agree more. The MCAT is so variable. I've seen way too many people like Boz go from 29 to 38. There is a poster who went 28 29, 39. Hmmmmm
                                      It's a good test and statistically valid. However, I laugh when they say that every MCAT is equal. If you know electostatics, fluids, and optics cold but blow at chemistry and get all physics, you're going to get 13+. I've seen it happen. A kid gets a 14 on one test then a 10 on another.

                                      On my practice exams my ranges were PS 13-15 and BS 12-15. My final score reflected my lowest scores on the sciences, over 10+ tests. I really doubt I will suddenly drop to 10 on the sciences. Verbal, on the other hand, ranged from 8-13, but usually 10-11, so I'll definitely work on verbal and try to get a more stable score.

                                      just let him retake it. who cares. he's made up his own mind.

                                      I am fairly confident about my score and feel that there is a >90% chance I'll do better if I take it again. But I won't retake if I find that retaking will hurt my chances at state schools.
                                       

                                      gettheleadout

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                                        In closing, a poster last year retook a 40 and got a 41. He still got into UChicago. So all of you saying a school will look down upon a retake is laughable. Even if you go down it's okay, just don't tank.
                                        Now THAT actually does sound useless.
                                         

                                        liveoak

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                                          In closing, a poster last year retook a 40 and got a 41. He still got into UChicago. So all of you saying a school will look down upon a retake is laughable. Even if you go down it's okay, just don't tank.

                                          Schools that masturbate to high mcat scores will not look down upon the retake, sure. No one is debating that. Not every schools ****** themselves to mcat scores. That's the point.
                                           

                                          ppfizenm

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                                            This is the equivalent of a d*ck measuring contest.

                                            I got a 34. Was it less than my average? Yes. Would I like a higher score? Of course, but only for vanity issues. A 34 means you did better than 93% of people that take the MCAT and the difference between it and a 38 is, at most, 5 or 6 questions. A 34 is competitive at most top tier schools. It's time to grow up.

                                            Btw. It isn't recommended you retake the test unless you are sure you will score 4-5 points higher.
                                             
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                                            gettheleadout

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                                              This is the equivalent of a d*ck measuring contest.

                                              I got a 34. Was it less than my average? Yes. Would I like a higher score? Of course, but only for vanity issues. A 34 means you did better than 93% of people that take the MCAT and the difference between it and a 38 is, at most, 5 or 6 questions. A 34 is competitive at most top tier schools. It's time to grow up.
                                              But that's not the point. The question was whether or not it would benefit someone who believes they can score higher to retake the MCAT and score higher. Some people aren't content with being 93rd percentile when they believe they can hit 99th (or whatever.)
                                               

                                              ponyo

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                                                But that's not the point. The question was whether or not it would benefit someone who believes they can score higher to retake the MCAT and score higher. Some people aren't content with being 93rd percentile when they believe they can hit 99th (or whatever.)

                                                ^ Agreed.

                                                1. OP: I think you should retake it IFF you think you will score 37-8+.

                                                2. I think "93rd percentile" is a terrible argument. Your motivation, whether in taking the MCAT or anything else, should be with respect to yourself, not in a contest with anybody else. If you try your hardest and get a 23, that should be okay with you. But a 34 isn't truly representative and I think it's entirely justifiable to want a score that accurately reflects your academic skills, regardless of where that score might be on a percentile scale. For all of you citing the percentile argument, will you have our best athletes settle for the "93rd percentile" rather than try and reach their true potential? Should our surgical residents quit practicing so much, because they're already exceptional in dexterity? Not everyone can make it into the Olympics and not everyone can become a neurosurgeon, but for the ones who have the talent as well as the desire, why would you possibly tell them to settle for less than their best work? Most of us are average and have just about zero chance to score a 38. That is not a valid reason to stop somebody else from reaching for it.
                                                 

                                                liveoak

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                                                  2. I think "93rd percentile" is a terrible argument. Your motivation, whether in taking the MCAT or anything else, should be with respect to yourself, not in a contest with anybody else. If you try your hardest and get a 23, that should be okay with you. But a 34 isn't truly representative and I think it's entirely justifiable to want a score that accurately reflects your academic skills, regardless of where that score might be on a percentile scale. For all of you citing the percentile argument, will you have our best athletes settle for the "93rd percentile" rather than try and reach their true potential? Should our surgical residents quit practicing so much, because they're already exceptional in dexterity? Not everyone can make it into the Olympics and not everyone can become a neurosurgeon, but for the ones who have the talent as well as the desire, why would you possibly tell them to settle for less than their best work? Most of us are average and have just about zero chance to score a 38. That is not a valid reason to stop somebody else from reaching for it.

