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Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by 040111333, Sep 7, 2014.
Do not take the MCAT in November if you are not repeatedly scoring in your target range on multiple practice tests. More schools are moving to averaging multiple MCAT scores, and a poor score will never go away. You have access to one free official MCAT and can buy others from AAMC to "have a general idea of the MCAT exam structure and experience."
After the MCAT, you hope that your next big exam will be the Step 1, an exam taken after your second year of medical school. This is a high stakes exam that will, in part, determine which residencies you'll have a shot at. However, although there is a score for the exam, it is a one-shot deal. If you pass, you can't retake it. This is one of many reasons why a school is going to prefer seeing someone who prepares well and does it right the first time.
There may be circumstances on test day that require a re-take (severe illness, problems reaching the testing center due to weather, etc) but those are very, very rare.
And a bad exam score will remain on your AMCAS application even after it has expired.
The January exam is still the old exam
The best applications have a single strong MCAT. Re-takes, in and of themselves, weaken an application. The more of them and the weakness of the scores will diminish the number and caliber of schools that will consider that application.
Approaching a career-deciding, high stakes exam and not being fully prepared for it is a sign of poor judgement. This is not looked highly upon by us.
Take the exam ONLY when you are ready, even if it means delaying a year. And yes, next year's exam will be different. Well, boo-hoo.
Too many people are fussing about this change like the exam is going to be written in Korean. It's not and you do have time to prepare.
시험은 한국어로 작성되지
From the student's perspective, I hold a similar stance as those that have posted already. Think big picture. In the long run it is more important that you do everything you can to score well on your first try (it's not the end of the world if you don't), than it is to rush through and try to save a year. Also, don't be afraid to spend a bit of money on resources if you believe they actually will help you (and you can afford them)... Medical school will cost you at least a $100K-- and likely far more-- which makes $100-200 seem like a single H2O molecule in a bucket.
Another point I wish someone had reminded me: Remember that this is your test and your career, not your family's. They don't know what it takes to get into medical school right now, they likely don't know how hard the MCAT really is, and they are not the ones who are experiencing the sleepless nights. Do what's right for you, but never stop relentlessly chasing your goals!
Best of luck!!
PS: Seeing gyngyn, Goro, and LizzyM all post in a row is a beautiful and entertaining sight !
Why are retakes allowed in the first place, anyways? As much as they claim it's a critical thinking test, it's really not. It's a subject exam. Retakes = extra time to study for a subject exam = unfair
It definitely is a critical thinking test. You can do all the content review you want, but if you aren't practicing the test or lack critical thinking capabilities or both, you will do poorly on the MCAT. Sure, there are a few discretes on the MCAT, but most of the MCAT questions can be answered with very bare content knowledge if you are able to synthesize information from passages well enough.
People also experience a plateau after taking the MCAT multiple times unless something drastically changes with their approach.
I beg to differ, it really is a critical thinking exam. Sure, it may require some general content knowledge, but not as much as people believe. Take the PS section for example. There are 52 questions and only 70 minutes to do them; that's ~1.3 minutes per problem. If you sat there and tried to work problems like a physics exam, there's no way many people could finish the section. But if you're good at recognizing clues in the passage that allow you to simplify the math to something you can actually do in your head very quickly, you'll speed through and do pretty well. The question is, how well can you extract that information and apply a shortcut? This is where practice comes in, and I always say that practicing the exam is more beneficial for most people than content review. That's not to say content review is not important, it is. But actually practicing the exam and learning how to recognize these give aways, IMO, will lead to quicker score improvements than studying that favors content review.
Nope. What kills people on this exam is that it is a critical thinking test. If it were a simple subject exam, I could just grab a memory book and be focusing on memorizing the minuta. However, different scenarios are given with each passage where knowledge by itself is not enough to answer the questions. You need to be able to analyze the passages and integrate the knowledge on top of that. In fact, they have a section devoted just for critical thinking, they call it verbal reasoning.
I don't think that either of you have been exposed to real critical thinking tests, yet.
You should go grab a copy of the usmle prep books sometime to see what I mean.
That reasoning makes no sense. Would you tell a kid who just lost both of his parents that it's no big deal because others have lost their entire families?
The fact that one test might emphasize more critical thinking does not validate the claim that another does not test any critical thinking. It's still a fact that those who simply memorize the minutae of the MCAT without any concern for the critical thinking portion of the exam do not perform well.
I can actually answer a few of the questions in the USMLE books. You are comparing apples and oranges my friend. I knew medical students who said the USMLE made more sense than the MCAT.
Having just sat for the MCAT and having volunteered for the experimental section, the exam in Korean might have been an improvement. Granted, I didn't prep for the experimental section. I also am not sure why I got all psych questions since I've never taken a psych class.
OP, I agree with the consensus that taking the test multiple times diminishes your chances some. That said, nearly everyone I know took the MCAT twice, including my gf who is now a senior general surgery resident here in NYC. As long as there is improvement, you'll be ok (gf went from mid-20s to mid-30s and my old MCAT study partner who just got into med school last cycle went from a 24 to 34 on her re-take).
Maybe you can, and good for you. But as long as the MCAT has free standing and easy q's, it's a subject exam. I was just reading someone's story in the school specific forum about not getting any IIs last year, retaking the MCAT, and getting IIs this year. That's not fair to other students, IMO. If nothing else changes in this person's file besides their study hours for chemistry, biology, and physics classes they've already taken, how does this make them more qualified for medical school? That's what I'm getting at. And it sounds like the adcoms are saying the same thing that I am.
The adcoms are certainly not saying the same thing you are. Nobody is disagreeing with you that multiple retakes isn't a good thing.
What we ARE disagreeing with you is the fact that you think the MCAT is a content test. Your argument that "as long as the MCAT has free standing and easy q's, it's a subject exam" is pitiful and does not address the points we raised at all, that yes, there are discrete questions, but they are very few, with the vast majority of questions being passage based and requiring passage analysis skills in order to answer.
Ummm, no, I don't think the adcoms are. They are saying that it's poor judgement to take an exam that directly effects your chances for going to med school when you know you are not ready. (OP, don't take if you aren't ready. But then again you have close to two months left! Just buckle down and study!) I don't think it's unfair. The person that takes the exam twice and gets the same score as I did the first time, won't be assigned equal to me. They didn't prepare adequately the first that and that will be taken into account. The reason why a good second score makes them more qualified because it shows dedication and understanding how to change your study methods to do better on a critical exam. Also, it's fair because some people study 6 months the first time while others study for a couple weeks. We don't limit the amount of time people can spend studying before their first try, so why should we dictate how many times people can take the exam? Going back to your previous comment, this exam is a critical thinking exam. Why else do you think people who are smart, 3.8+ students sometimes get mid-20 scores. They know how to study content, but not how to study an exam and apply skills directly involving thorough thought processes.
You're free to think whatever you want about the MCAT, I'm not stopping you. Maybe you would be better off spending your time cramming for another memorization-based question, though? It might boost your score.
I recall seeing a stat that 40% of MCAT test takers are retaking it. Of course, can't find that information now, but seems like a lot of folks retake the MCAT.
However, I recommend you try to do it only once (it is a soul sucking endeavor). Taking 2- 4 months to restudy for a second time isn't worth it. Good Luck.
It was in the last AAMC booklet on interpreting the MCAT.
Thanks, knew I saw it somewhere. Still more than once really takes a lot of extra effort. Do it right the first time!! However, if it doesn't go your way, I think you have some good company with folks retaking it. My sister is retaking, but with an accommodation for the second time. Not optimal, and watching her go through the studying again is just painful to watch. Best wishes to all.
Life's not fair. We also believe that people can and do improve themselves. As ruthlessly competitive MD admissions are, I think they'd cut off a lot of qualified applicants if they were only allowed to one crack at the MCAT. By your logic, non-trad students are unfair because they also get more time to get it right.
The story of someone taking MCAT, scoring a, say 30, retaking and scoring 30 again (or a 31) and then being offered an interview doesn't sound right. There are probably more things going on than that.
Just as an aside and to get this off the table, while I don't know what MCAT is asking these days, I can tell you that both COMLEX and USMLE do NOT test on brute memory. You need to think through two or even three levels. For example:
A man presents with X, Y and Z symptoms. He is a diabetic and takes A, and B for his for his diabetes. Which of the following medications is contraindicated?
A man presents with X, Y and Z symptoms. You would diagnose____?
A man presents with X, Y and Z symptoms. You would treat him with ___?
No, life isn't fair. And we will see what we see when boards come around and people that retook the mcat, spent thousands on review courses, etc get their scores.
There are a number of decent studies that show that poor MCAT performance, meaning results <25 correlates with failing boards. That deosn't mean that someone who got a 25 and them got a 33 does poorly...just that a 1x test taker with a score <25 does poorly. I have yet to see any data that shows someone with an avg'd score that's >25 or so does poorly on Boards.
What kills my students on Boards is poor performance in med school, period.
Am I getting a whiff of jealousy there?
I knew someone that took the Princeton review and Kaplan classes twice, each, got a 35, and barely matched is all I'm saying.
Edit: I wish that you guys would try a little harder. This is thickening my skin for a talk I'm having tomorrow with an emeritus prof at Harvard medical school and the dean of research at UCD, tomorrow. Oh, and I was told that I should check out Carib med schools by one of those guys for having a 30. I'm shaking, here...
No need to namedrop.
Thickening your skin? For what? Are you going to disregard everything the professor says tomorrow and repeatedly give him poorly reasoned points, even after he dismisses them with a proper argument?
N =1 doesn't count.
But a 30 MCAT score is fine, and competitive for many schools. OK, Harvard and Yale, no, but UCD? Yes, especially if you're committed to serving the Central Valley.
Realistically, if someone with a strong application retakes a 25 MCAT and gets 34+, how much will the lower MCAT hurt the application (on a scale of 1-10, with 1 = it doesn't matter and 10 = instant rejection)
Edit: I should add, for mid/high tier schools
I know what you mean Goro. He is asking Harvard adcoms, a place where a 36 score is the average. Wrong people to ask for getting into medical school in general.
I think it depends on the school. Some schools average all MCAT scores, so that would be a 30 MCAT average. There are still plenty of schools that take the most recent score or the highest score. I believe that it will definitely hurt at the top tier schools where everyone has 35+ MCAT scores. It's easier to put more weight towards someone who took it once when everyone who applies has high MCAT scores. At lower tiers, I believe it would hurt less if the retake is significantly higher than their MCAT median.
I work at an affiliated hospital and am friends with a few residents and fellows there. A few of them tried giving me med school advice and I had to politely tell them that their experience was completely unlike mine so far and that they were so far ahead on the pointy end of the stick that nothing they said would apply to me haha.
Is the information in this thread still true? The information is like ten years old but it might partially answer OP's question. http://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/best-scores-from-multiple-mcat-scores-vs-best-set-of-scores.119179/
I would say no because AAMC released this (https://www.aamc.org/students/download/267622/data/mcatstudentselectionguide.pdf) and they did a 2010 study that showed that an average MCAT is the best predictor, so more schools are moving towards that.
I've had a series of unfortunate events befall on my mcat. The first time a family member fell off a ladder and was in critical condition the day before and the second time was sick and hit on the way to the exam and should have voided. I have a nearly perfect GPA. S*** happens. I hope I'm not turned away because of this but it's certainly helped me become more resilient.
Man I wish I didn't read this thread.. adds to my anxiety this cycle lol . I had a 28 the first time and 30 on my recent retake.
It's a critical thinking test, but it's also very much a content test. If you don't have solid content knowledge, you're not getting >10 on a section. Case in point: 13 V and 12 PS, but a 10 in BS because my bio knowledge was lacking.
What about uneven scores like you still get a good score but one section is subpar while others are highly above average. Just wondering ?
I don't think you'll be turned away because of events that were out of your control, but you made a bad judgement call and should have postponed/voided if you felt that those incidences will affect your score.
Really? Will a 30 MCAT get me into an MD school somewhere considering my GPA (3.76+), research and EC's were okay? I feel like a 30 is not enough these days and prompts a faster rejection =(
That's a great score! Would you mind sharing what practice materials you used?
31 is the median nationwide for matriculants. Yes, people will wonder why the MCAT is discordant with the GPA, but you're still competitive.
I read through all the EK books once, and took 3 AMCAS practice tests. That's about it. I went over a few of the bio things in some more detail. I was kinda lazy about it.
Taking 3 gap years to study for the test one time is not extra time?
I agree with goro. Take it when you feel like you can't possibly do anymore to prepare. You only want to take it once. The "option" of taking it again should only be reserved for cases where you scored significantly below what you expected based on practice tests and you are very confident you can do better.
The MCAT, with all of its changes over the years, still requires knowledge and critical thinking. While recent changes have put more weight into critical thinking, having an excellent grasp of the material can help more than some give credit for. For example, you will be able to recognize concepts being tested a little quicker and maybe have more time at the end to double check some of the questions you marked at the end. I guess this is what most refer to as "practicing" for the MCAT. Even one additional question you answer correctly can bring your score up by one point, and if it happens to be for both BS and PS, that's two points already. If the probability of this happening per section is 1/4. There is 1/16 chance of this event occurring -- obviously not high, but who cares if the 1 in 16 ends up happening to you and you score two points higher?
Damn, shots fired.
Granted it was 8 years ago, and I got 29, 30, grad school, then a 37.
I got interviews at places like Michigan, Penn, Cornell, UPMC, UVA, UofC.
Unless things changed a ton, I'm not sure retakes hurt a lot.