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Retaking the MCAT & getting a lower score

Discussion in 'What Are My Chances?' started by Dr.Grey, Aug 7, 2015.

  1. Dr.Grey

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    Hey everyone! So I'm in a bit of a pickle here. I took my MCAT in January just before they changed the exam which caused me to make some VERY bad decisions. I took it twice because after the first time I took it I felt like I did absolutely horrible and panicked! I didn't want prepare for an entirely new exam if I actually did horrible so I registered for another exam...BEFORE GETTING MY FIRST SCORE BACK.

    First score: 29 (9-VR, 10-BS, 10-PS)
    Second score: 27 (7-VR, 11-BS, 9-PS)

    27!!!! :( :( :( with a 7 in verbal!!!! :'(

    I was averaging 31s on my practice exams :(.

    Anyway. I'm applying now and don't know what to do! Do you guys think it's better to address this in the additional comments section in secondary applications? or to not address it at all?? I want to explain this whole situation but I don't want it to seem like an excuse for getting a bad score.

    For perspective, I have a 4.00 gpa in a molecular and microbiology major. Also, I think I have significant clinical experience ( ER scribe, volunteering, shadowing) and volunteer experience.

    What should I do?! :(
     
  2. md-2020

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    Oh man, those MCATs and the score decrease are gonna hurt.

    I'm not sure there's any explaining you should do, so just apply broadly and hope for the best. That GPA is hot.
     
  3. NotASerialKiller

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    I don't know about explaining either. Don't think that explanation would do anything but make it worse. Panicking and writing again before getting your score was a poor decision, sorry to hear that.
     
  4. gyngyn

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    If the rest of your application is strong, you are in a good state and you apply strategically you can still get interviews.

    Your judgement will still be questioned (privately or directly).
     
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  5. Dr.Grey

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    What do you mean? Like they would question why I didn't just retake for the 3rd time? It's kind of obvious that almost nobody would wamt just jump to pay another $3000 and 4-5 months to prep for an entirely new MCAT.. Right?
     
  6. 22031 Alum

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    More like they will question why you took it a second time so soon after the first, without putting in the time and effort to give yourself a good shot at a better score. People who make rash decisions without thinking things through make adcoms nervous- they're trying to select people who will one day succeed in medicine.
     
  7. md-2020

    md-2020 The Immaculate Catch
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    Lol no.
     
  8. GrapesofRath

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    The MCAT is career defining; you could make an argument that perhaps the MCAT is even slightly more important than the MCAT. People don't just re-take MCATs without a good reason. Not knowing your initial score before re-taking would be described as not having a good reason to re-take the MCAT. And with a 4.0, with a 29 that includes a 9+ in each subsection you would have been in solid position to get a couple II's with a good list.

    Now let's see what happens. Obviously not all has to be lost here just from this one mistake. There are many people who re-take MCAT scores that aren't terrible and do worse; obviously not all of them are kept of med school. But the need now for a good exhaustive list is even greater than it was before.
     
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  9. rocklobstr

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    Try your state school(s) and some newer schools. I'm not well versed on which new schools to apply to, so someone else may be able to help with that. All the lower tiers that don't have incompatible mission statements for you.

    You probably have an alright chance with DO schools.
     
  10. Dr.Grey

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    Okay I understand now.. I took time to think it through but I obviously made a bad call here. Would you recommend I explain my thought process where appropriate in my secondary applications or just leave it to discuss during an interview? I know this wasn't a good decision but I was worried that I didn't do well and I put in months of hard work studying for this exam. I wanted to take it before they changed the entire format which would have wasted all my hard work studying for the original exam.
     
  11. GrapesofRath

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    No
     
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  12. Dr.Grey

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    Could you explain why I shouldn't? @22031 Alum made a very good point.. I don't want adcoms to think I make rash decisions all the time because that's not who I am. I wouldn't be making any excuses for why I did so poorly, but I would be explaining my thought process.
     