                                                  Dude, it's the mcat. It's not surgery. Big f*cking difference.
                                                   

                                                  ponyo

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                                                    Dude, it's the mcat. It's not surgery. Big f*cking difference.

                                                    Yea, but the mentality difference applies to every exam, quiz, pset. If you went to take an easy class like Calc I or something, would you just be ok with doing better than 93% of the class? Wouldn't you want to do as well as you can?

                                                    And it just doesn't make sense to say that all else held equal there is no difference in admissions between a 34 and a 38.
                                                     

                                                    liveoak

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                                                      Yea, but the mentality difference applies to every exam, quiz, pset. If you went to take an easy class like Calc I or something, would you just be ok with doing better than 93% of the class? Wouldn't you want to do as well as you can?

                                                      And it just doesn't make sense to say that all else held equal there is no difference in admissions between a 34 and a 38.

                                                      No, because you can use that time to do something actually worthwhile. You're proven your deal with the mcat, be happy and become a more well-rounded person.

                                                      We want to become doctors right? Not MCAT national champions.

                                                      Surgery skill, and scoring in the 99th percentile of the mcat are not equal whatsoever.
                                                       

                                                      JohnnyBravo

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                                                        No, because you can use that time to do something actually worthwhile. You're proven your deal with the mcat, be happy and become a more well-rounded person.

                                                        We want to become doctors right? Not MCAT national champions.

                                                        Surgery skill, and scoring in the 99th percentile of the mcat are not equal whatsoever.

                                                        Your post is so full of fail I do not know where to begin. The mentality is the same. Those who get a 34 and feel they can do better do not settle. That is his point. Of course surgery is different. However, the characteristic of never settling is an admerable point. I have a hunch that every person that said not to retake didn't break 35 and are simply jealous and angry that a mere three or four points makes a big difference.

                                                        Moreover, the dick measuring contest post is epic fail as well. Why you guys can't see that a 38 puts you in the top 85th percentile of accepted applicants at schools with a 35 median, whereas a 34 puts you in the bottom 25th percentile is beyond me. When you receive thousands of applications they have to discriminate somehow and for the most part GPA and EC's are equal.

                                                        OP, I would retake if you want to get into upper echelon schools. I think your post rubs people the wrong way because those who get or dream of a 32 or 33 are appalled. No ONE has issue with someone retaking a 28 to go to a 32. However, retaking a 34 to a 38 angers people which is hilarious. Is the latter more difficult? Yes. Is it still beneficial? Yes. According to Lord Jeebus it is significantly more beneficial.

                                                        I'm done posting in this thread. I've been on SDN for a while. I have seen this topic beaten to death and have never commented until now. It's funny that the majority says it's pointless when the numbers and data clearly show the opposite.

                                                        Finally, go look at MDapps. I know it's a small subsection. However, guess which school has the hightest MCAT average? Wash U. Go look at the average interview and acceptance stats. You won't find one elite school with one below 36. Moroever, you'll see a fair amount of kids with 3.3 GPAs and 38+ MCAT getting accepted at top school. So, don't say it doesn't matter. It's okay to say to work on other parts. I just can't stand the posts saying it's a waste of time which is so erroneous it's not even funny. Any bump helps in the battle to get an acceptance, especially at the top 20 schools where pretty much everyone at SDN strives for.

                                                        I'm out. Good luck to all of you.
                                                         

                                                        liveoak

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                                                          Your post is so full of fail I do not know where to begin. The mentality is the same. Those who get a 34 and feel they can do better do not settle. That is his point. Of course surgery is different. However, the characteristic of never settling is an admerable point. I have a hunch that every person that said not to retake didn't break 35 and are simply jealous and angry that a mere three or four points makes a big difference.

                                                          Moreover, the dick measuring contest post is epic fail as well. Why you guys can't see that a 38 puts you in the top 85th percentile of accepted applicants at schools with a 35 median, whereas a 34 puts you in the bottom 25th percentile is beyond me. When you receive thousands of applications they have to discriminate somehow and for the most part GPA and EC's are equal.

                                                          OP, I would retake if you want to get into upper echelon schools. I think your post rubs people the wrong way because those who get or dream of a 32 or 33 are appalled. No ONE has issue with someone retaking a 28 to go to a 32. However, retaking a 34 to a 38 angers people which is hilarious. Is the latter more difficult? Yes. Is it still beneficial? Yes. According to Lord Jeebus it is significantly more beneficial.

                                                          I'm done posting in this thread. I've been on SDN for a while. I have seen this topic beaten to death and have never commented until now. It's funny that the majority says it's pointless when the numbers and data clearly show the opposite.

                                                          Finally, go look at MDapps. I know it's a small subsection. However, guess which school has the hightest MCAT average? Wash U. Go look at the average interview and acceptance stats. You won't find one elite school with one below 36. Moroever, you'll see a fair amount of kids with 3.3 GPAs and 38+ MCAT getting accepted at top school. So, don't say it doesn't matter. It's okay to say to work on other parts. I just can't stand the posts saying it's a waste of time which is so erroneous it's not even funny. Any bump helps in the battle to get an acceptance, especially at the top 20 schools where pretty much everyone at SDN strives for.

                                                          I'm out. Good luck to all of you.


                                                          You're not wrong at all. The dude should retake because for certain schools, that are in it for more than just education (but are actually kind of a business as well) mcat scores do matter, even if it is trivial (like a 34 vs 38). The OP obviously aspires to gain admission to these schools, so he needs to retake.

                                                          I have a hunch that every person that said not to retake didn't break 35 and are simply jealous and angry that a mere three or four points makes a big difference.

                                                          No.
                                                           

                                                          JohnnyBravo

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                                                            No, because you can use that time to do something actually worthwhile. You're proven your deal with the mcat, be happy and become a more well-rounded person.

                                                            We want to become doctors right? Not MCAT national champions.

                                                            Surgery skill, and scoring in the 99th percentile of the mcat are not equal whatsoever.

                                                            How do you know this? I've shadowed a few surgeons who DIDN'T do well on the MCAT and even took it twice. So, yes, anyone who scores .99 on the MCAT probably can handle surgery. You're dismissing the MCAT a little too lightly.

                                                            Finally, the whole point of being an MCAT champion is to gain admission to top schools. His goal isn't just to get into med school which you and 90% of the posters in this thread missed. He wanted to know if he should retake to be more competitive at top schools. The answer is yes. Unfortunately, he got berated by individuals such as yourself.

                                                            This thread shows me why I love the MCAT and think it's the best metric. Does the MCAT indicate how good of a doctor you will be? I don't know. However, it's purpose is to DISTINGUISH between applicants and for that reason alone, a 34 is more beneficial than a 38. You don't retake to indicate you're smarter, you do it to SEPARATE yourself from other applicants.

                                                            You said to go work on EC's, for the most part EC's won't do crap for most applicants. Going from a 34 to a 38 is as good as it gets for the typical 21-year old applicant.
                                                             
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                                                            JohnnyBravo

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                                                              I had a friend who retook a 34 and got a 39. It was worth it, in my opinion, but you have to make sure you time it right so that you dont delay your application, better to apply early with a 34 than late with a 39 (i think...)

                                                              LOL. I'm going to open another can of worms. I would generally agree. However, SDN vastly overrates applying early. It's important. However, they act like submitting your primary (yes primary), in October is a death sentence. It's not advisable and you will be interviewing late but it can be done. I will say this with a caveat, applying late at the top 20 from my anecdoctal evidence doesn't hurt you as much.

                                                              Why? From Lizzie M and other posters it seems top schools always save interviews for studly late applicants. In addition, a lot of the top schools aren't rolling. Yes I know interviews aren't rolling, but with these schools you know you're not competing for less spots.
                                                               

                                                              ppfizenm

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                                                                ^ Agreed.

                                                                1. OP: I think you should retake it IFF you think you will score 37-8+.

                                                                2. I think "93rd percentile" is a terrible argument. Your motivation, whether in taking the MCAT or anything else, should be with respect to yourself, not in a contest with anybody else. If you try your hardest and get a 23, that should be okay with you. But a 34 isn't truly representative and I think it's entirely justifiable to want a score that accurately reflects your academic skills, regardless of where that score might be on a percentile scale. For all of you citing the percentile argument, will you have our best athletes settle for the "93rd percentile" rather than try and reach their true potential? Should our surgical residents quit practicing so much, because they're already exceptional in dexterity? Not everyone can make it into the Olympics and not everyone can become a neurosurgeon, but for the ones who have the talent as well as the desire, why would you possibly tell them to settle for less than their best work? Most of us are average and have just about zero chance to score a 38. That is not a valid reason to stop somebody else from reaching for it.

