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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.
     

    LizzyM

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      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?

      When I sit with other members of the adcom and hear what they have to say, I do hear some who express surprise and a mild disgust that an applicant would retake a 34 or 35. I'm just reporting what I hear.
       

      gettheleadout

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        When I sit with other members of the adcom and hear what they have to say, I do hear some who express surprise and a mild disgust that an applicant would retake a 34 or 35. I'm just reporting what I hear.
        Understood. Can you possibly elaborate at all as to their thought process? I understand if you don't agree with their sentiments, but I'm wondering if it's based on an assumption that such an applicant would have an ego problem/be too much of a perfectionist/etc...
         

        Chrome19

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          When I sit with other members of the adcom and hear what they have to say, I do hear some who express surprise and a mild disgust that an applicant would retake a 34 or 35. I'm just reporting what I hear.

          Is this at a top 10 school? A school like WashU would probably be somewhat impressed if a student improved their score from 34 to 37+. Just a guess.
           
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          mejorization

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            Whoops. Yes, I would only tell UNC adcoms that UNC is my first choice.

            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?
             

            LizzyM

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              Is this at a top 10 school? A school like WashU would probably be somewhat impressed if a student improved their score from 34 to 37+. Just a guess.

              I'll say "top 20" but prefer not to be more specific....

              I think that when adcoms see a 3.95/36 with a retake, they wonder what that applicant is thinking.... with a 34, maybe not so much, particularly if it is something like 7 13 14 although we'd think that was a little crazy, particularly if the second works out to 9 13 12. We take the average of all MCATs taken and use total, not subscores, as the evidence is that total MCAT averaged across all reported scores is the best predictor of success in med school.
               

              High Roller

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                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.



                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.

                I really dig your confidence and it sounds like you've already made up your mind to go for it...so good luck!

                And not to be doubting you, but I am a little perplexed why you're so confident you'll do better. A 34 is an excellent score, and won't hold you back. And wasn't your score, while on the lower side, still within your practice test score ranges?

                Personally I'd take that score and run, even if I scored 38+ on all my practice tests.

                And I missed it...What did you Ad com at your state school tell you about retaking it?

                Either way, good luck!
                 

                gettheleadout

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                  I'll say "top 20" but prefer not to be more specific....

                  I think that when adcoms see a 3.95/36 with a retake, they wonder what that applicant is thinking.... with a 34, maybe not so much, particularly if it is something like 7 13 14 although we'd think that was a little crazy, particularly if the second works out to 9 13 12. We take the average of all MCATs taken and use total, not subscores, as the evidence is that total MCAT averaged across all reported scores is the best predictor of success in med school.
                  Would the perception vary at all depending on the retake score? As in, if an applicant retook a 36 and got a 42 or something, would that change the perception of why the applicant might have retaken vs retaking for 38? I realize this is getting really specific, but I'm just curious.
                   

                  LizzyM

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                    Would the perception vary at all depending on the retake score? As in, if an applicant retook a 36 and got a 42 or something, would that change the perception of why the applicant might have retaken vs retaking for 38? I realize this is getting really specific, but I'm just curious.

                    The comment is more along the lines of "what was this guy thinking in retaking a 36?" In other words, the outcome is not of concern here; we are wondering about the applicant's state of mind when they decided to retake. Is this someone who is a gunner for a top spot who is going to be obscessed with grades and scores? Some of those folks are rather unpleasant to be around in comparision with those who score a 42 or a 36 on the first try and are done.
                     

                    gettheleadout

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                      The comment is more along the lines of "what was this guy thinking in retaking a 36?" In other words, the outcome is not of concern here; we are wondering about the applicant's state of mind when they decided to retake. Is this someone who is a gunner for a top spot who is going to be obscessed with grades and scores? Some of those folks are rather unpleasant to be around in comparision with those who score a 42 or a 36 on the first try and are done.
                      I guess I'm just surprised that such questions could affect decisions about the applicant; would the committee factor something like this in when deciding whether to interview an applicant? I can imagine it would weigh heavily against the applicant if he/she confirmed such suspicions in an interview, but barring that it seems like worries of that sort would be no more than hunches.
                       

                      gettheleadout

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                        I have a 34 and 4.0 GPA. I could have scored better had I dedicated more time to my studies probably, but I am still satisfied with this score. But I am also happy just attending my state school.

                        I can tell the OP definitely has a concern about pedigree and I think that's a valid concern if you are thinking academic medicine. But I would say that you can get into a top 20 with that score and if you didn't, you can still match into top residencies if you do well in Med school.

                        I know academic physicians that attended my state's medical school. They matched into a residency at a Harvard Hospital and was a clinical professor at HMS. He told me to attend my state's medical school. "I'm in so much less debt than my friends that went to private schools and I matched into a residency with people from Hopkins, Yale, and Harvard. I'm where I want to be and University of XXXX school of medicine didn't slow me down at all". Bottom line: You can get to where you want to be from any medical school.
                        Though the bottom line there is true, one anecdote doesn't negate the effect of where you get your medical education. Medical school reputation matters more for people trying to match into academic residencies, and while this doesn't mean you can't get into one from an average school, it doesn't mean you should eschew the chance for the advantage a prestigious program may give you.
                         

                        mejorization

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                          I talked to the former dean of admissions at UNC. I think his response did a good job of summarizing all of the arguments in this thread. He told me to only retake if I was sure I could improve by 3-4 points. Having a high GPA and 37+ MCAT will almost ensure admission at UNC if I can coherently demonstrate that I know what medicine is about and don't act like a psycho at the interview. So there IS a difference between a 34 and a 37 - a high MCAT score can, to a degree, make up for other aspects of an application.

                          As a counterpoint, he mentioned that some people always do worse on the real deal and that 34 was not far from my AAMC average of 38. Even though I did so much better on practice exams, it will take a lot to bring my actual score to my practice exam score range. Considering all of these factors, as well as the risk of doing worse, he doesn't think I should retake.

                          This is what I'll probably do: practice practice practice verbal, and sign up for an exam if/when I manage to get 12-13 consistently. Thanks guys!
                           
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                          SN2ed

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                            This is what I'll probably do: practice practice practice verbal, and sign up for an exam if/when I manage to get 12-13 consistently. Thanks guys!

                            Not even close to enough resources to waste your time doing this. You'd be better served spending that time improving your application through ECs.
                             

                            Hotshy

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                              Not even close to enough resources to waste your time doing this. You'd be better served spending that time improving your application through ECs.

                              :thumbup: This. You have a 34 and 3.9+, what will draw top schools to your application is a significant non-academic achievement. Everyone applying to top programs has impressive academic credentials, stand out by accomplishing something significant.
                               
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                              vayntraubinator

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                                Not even close to enough resources to waste your time doing this. You'd be better served spending that time improving your application through ECs.

                                Hmm. Think not, my friend. He can always start with the Iliad, maybe work his way up to the Federalist papers. Once he's mastered the English Language he don't need none no practice. no?
                                 

                                mejorization

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                                  :laugh:

                                  I'll do a great deal of reading outside my comfort zone. Also maybe use the verbal sections of other professional school exams - some are pretty similar to MCAT VR.

                                  Hmm. Think not, my friend. He can always start with the Iliad, maybe work his way up to the Federalist papers. Once he's mastered the English Language he don't need none no practice. no?
                                   

                                  gettheleadout

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                                    non-academic achievement
                                    Hmm does journalism count? What is an EC that also increases Verbal?
                                    Haha... I don't know that you'll find any single activity besides verbal prep that will definitively increase verbal scores in a significant percentage of people.
                                     

                                    JohnnyBravo

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                                      Don't spend your October-January studying to retake a 34. Spend it watching Roy and company steamroll the competition this season with the rest of us!

                                      Kentucky will beat UNC in the title game. Gilchrist is > Barnes. The former owned the latter the 3 times they played.
                                       
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                                      phonyreal98

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                                        Kentucky will beat UNC in the title game. Gilchrist is > Barnes. The former owned the latter the 3 times they played.
                                        I can't wait to see a senior 250 pound Tyler Zeller eat a freshman 200 pound Anthony Davis's lunch. Sorry, but we've been there before with John Henson. Very talented big man, top 5 recruit, but was a string bean. Dude got eaten alive in the post his freshman year. Same thing is going to happen to Anthony Davis this year.
                                         
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