  13. Nietzschelover

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    Not that it matter that much, but to be clear the OP did not do a re-take before getting the initial scores back. He or she registered for a re-take before getting scores back. One can presume that had the initial scores been a little better the OP would have canceled the re-take. And certainly an applicant with a 4.0 who clocks in at a 29 is likely to have a freak-out reaction that the score just might not be good enough. The process is stressful and the stakes are high. Obviously there is a huge consensus that doing a re-take, especially soon after the first, provides some rock-solid insight into the overall judgment of a candidate and whether a candidate can be a good physician. Seems a little harsh (and rash). And folks act like taking another gap year is nothing. People need to get on with their lives. 8 years post-college is a lot, and those are a lot of years to be putting off a real income and putting off re-paying loans. So, yes, in hindsight, it's easy to have a hair-trigger for criticism, and of course after the fact one can see that perhaps the correct decision wasn't made (although there is no guarantee of a higher score even if one waits a full year...or two).
     
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  14. GrapesofRath

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    Because like gyngyn said your judgment will still be questioned(to whatever extent it might be) regardless of what you try to write to "explain it away". It's certainly possible to overcome the mistake but if you do it wont be because you swayed an ADCOM through what you wrote in an essay that makes your thought process "justifiable". And Goro says this all the time about these types of situations; trying to explain away poor decisions in essays often just comes across as excuse making regardless of how much you don't think your essay won't sound like that.

    The best bet is to move on. Like I said its important to come up with a smart and thorough list of schools. Now, for interviews it is a different story yes you want to practice a good answer for this if asked about it. But for now, your decision is what it is; you trying to meddle in it anymore and try to "explain" it isn't going to do anything positive for you.
     
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  15. 22031 Alum

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    Yes, freaking out is perfectly reasonable. But that's when you do an honest assessment of what went wrong. You don't just say "My score is lower than I want, gotta retake!" and do the exact thing you did before. You say "My score is lower than I think I can achieve, what do I need to fix for the next time?"

    This is a marathon not a sprint. A gap year isn't nothing. However, it's not the end of the world and I don't recommend making rash decisions out of desperation to avoid one. I'd argue that it's better to have a gap year that makes your first application a strong one, than it is to have a gap year because you rushed things and needed to reapply.
     
  16. Lawper

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    This is surprisingly optimistic (although cautioned). I mean OP surely has a good chance at DO schools despite the lower retake, but for MD? Her first score is subpar and she torpedoed a retake by scoring worse and having her VR decline to alarming levels. So it'd seem that even despite smart planning, strong application and lucky state, her MD chances are pretty much close to none. It also puts her 4.0 GPA into question (grade padding, massive inflation etc.)
     
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  17. GrapesofRath

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    That was also my first reaction(the VR dipping to 7 is really the biggest concern with the retake) but a couple things

    1) There are plenty of lucky states all over the south and midwest with median MCATs at or below 30 and that interview at least half their IS applicants. OP can certainly still have a shot at being competitive if they are from one of those lucky states(and there are more lucky states than people realize)

    2) 27 is above the 10th percentile at some lower tiers. The 7 verbal is a problem but it might not be insurmountable if the OP is willing to apply broadly.

    3) Yes DO's need to be a strong focus for the OP(and I would think they are fine for the vast majority of them).
     
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  18. Lawper

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    Really? MD schools in lucky states are willing to interview and take in applicants who did worse on retake, with both attempts being subpar? This is surprising because the demand for MD schools in lucky states is still strong, so there are numerous candidates who either improved on a retake or got a 30+ on the first attempt. A 29 to a 27 decline is a serious red flag.

    But schools still take in the recent scores more so than highest score. So OP is essentially applying with a 27/28ish on a downward MCAT trend. Even despite the 7 being above the 10th percentile, it throws a question as to whether the 9 on the first attempt was a fluke.

    I'm just surprised then. A downward MCAT trend with both subpar scores (and the haste of retaking immediately) all seem to be serious red flags. But i guess despite the increasingly competitive process with qualified applicants even in lucky states, some MD schools are willing to take in OP.
     
  19. Nietzschelover

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    I don't think there is any way to sprint. Sure, 20 years from now, another year isn't going to make much of a difference. But some people are never going to have the perfect app. If a candidate has everything in place except for one thing, then waiting may not make a huge difference. What if the OP waited a year and still got a 29 or less? It's commonsense that all applicants (even good ones) can't get to the 95th and above percentile.