                                                                When you get up to that level on the MCAT though little things that you really have no control over come into play. OP could have just gotten unlucky but it is a fair bet that adcoms realize that once you've shown you can do better than most people they get the point.

                                                                If you plot the mcat score vs percentile you get something that looks like an O2 dissociation curve. At the top of the curve, statistically, there is very little difference between a 34 and a 38. If he wants to retake by all means let him but it's the equivalent of arguing over pennies.

                                                                If you want to go with the sports metaphors lets. I was a swimmer in college. By no means was I anything great, but I most always placed in my events. However, the truly great swimmers time's would depend on things that were outside of their control. Sometimes it would be the viscosity of the water (they call it if the water feels fast or slow), temperature, the wall you are turning off of, the starting block, the beeper that signals the start, even the person swimming in the lane next to you. At most these things would shave or add milliseconds from or to the person's time but those made all the difference. Most of the time these guys are just as good as each other and that was generally recognized.

                                                                The point is, there are going to be things about the MCAT you cannot control and when you get up to a certain range those little things are going to make a seemingly large difference.

                                                                I'll end it with a sports quote.

                                                                "The man who said "I'd rather be lucky than good" saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It's scary to think so much is out of one's control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second, it can either go forward or fall back. With a litte luck, it goes forward, and you win. Or maybe it doesn't, and you lose."
                                                                 

                                                                ppfizenm

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                                                                  Your post is so full of fail I do not know where to begin. The mentality is the same. Those who get a 34 and feel they can do better do not settle. That is his point. Of course surgery is different. However, the characteristic of never settling is an admerable point. I have a hunch that every person that said not to retake didn't break 35 and are simply jealous and angry that a mere three or four points makes a big difference.

                                                                  Moreover, the dick measuring contest post is epic fail as well. Why you guys can't see that a 38 puts you in the top 85th percentile of accepted applicants at schools with a 35 median, whereas a 34 puts you in the bottom 25th percentile is beyond me. When you receive thousands of applications they have to discriminate somehow and for the most part GPA and EC's are equal.

                                                                  OP, I would retake if you want to get into upper echelon schools. I think your post rubs people the wrong way because those who get or dream of a 32 or 33 are appalled. No ONE has issue with someone retaking a 28 to go to a 32. However, retaking a 34 to a 38 angers people which is hilarious. Is the latter more difficult? Yes. Is it still beneficial? Yes. According to Lord Jeebus it is significantly more beneficial.

                                                                  I'm done posting in this thread. I've been on SDN for a while. I have seen this topic beaten to death and have never commented until now. It's funny that the majority says it's pointless when the numbers and data clearly show the opposite.

                                                                  Finally, go look at MDapps. I know it's a small subsection. However, guess which school has the hightest MCAT average? Wash U. Go look at the average interview and acceptance stats. You won't find one elite school with one below 36. Moroever, you'll see a fair amount of kids with 3.3 GPAs and 38+ MCAT getting accepted at top school. So, don't say it doesn't matter. It's okay to say to work on other parts. I just can't stand the posts saying it's a waste of time which is so erroneous it's not even funny. Any bump helps in the battle to get an acceptance, especially at the top 20 schools where pretty much everyone at SDN strives for.

                                                                  I'm out. Good luck to all of you.

                                                                  You do have a point. It would be easier, but if his GPA is high enough it really shouldn't matter anyway. A 3.3 and a 38 is roughly the equivalent of a 34 and a 3.7 going by LizzyM criteria.
                                                                   

                                                                  ponyo

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                                                                    When you get up to that level on the MCAT though little things that you really have no control over come into play. OP could have just gotten unlucky but it is a fair bet that adcoms realize that once you've shown you can do better than most people they get the point.

                                                                    If you plot the mcat score vs percentile you get something that looks like an O2 dissociation curve. At the top of the curve, statistically, there is very little difference between a 34 and a 38. If he wants to retake by all means let him but it's the equivalent of arguing over pennies.

                                                                    If you want to go with the sports metaphors lets. I was a swimmer in college. By no means was I anything great, but I most always placed in my events. However, the truly great swimmers time's would depend on things that were outside of their control. Sometimes it would be the viscosity of the water (they call it if the water feels fast or slow), temperature, the wall you are turning off of, the starting block, the beeper that signals the start, even the person swimming in the lane next to you. At most these things would shave or add milliseconds from or to the person's time but those made all the difference. Most of the time these guys are just as good as each other and that was generally recognized.

                                                                    The point is, there are going to be things about the MCAT you cannot control and when you get up to a certain range those little things are going to make a seemingly large difference.

                                                                    I'll end it with a sports quote.

                                                                    "The man who said "I'd rather be lucky than good" saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It's scary to think so much is out of one's control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second, it can either go forward or fall back. With a litte luck, it goes forward, and you win. Or maybe it doesn't, and you lose."

                                                                    I actually agree with this, esp. with the sigmoid curve (I'm a visual thinker). However, we disagree on the point at which you become a "top swimmer" in this analogy. A 34 at my undergrad is pretty exactly average and it is really obvious that the 34s aren't getting into the same schools as the 38s. I agree that past a certain point it ceases to matter as much, at least for admissions, but I would not draw that line at a 34.

                                                                    I think this thread just especially speaks to me because I too got a string of 38's on practice tests but am getting my score back TOMORROW. Also I'm pretty sure I failed the PS section :(

                                                                    You do have a point. It would be easier, but if his GPA is high enough it really shouldn't matter anyway. A 3.3 and a 38 is roughly the equivalent of a 34 and a 3.7 going by LizzyM criteria.

                                                                    No... his GPA is staying the same. Even if 3.7/34 = 3.3/38, 3.7/34 =/= 3.7/38
                                                                     
                                                                    Last edited:

                                                                    ppfizenm

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                                                                      I actually agree with this, esp. with the sigmoid curve (I'm a visual thinker). However, we disagree on the point at which you become a "top swimmer" in this analogy. A 34 at my undergrad is pretty exactly average and obviously not everyone gets into the top schools. I agree that past a certain point it ceases to matter as much, at least for admissions, but I would not draw that line at a 34.

                                                                      I think this thread just especially speaks to me because I too got a string of 38's on practice tests but am getting my score back TOMORROW. Also I'm pretty sure I failed the PS section :(



                                                                      No... his GPA is staying the same. Even if 3.7/34 = 3.3/38, 3.7/34 =/= 3.7/38

                                                                      I never said I was a top swimmer. I was decent. That's all I said. It gives me a little more credibility then coming in with a random metaphor that I know nothing about. If you simply meant how one becomes a top swimmer it's true. Look at the quickskin suits they wear in the Olympics. They cost upwards of a couple hundred dollars for a one time use and are designed to make you more hydrodynamic and pull the water off and past you basically. Swimmers shave their body hair to shave points of a millisecond off their time.

                                                                      I think a 34 is a decent place to draw that line based on the curve. Not b/c that's what I got. Feel free to draw it where you want to (link below). I know for as close to a fact as you can get with the MCAT score though that 2 more questions right in the BS would have out me at a 15 in that section. I finished with some 20 odd minutes left and only marked two the entire section. It's even more recognized in verbal that one can bring you down a whole point so I don't think I could have gotten any more than 4 or 5 wrong. The point is that even 3 questions could have swung me up to a 37.

                                                                      http://medschoolodyssey.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/total-percentile.png

                                                                      As I recall (looked at it once like 3 months ago) from the spread sheet a 71 would put you pretty close to all the top tier schools except Wash.

                                                                      I blew PS as well.
                                                                       
                                                                      Last edited:

                                                                      whitesmilesmile

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                                                                        I never said I was a top swimmer. I was decent. That's all I said. It gives me a little more credibility then coming in with a random metaphor that I know nothing about. If you simply meant how one becomes a top swimmer it's true. Look at the quickskin suits they wear in the Olympics. They cost upwards of a couple hundred dollars for a one time use and are designed to make you more hydrodynamic and pull the water off and past you basically. Swimmers shave their body hair to shave points of a millisecond off their time.

                                                                        I think a 34 is a decent place to draw that line based on the curve. Not b/c that's what I got. Feel free to draw it where you want to (link below). I know for as close to a fact as you can get with the MCAT score though that 2 more questions right in the BS would have out me at a 15 in that section. I finished with some 20 odd minutes left and only marked two the entire section. It's even more recognized in verbal that one can bring you down a whole point so I don't think I could have gotten any more than 4 or 5 wrong. The point is that even 3 questions could have swung me up to a 37.

                                                                        http://medschoolodyssey.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/total-percentile.png

                                                                        As I recall (looked at it once like 3 months ago) from the spread sheet a 71 would put you pretty close to all the top tier schools except Wash.

                                                                        I blew PS as well.
                                                                        being a decent swimmer is still that cool, I have to say,at least to me.
                                                                         

                                                                        ponyo

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                                                                          I never said I was a top swimmer. I was decent. That's all I said. It gives me a little more credibility then coming in with a random metaphor that I know nothing about. If you simply meant how one becomes a top swimmer it's true. Look at the quickskin suits they wear in the Olympics. They cost upwards of a couple hundred dollars for a one time use and are designed to make you more hydrodynamic and pull the water off and past you basically. Swimmers shave their body hair to shave points of a millisecond off.

                                                                          Oh I meant "you" in a general sense :p

                                                                          And I know what you mean. But that is exactly why I think the OP needs to try harder for those few points that most applicants aren't going to care about. OP doesn't want to do decently well at a state school... he wants to do exceptionally well and get into a top school, which requires getting every bit of advantage he can get. I really don't think "good enough" is good enough for the OP's goals. It's like saying "I'm just not going to taper and hope for the best, even though I know I swim faster when I do".

                                                                          And swimmers are awesome. Just throwing that out there.

                                                                          Edit: dammit you added to your post. I totally understand what you mean and it's one of the reasons I'm freaking out about my score when I have a midterm tomorrow morning. I absolutely despise the scaling on that test. D:
                                                                           

                                                                          ppfizenm

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                                                                            Oh I meant "you" in a general sense :p

                                                                            And I know what you mean. But that is exactly why I think the OP needs to try harder for those few points that most applicants aren't going to care about. OP doesn't want to do decently well at a state school... he wants to do exceptionally well and get into a top school, which requires getting every bit of advantage he can get. I really don't think "good enough" is good enough for the OP's goals. It's like saying "I'm just not going to taper and hope for the best, even though I know I swim faster when I do".

                                                                            And swimmers are awesome. Just throwing that out there.

                                                                            Edit: dammit you added to your post. I totally understand what you mean and it's one of the reasons I'm freaking out about my score when I have a midterm tomorrow morning. I absolutely despise the scaling on that test. D:


                                                                            Yea. I almost never get a complete idea out before posting for some reason. I wonder how tapering would work on the MCAT?

                                                                            Anyway, yea scaled tests suck but I think once you get to a certain point it is just dependent on luck over anything you could have done. Either you know the answer to those random 2 questions or you don't. Next time around he might know the answer or he might not. He could even go down, though it seems unlikely.

                                                                            Just keep in mind that even IQ test results aren't set in stone. They vary slightly per administration and there is very little you can do to prep for an IQ test. Random chance does play a factor here, as it does in he MCAT, and in my opinion, which means little I concede, the OP may be gambling for something he wants with something he may already have. If I honestly thought he wouldn't be able to get in top tier with a 34 I'd tell him to retake.
                                                                             

                                                                            LizzyM

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                                                                              Wow, I was obviously alluding to the top 10-15 schools. Seriously, his post was aimed at top schools. I have an old MSAR. Northwestern, Stanford, Harvard, UPenn, Columbia, had median MCAt's of 37. I was shocked too.

                                                                              I just bought the online one and it states that Columbia is 36 and Baylor is 35. The problem is that they simply added the median scores for each individual section. Which is nice and simple, but you really need to take the median for the composite score. So, looking at the top schools, they all hover at 35 or 36. I have a hunch, as does the brilliant RapplixGmed, that the composite median is closer to 37 if you just looked at all the numbers. I will give more data later.

                                                                              Finally, a 32 or 33 puts you at the bottom 10th percentile at nearly all of the top schools whereas a 39 puts you at the 90th percentile. A 34 is basically still bottom 25 percentile at both Baylor and Columbia.

                                                                              I should have been more descripitive but the data clearly shows that a 34 and 38 is generally the difference between a 25th percentile score at a school like Columbia and a 80- 85th percentile.

                                                                              Be careful with these stats. Some of these averages are based on admitted applicants rather than matriculants. They are all making offers to the same pool of MCAT >36 applicants but in the end that group of High Scorers split up among many schools and the incoming class has a much lower MCAT score because it includes far more people with scores of 30-35 than 36+.

                                                                              Imagine it this way:

                                                                              600 offers: 300 to people with mcats >35 and 300 to people with mcats <36.
                                                                              100 matriculants: 30 with mcats >35 and 70 with mcats <36.

                                                                              You'll have a better chance of getting an interview & offer at a top school if you have a higher than avg mcat but in the end, many students have very good but not exceptional (95th percentile) MCATs.

                                                                              If you are hoping for UNC, retaking a 34 may be considered an indication that you are more interested in the top private schools rather than UNC which is a very good school itself.
                                                                               

                                                                              JohnnyBravo

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                                                                                Be careful with these stats. Some of these averages are based on admitted applicants rather than matriculants. They are all making offers to the same pool of MCAT >36 applicants but in the end that group of High Scorers split up among many schools and the incoming class has a much lower MCAT score because it includes far more people with scores of 30-35 than 36+.

                                                                                Imagine it this way:

                                                                                600 offers: 300 to people with mcats >35 and 300 to people with mcats <36.
                                                                                100 matriculants: 30 with mcats >35 and 70 with mcats <36.

                                                                                You'll have a better chance of getting an interview & offer at a top school if you have a higher than avg mcat but in the end, many students have very good but not exceptional (95th percentile) MCATs.

                                                                                If you are hoping for UNC, retaking a 34 may be considered an indication that you are more interested in the top private schools rather than UNC which is a very good school itself.

                                                                                Wow, I never considered that. I guess based on that, it makes less sense to retake. Thanks for the advice Lizzie:)
                                                                                 

                                                                                mejorization

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                                                                                  That's really interesting. What do you think adcoms will think if I tell them that UNC is my first choice, but I want a better shot at other schools, some of which have higher MCAT averages, if UNC doesn't accept me?

                                                                                  Be careful with these stats. Some of these averages are based on admitted applicants rather than matriculants. They are all making offers to the same pool of MCAT >36 applicants but in the end that group of High Scorers split up among many schools and the incoming class has a much lower MCAT score because it includes far more people with scores of 30-35 than 36+.

                                                                                  Imagine it this way:

                                                                                  600 offers: 300 to people with mcats >35 and 300 to people with mcats <36.
                                                                                  100 matriculants: 30 with mcats >35 and 70 with mcats <36.

                                                                                  You'll have a better chance of getting an interview & offer at a top school if you have a higher than avg mcat but in the end, many students have very good but not exceptional (95th percentile) MCATs.

                                                                                  If you are hoping for UNC, retaking a 34 may be considered an indication that you are more interested in the top private schools rather than UNC which is a very good school itself.
                                                                                   
                                                                                  D

                                                                                  deleted380953

                                                                                    Be careful with these stats. Some of these averages are based on admitted applicants rather than matriculants. They are all making offers to the same pool of MCAT >36 applicants but in the end that group of High Scorers split up among many schools and the incoming class has a much lower MCAT score because it includes far more people with scores of 30-35 than 36+.

                                                                                    Imagine it this way:

                                                                                    600 offers: 300 to people with mcats >35 and 300 to people with mcats <36.
                                                                                    100 matriculants: 30 with mcats >35 and 70 with mcats <36.

                                                                                    You'll have a better chance of getting an interview & offer at a top school if you have a higher than avg mcat but in the end, many students have very good but not exceptional (95th percentile) MCATs.

                                                                                    If you are hoping for UNC, retaking a 34 may be considered an indication that you are more interested in the top private schools rather than UNC which is a very good school itself.


                                                                                    I never knew that such schools offered so many acceptances, despite the >150 people classes...
                                                                                     

                                                                                    ppfizenm

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                                                                                      I never knew that such schools offered so many acceptances, despite the >150 people classes...

                                                                                      It depends entirely on the school how many offers are given out. A school with a low turnover rate doesn't need to offer many more acceptances than seats they have (i.e. top tiers) but schools with high rates must offer many more acceptances than seats to fill their class. Schools can't have unfilled seats. hence wait lists.
                                                                                       

                                                                                      gettheleadout

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                                                                                        That's really interesting. What do you think adcoms will think if I tell them that UNC is my first choice, but I want a better shot at other schools, some of which have higher MCAT averages, if UNC doesn't accept me?
                                                                                        You should not tell schools that are not UNC that UNC is your first choice.

                                                                                        Lizzy, I'm somewhat surprised adcoms might view a retake in that context. Why can't it just be that the applicant felt he/she could do better?
                                                                                         
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