Since this topic comes up often, I decided to write a few thoughts on it while I have the time. I'm sure there is stuff I might be forgetting, but it's a good start. If youre reading this and you havent started studying for or taken the MCAT, there are a few things you can do which will reduce your chances of needing a retake. First, you need to gain confidence that you can tackle this test. You shouldnt be reading a thread on retaking. People that plan to retake, shouldnt take the MCAT. Youre planning to fail and thats a horrible mindset for anything. Secondly, do not study for the MCAT with other commitments. While the second point is not as applicable to non-trads who have to work to eat, for the majority of pre-meds, there is no reason to study for the MCAT while in school. None. Thats simply poor planning. Next, start studying for the MCAT AFTER YOU FINISH YOUR PRE-REQS. Finally, make sure you take TONS of timed practice passages. Do I have to retake? Before anything else, that is the first question you should be asking yourself. However, one cannot answer it until they HAVE their score. Do NOT schedule a retake because you finished your MCAT and felt bad. How you feel and how you do on the MCAT have little in common. Furthermore, youre not in the best frame of mind to make such a decision directly after your test. As long as youre getting your test scored, there is no reason at all to schedule for a retake. Now that you have your score, its time to decide if you actually need a retake. Before reading these tips, check out the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) book. It will tell you the typical MCAT and GPA range for the schools youre looking at. Additionally, it will help you pick schools which fit your scores. While everyones situation will be different due to their ECs and whatnot, here are some general guidelines meant primarily for those interested in MD programs. Im not that knowledgeable about DO schools. Link to MSAR: http://www.aamc.org/students/applying/msar.htm 1. If any section score is 7 or below, you should probably retake. Most schools rarely accept students with a 7 or lower in any section. The few schools that do are typically in-state schools. I suggest you consult your MSAR to see if your in-state schools frequently admit students with your score. 2. If your score is +30, as long as your GPA is solid for the schools youre looking at (again consult the MSAR), theres no reason to retake. Should your score be in the low 30s, youd be better served by applying broadly and strengthening the other aspects of your application over retaking. Do NOT get hung up on one school or one set of schools (a.k.a. the top tiers). - A quick note, you may read posts about people with unbalanced scores. As long as you dont fall under #1, youre most likely fine. For instance, schools dont care if you scored a 15-10-15. Thats not unbalanced. On the other hand, if you scored 15-7-15, then schools may be a little concerned. Also, one section score of 8 probably wont hurt you too much, though your score is somewhat unbalanced. Typically, a 9 is your safest bet. 3. If your score is below 30 by a few points AND in-state schools arent much of an option (ex. CA), you should consider a retake. 4. If you dont think you can raise your score by at least 3 points, theres no reason to take the MCAT unless one of your sub-scores was 7 or lower. Otherwise theres no point in a retake when you cant significantly improve your score. Even in cases where you have a 7 or lower section score, you should still be aiming for an overall improvement of 3 or more points. Again, these are guidelines, they wont fit for everyone. Yet, they should give you an idea about whether or not you should retake. If you still arent sure whether you should or not, post in the Official Should I Retake Thread. I will not answer any questions about this topic in here. - Official Should I Retake Thread (http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=412739) Analyzing your past MCAT experience Alright, you know you need to retake, but where to begin? Take a break. Its tempting to drive right in after a poor MCAT score, but you must take some time off. Youve just been studying for quite awhile, so give your brain a break. Fortunately, if youve been waiting until your scores come out doing nothing MCAT related, you should be rested up. However, any studying, during that period means it wasnt a break. Additionally, make sure you approach the test with renewed confidence. Going in with a defeated attitude will not work. So relax, and then tackle your retake refreshed and full of confidence. The next major step is analyzing exactly what went wrong during your past MCAT experience. Scrutinize everything; from content weaknesses to sleeping habits. Its vital that you discover your weaknesses in order to address them for your retake. Once you find them, develop a plan to eliminate them. The two most common mistakes people make which lead to a retake is studying for the MCAT with other commitments (especially school) and taking the MCAT before completing their pre-reqs. There is absolutely no reason to fall into either of these traps the first time, let alone for a retake. Here are some questions to get you started: 1. Why do you think you did poorly? 