    No one wants to be in a position to need a re-take. And if it was clear how to fix a less than adequate score I'm sure most would do that. Studying more doesn't necessarily do the trick, as some who don't do well already have studied a ton. And it's easy to have such a judgmental attitude about re-takes when those judging had a 35+ on the first try. Would be really interesting to know what those same candidates would have done if they had scored in the 28-30 range, or for those gunning for top 20s, whether they would have re-taken a 31/32.
     
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  20. GrapesofRath

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    I agree it is a bit surprising but go through MSAR and all those state schools on the south and midwest. There are ALOT that interview around half of their IS applicants(or more). Many of these don't have median MCATS above 29-30. In fact if you go through MSAR there are MANY states with at least one school in a state that interviews at least 40% of their IS applicants.

    Downward trends are always bad but there is inherit variation in MCAT scores. A 2 point downtick in scores is not enough to say that is that much more than just the inherit variation of the test(just like improving 2 points won't really do that much for an app).

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

    As you can see re-taking a 27-29 and doing 2 points worse puts the OP in the bottom 10th percentile of those who retook those scores. That's a concern and yes the downward trend in scores is an issue, but it's not insurmountable particularly if the OP provides answers to questions about it in the interview that show perspective and acknowledge the mistake and give reason to show they have really learned from it.
     
    #20 GrapesofRath, Aug 8, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2015
  21. NewHorizons

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    Exactly what I thought.... and I'm sure people looking at the app will think the same...

    I could be wrong, but it makes me think that the OP just took memorization classes with no real knowledge application that you see on the MCAT. Even with a 4.0 GPA people are gonna question your intellectual capabilities...

    Alright for those who didn't like what I said you can stone me now =D
     
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  22. 22031 Alum

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    If a retake nets the same or worse score even after an attempt at fixing gaps in preparation/approach, then OP could more honestly say that he performed to the best of his ability on the test.

    You're right, not everybody has it in them to get a really high score. But some people can improve after a second round of preparation. OP didn't give himself a chance to see if he was in that group. That's what doesn't come across well. And I know you're using "judgmental" in a pejorative way, but I'll accept that because guess what? This whole process is about judging applicants. Medical schools are in a position to be very, very picky and applicants are forced to put themselves in the best possible position to pass muster.
     
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  23. 22031 Alum

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    "I didn't do as well as I hoped on the MCAT, but I'm going to hurry and take it again because I don't want to have to prepare for the format change" is a glaring example of "sprinting" in this process.
     
  24. Chasing Never Land

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    Did OP even study for the retake? I got an 8 point increase on mine, but I didn't go home for Christmas and did an exam a day after classes had started (think starting MCAT at 6pm every day lol) for the first two weeks of school.

    It sounds like they just retook without analyzing what went wrong the first time.

    And I agree with @FutureHopeful? Some people can take memorization based classes and do spectacularly, but put them in a problem solving scenario and they choke
     
  25. Lawper

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    An 8 point increase on the retake is spectacular. Congrats on the improvement.
     
  26. Nietzschelover

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    Listen, when you frame the deal that narrowly you can speak of a "sprint," but in the big picture there is no sprint. I have no idea whether the OP is a good candidate or not, but I'm guessing he or she has been shooting for med school for at least quite a few years, with a ton of years yet to go (if OP gets in somewhere).

    And yes, med schools can be very picky, and that's exactly why the OP panicked and took the re-take. The OP already said he or she studied a lot and was scoring 31s.

    As far as judgmental, you interpreted correctly, and neither you nor anyone else said what you would have done in the same situation, if you can honestly consider that in hindsight. It's easy to give the Adcom stock, smart answer now to someone else.
     
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  27. 22031 Alum

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    Why in the world do you think it's more valuable to give a "hypothetically, this is what I would've done" answer as opposed to "the Adcom stock, smart answer" from a more experienced perspective??
     
  28. Chasing Never Land

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    I was in the same situation as OP, but I didn't freak out and just "retake" without analyzing my performance, figuring out how to prep differently, and studying my ass off before the retake......

    I can see why you're saying people are being judgemental - but in my opinion honesty will be most helpful to OP, not sparing their ego. It's OK to take an extra year to do your first time application well.
     
  29. Chasing Never Land

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    Thank you!!!! It was the hardest I've ever worked tho :p
     
  30. Nietzschelover

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    Valuable for whom? The OP already did what the OP did. Berating the OP for poor judgment now is too late. And IF almost all of the pre-med gurus willing to be so condescending had done exactly the same thing (or similar) in the same shoes then what the Adcoms are saying doesn't amount to much. Difference between what people actually do vs what supposedly is the smart thing to do. In other words, advice is always easy when it is for someone else!
     
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  31. efle

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    OP has made multiple threads on this issue.

    They are a Florida resident, ORM (middle eastern) and attend University of Florida (they hit a 4.00 in STEM there followed by a 29 and 27 MCAT! quite surprising to me)

    @Dr.Grey as I said last time, same advice: Make sure you apply to FSU (your best shot by far) and put on some DO programs ASAP unless you are very comfortable with the idea of another app cycle. Do not try to "explain" about your MCATs as there is nothing you can say there that will help your case. Should you refuse to apply DO and have a bad cycle, you should consider an MCAT retake, as some people perform significantly better with the new exam and you can effectively study yourself without dropping $3k on a prep course.
     
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  32. 22031 Alum

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    The fact that you can't see how this would be valuable for anyone says a lot. How about for somebody else who is considering doing the same thing and comes along and reads this? Or how about for OP, if he ends up a reapplicant and needs to consider where things went wrong? I don't think you understand the purpose of the advice given on threads like this. It's not to make anybody feel good or bad, or to say "Go back in time and change things!" It's to lay out what someone's prospects look like. OP asked why his choice would be seen as a bad decision and got answers. That's all.
     
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  33. gyngyn

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    Every year I see applicants who do exactly as the OP did.
    Even when there is a marginal improvement it has a chilling effect on the evaluation.
    If this discussion gives one person the courage to void an exam, we have done some good.
    We are charged with judging. It is my job. I come here to help those who ask for it, not to scold or make a bad situation worse.

    OP has been given ideas about how to proceed with the facts as they exist.
     
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  34. GrapesofRath

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    This sums up everything fairly well.

    Rather than extending this discussion about how retakes will look and whatever else has been going on lets look at the OP's situation.

    Being a FL resident has some positives for the OP. There are lots of schools in Fl with MCAT averages that aren't above 31. Hence a 4.0/27-28 might be able to squeeze out something from them. The issue though is that all these Fl schools, while favoring Fl resident get lots of apps from Fl residents for relatively few seats(schools like FSU and FIU don't have the biggest classes). I can't recall off the top of my head but I'm not sure if any of the FL schools interview more than 20-25% of IS applicants. So it's in the OP's best interest to apply broadly and look at 10th percentile stats for both MCAT and Verbal scores.
     
    #34 GrapesofRath, Aug 8, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2015
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  35. Dr.Grey

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    I actually didn't ask why my decision was bad.. I know it was a bad decision and I know my second score is not a good score. I'm a pre-med like most of the people on here and I have high standards for myself just like you all do. I wasn't asking what my chances were or whether I should apply or not because I am already in the middle of my application process. I was asking how to explain this mistake in my secondaries/if I should explain it and what I should do at this point. If I don't get in this cycle it wont be the end of the world. I will definitely study and retake the MCAT so I can better my chances, and reapply. But for now I was advised by my mentors and pre-med advisors to apply this cycle and see what happens before retaking. I believe I have a good package with my current extracurricular activities, GPA, and other aspects of my application. But thanks to most of you for making me feel extremely discouraged. I regret posting this thread.
     
  36. gyngyn

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    As I said, if the rest of your application is strong, your interview skills are good, and you apply strategically your chances are better than 50%. Your mentors are right in that sense.
     
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  37. Lawper

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    Well you did crosspost your situation in many forums and in school-specific threads, which violates the TOS and annoys the members looking for school info and updates.

    Don't mention your MCAT decline anywhere in your secondaries. Just apply to your state schools, DO schools and few other low-tiers where your score is higher than 10th percentile. Make sure you focus your app and interviews on your strengths. Good luck.
     
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  38. Nietzschelover

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    This is a real distortion. The OP KNOWS the OP has a huge problem. That's why the OP is freaking, and indeed why the OP posted presumably. And yes, in hindsight, the OP made a huge error re-taking so quickly (or perhaps at all since it would be interesting to know if gyngyn thinks the OP should have stood pat with the 29). I doubt readers are going to miss the advice. It's all over the forum. The more critical question is why people don't wait, and why, in all likelihood, some of the very people with this knowledge might still have done exactly what the OP did in similar circumstances. Again, the advice is much easier to see so clearly in the abstract (i.e. when it applies to someone else). If the help is really to help others besides the OP then one has to try to understand why what intellectually makes sense might not be what most actually do....so what others would do in similar circumstances is in fact a relevant question.
     
  39. Chasing Never Land

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    I don't think OP realizes they would have to write new secondaries if they need to reapply....

    Personally, if I were in your situation, I would STOP the application process and wait a god damn year. You made a mistake. Ok. Don't make it into a bigger mistake by going full speed ahead without doing a careful analysis of what went wrong and fixing it >.<

    idk I would be thankful if someone was honest to me. In fact - I was, because I sought the same advice before my retake and would have listened to it if I didn't improve my score.

    Geez...... don't ask for advice if you can't handle constructive criticism.
     
  40. Nietzschelover

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    What? Reading this literally, you said you did get advice and would have listened if your score hadn't improved. That's a little after the fact, isn't it? And we can assume to OP thought he was going to score higher, no?

    Reading the MCAT threads on SDN one gets the impression that many applicants who tested in April and May did re-takes in June and July.

    I don't see where the OP couldn't handle constructive criticism. The OP ADMITTED he really screwed up -- and btw, in a way that many others have done and will again in the future -- and then he got a slew of responses telling him how badly he screwed up.

    How about a little context. Maybe the OP, with a 4.0, was one of the stars of his college pre-med program. Maybe he's spent the last 2 years hearing how he was one of the very best applicants in a long while and surely wouldn't even have to think about getting in. Then he gets a 29. He assumes it's a fluke on the low side because he studied a ton and was scoring higher. Remember, this is a real stud in his pre-med program. He signs up for the re-take, studies some more, and is sure he will beat a 29. Just sayin'.
     
  41. Chasing Never Land

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    The GPA is amazing, yes, but there are thousands of applicants with 4.0s - many of them from better schools than a Florida state school, with MUCH better MCAT scores.

    And context for you - I didn't get defensive when I was advised to put it off a year if the retake went badly. I said "thank you," got advice from other people too, and made a logical plan. The plan was to have as strong an application as possible the first time around, and get into as good a school as possible.

    I'm not telling OP they screwed up, they know that. I'm cautioning them that they might make a bad situation even worse by not taking an extra year.

    If OP can't deal with tough love, how are they going to be a doctor?
     
  42. gyngyn

    gyngyn Professor
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    Repeating a weak score is common.
    Retaking immediately before having the result of the first score is quite uncommon.
    I only see this a couple of times per cycle (and I see thousands of aps).
    That is what we hope his thread will discourage.

    We can see the dates of the two exams.
    It's not just the unfortunate second score, it is the timing.
    He decided to retake a test for which he had no known outcome.
     
    #42 gyngyn, Aug 8, 2015
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  43. Nietzschelover

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    The OP did know the result before actually taking the re-take (unless the OP can confirm that was not the case).
     
  44. gyngyn

    gyngyn Professor
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    Did he?
    A short interval re-take of a known score is also a bad idea, but not as bad as a second test before they have the first set of results. How would he even know where his weaknesses were to develop a study plan?
     
    #44 gyngyn, Aug 8, 2015
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  45. Chasing Never Land

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    From his many postings on school specific threads, he didn't wait for his score
     
  46. efle

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    I really don't get the thought process.

    "well that felt like it went terribly, I'm going to have to make use of my backup test date in a couple weeks. Not gonna void this one though yolo!"

    ???
     
  47. efle

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    I do wonder if he's better or worse with 29, 27 than just 27
     
  48. efle

    efle not an elf
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    For superscore schools better, for averaging schools better, for most recent schools no difference. Is the benefit in the former two outweighed by the "why did he do that" factor ?
     
  49. gyngyn

    gyngyn Professor
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    This is an unusual case
    It confirms the confidence interval of scores and pinpoints OP's more precisely.
    It underlines the unscientific nature of "superscoring" which is no more accurate than "underscoring."
    It opens the door to consider the applicant's judgement.
     
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  50. efle

    efle not an elf
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    So is the point of superscoring just to get a free boost to the numbers you publish?
     
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