2. Were you getting plenty of sleep? 3. Are you weak in any content areas? 4. How was your post-test review? 5. Did you have other commitments? 6. Did you score dramatically lower than your practice test average? In other words, did you choke? 7. Any personal issues prevent you from focusing? 8. Did you try a short 1-2 month schedule? 9. What materials did you use? 10. How did you best learn the material? 11. Did you take enough timed practice passages? Get New Material The most important thing you can do is GET NEW PRACTICE MATERIAL. Do NOT reuse old practice material (this includes practice passages AND FLs) for anything other than analyzing your past MCAT experience. From my schedule thread: Should I retake FL X? I don't suggest it for a few reasons. First, your score will be inflated. This alone negates the predictive power of the test. If you don't need it to gauge where you are, fine, retake them. For instance, you could simply be going over the problems again to, as others have mentioned, understand the thinking behind it. However, if you are using it as a practice FL, don't. One of the most important aspects of a FL is that it's material you've never seen before. It forces you to quickly analyze an unknown passage, tap into your knowledge, and answer questions you've never seen. If you knew exactly what was going to be on the test, it would take away from the somewhat frantic experience of getting that weird passage. It also makes you more relaxed overall because you know what's coming. Unfortunately, you will not have the luxury of either on the test. You will have to deal with weird passages. You will have to get out of your comfort zone of knowing what's ahead. Then, you get into the timing issues which you MUST get down before the test. When you have prior knowledge of the material, you miss the chance at gaining more experience with the clock. Too many people underestimate the effect of the timer. Again, you have to get used to it and retaking problems won't help. Think of the whole thing like sports practice. Sure, you go over some standard plays again and again to get a feel for them. However, to practice for a real game, you have a scrimmage match or an exhibition game. The other team doesn't tell you what plays they're going to run. If they did, it would eliminate the usefulness of the scrimmage or exhibition game. Practice passage sources - BR series offers plenty of passages (http://www.berkeley-review.com/TBR/home-study.html) - TPRH Verbal and Science Workbooks, check the For Sale forum (http://forums.studentdoctor.net/forumdisplay.php?f=230) - EK 1001 Bio (http://www.amazon.com/Examkrackers-1001-Questions-MCAT-Biology/dp/1893858219/ref=pd_sim_b_2) - EK Verbal 101 (http://www.amazon.com/Examkrackers-MCAT101-Passages-Verbal-Reasoning/dp/1893858553/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243226173&sr=8-2) - Nova Physics (http://www.amazon.com/MCAT-Physics-Book-Garrett-Biehle/dp/1889057339/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1281233526&sr=1-1) - BR Verbal, ONLY if you used up TPRH Verbal Workbook and EK Verbal 101 because BR Verbal is pretty bad (http://www.berkeley-review.com/TBR/home-study.html) - Rest of EK 1001 series is good for nailing down the basics Practice test sources - AAMC FLs, if you didnt use these the first time for some strange reason, get all of them now (http://www.e-mcat.com/) - BR FLs, expensive, but good (http://www.berkeley-review.com/TBR/home-study.html) Making a schedule Using the information you gained from your analysis and your new practice material, you should make a new schedule. For the majority of retakers, I strongly suggest you go with a standard 3 month schedule. Except, make sure it addresses your weaknesses. Once you craft your schedule, follow it. For an example schedule, you can check out the one I made (http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=623898). Make sure you schedule in plenty of breaks. Also, sign up early for your test. Dont wait until the last minute because seats can fill quickly. When you create your schedule or use the one I made with some slight modifications to address your weaknesses, make sure you TAKE A COUPLE FULL LENGTHS A MONTH BEFORE YOUR MCAT DATE. If your practice test average isnt where you want it, you should delay your test and reevaluate your schedule. Something isnt working for you and before you burn through more FLs, you must analyze whats going wrong. Check back over your previous weaknesses and verify that youre addressing them. However, you shouldnt get to this point because youre supposed to be taking and analyzing tons of timed practice passages THROUGHOUT your schedule. Try to identify and alleviate your weaknesses before you start taking practice FLs. Remember, your goal should be an improvement of 3 or more points on a retake. Finally, DO NOT RETAKE THE MCAT IF YOUR PRACTICE TEST AVERAGES ARE NOT A SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT.