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Very good, but expired, MCAT score

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Nigel_Thornberry

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I'll skip the unnecessary details. I'm few years out from my B.S. biochemistry, GPA 3.9. I took the MCAT (pre-2015) and got a 39 (>99.5 percentile, I think...). Due to a lack of certainty in what I wanted to do, I put off applying to medical school and worked in research. I doubt I'll be able to use that MCAT score before it expires, so I'll likely have to take it again when I want to apply. I know schools can see all MCAT scores, so on the one hand I'm happy that they'll see that score...On the other hand, I simply wont be able to reproduce that.

I'm as smart as the next person, but I attribute that score to the fact that I took the test right in the thick of my undergrad coursework (physics, Ochem, genetics, etc.). I bet I can do well if I retake the test, but I don't think it's realistic to think I could ever score that high again. Given my situation, would a lower score be a detriment to my application? Do you think it would be clear to reviewers that I only took it the second time because, well, I had to? I think my original score would be a better indicator of my performance when I'm in a school mindset, which I would obviously get back into in Medical school. Thanks for any input, especially anyone with relevant experience!
 

DrMidlife

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Given my situation, would a lower score be a detriment to my application?
Sure, if you get a sub-500, then that 39 looks like you need the planets to be aligned for you to do well. But if I'm reviewing your app, I'm not looking for you to match a 39 with another top 2% score. If you get above average, 510+, then that takes a little shine off your 39, but it doesn't devalue the rest of your app. It just dampens the "whoa! 39!" effect somewhat. Of course, the effect you want to try for is "whoa, 39! and whoa, <5xx>!"

Fundamentally a 39 makes a reviewer suspect/hope that the student can get a great step 1 and therefore a great match thus making the school look great. Having a second score that isn't cringeworthy would probably not take away my suspicion/hope that under similar circumstances after M2 year you'll be able to meet that 39 bar. And per your description, that looks likely to me.
Do you think it would be clear to reviewers that I only took it the second time because, well, I had to?
I assume this is a roundabout way to ask "how do I explain why I didn't use my 39 right away?" Answer: by having a narrative that's easy to understand. Nobody is going to question doing research years before med school (particularly if you get pubs), and nobody is going to doubt you if your new score is 510+ (imho).

tl;dr: don't blow your retake, and don't overthink it.

Best of luck to you.
 
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Nigel_Thornberry

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Sure, if you get a sub-500, then that 39 looks like you need the planets to be aligned for you to do well. But if I'm reviewing your app, I'm not looking for you to match a 39 with another top 2% score. If you get above average, 510+, then that takes a little shine off your 39, but it doesn't devalue the rest of your app. It just dampens the "whoa! 39!" effect somewhat. Of course, the effect you want to try for is "whoa, 39! and whoa, <5xx>!"

Fundamentally a 39 makes a reviewer suspect/hope that the student can get a great step 1 and therefore a great match thus making the school look great. Having a second score that isn't cringeworthy would probably not take away my suspicion/hope that under similar circumstances after M2 year you'll be able to meet that 39 bar. And per your description, that looks likely to me.

I assume this is a roundabout way to ask "how do I explain why I didn't use my 39 right away?" Answer: by having a narrative that's easy to understand. Nobody is going to question doing research years before med school (particularly if you get pubs), and nobody is going to doubt you if your new score is 510+ (imho).

tl;dr: don't blow your retake, and don't overthink it.

Best of luck to you.
Thank you so much!
 

futuremdforme

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If you got a 39 and work hard, I'd be surprised if you can't hit 95th percentile again. It's pretty convenient that the scoring system changed so it's not a complete head-head comparison that will make you look bad for "only" getting 95th percentile, etc. Sure you might do worse but honestly I doubt it with your GPA and prior MCAT. Most people are pretty consistent. (And don't assume a 39 equivalent is totally impossible being out of school. People here have done it, I know someone who did it, and lots of non-trads out of school hit top 5 percentile.)
 

Seattle Mariners Fan

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The psych content is not difficult. Its a too-lazy-to-watch-khan-academy-killer and an aspie-killer. I want at least 5 points from it.

I've not yet delved into the biochem, but if you did that well before I'm sure you can do so again.
 

shoal

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this score expiring crap is just a money grab. if you got a 39 ten years ago, you obviously have what it takes. schools understand that and should be able to make the decision if its too long ago. ohhh well.. get ready to spend money on lots of tests that only pad the organizations and employees pockets.

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DrMidlife

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stuff costing too much is real

also real: people not being able to get their head back in the game after being out of school for a while

totally real: med schools can do whatever they want and we'll fight each other with pitchforks to do it first/fastest/best/got a letter.
 
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futuremdforme

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this score expiring crap is just a money grab. if you got a 39 ten years ago, you obviously have what it takes. schools understand that and should be able to make the decision if its too long ago. ohhh well.. get ready to spend money on lots of tests that only pad the organizations and employees pockets.

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Yeah it's a PITA, but it's also way impressive to get a very high score when you've been out of the game. At all of my interviews, they all asked me if I took a course, etc. When I explained that I didn't and that I studied by myself, they were really impressed since I was 10 years out from the pre-reqs or any related classes and had a very high score.

There's no point in getting upset when you can put that energy towards getting in.
 
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Nigel_Thornberry

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stuff costing too much is real

also real: people not being able to get their head back in the game after being out of school for a while

totally real: med schools can do whatever they want and we'll fight each other with pitchforks to do it first/fastest/best/got a letter.

Yeah it's a PITA, but it's also way impressive to get a very high score when you've been out of the game. At all of my interviews, they all asked me if I took a course, etc. When I explained that I didn't and that I studied by myself, they were really impressed since I was 10 years out from the pre-reqs or any related classes and had a very high score.

There's no point in getting upset when you can put that energy towards getting in.
D
Did you find the material to come back relatively easily? As in, was it significantly smoother than learning it the first time?
 

futuremdforme

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Did you find the material to come back relatively easily? As in, was it significantly smoother than learning it the first time?
Definitely easier than say... orgo II for the first time. A lot of it is pattern recognition (question about solvents? The answer is an ether!), critical thinking, and applying what you see in the passages, so the amount of science to refresh is actually not that much. That said, I studied for several months before/after work and on weekends. You will need to put in the work but don't be intimidated. It's not like you've let your brain to go to rot by sitting on the couch eating bonbons, you'll be fine.
 

QofQuimica

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Nigel, you need to decide if med school is what you really want to do, and if it is, then give your MCAT prep an all-out, knock-down effort. A guy with your level of standardized test-taking talent will get a stellar score again if you study like you mean it; they call these tests "standardized" for that very reason. And if that 39 wasn't actually your best effort, then who knows? In 1996, as a college junior, I got a 34 on the MCAT with half-hearted studying. Eight years later, when I studied for that test for real, I raised my score to a 43. I'd have stood out with that score as a 21-year-old traditional applicant with a 4.0 GPA from Fancy Private School. As a then 30-year-old Southern, female applicant with no UG GPA from an unknown hippie state school attended ten years ago? People's jaws literally dropped.

Go big or go home. But either way, get off SDN, and get to work. ;)
 
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Nigel_Thornberry

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Nigel, you need to decide if med school is what you really want to do, and if it is, then give your MCAT prep an all-out, knock-down effort. A guy with your level of standardized test-taking talent will get a stellar score again if you study like you mean it; they call these tests "standardized" for that very reason. And if that 39 wasn't actually your best effort, then who knows? In 1996, as a college junior, I got a 34 on the MCAT with half-hearted studying. Eight years later, when I studied for that test for real, I raised my score to a 43. I'd have stood out with that score as a 21-year-old traditional applicant with a 4.0 GPA from Fancy Private School. As a then 30-year-old Southern, female applicant with no UG GPA from an unknown hippie state school attended ten years ago? People's jaws literally dropped.

Go big or go home. But either way, get off SDN, and get to work. ;)
Thanks for the input! Yours is an interesting story!
 

Goro

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Knowledge decay is also real.

this score expiring crap is just a money grab. if you got a 39 ten years ago, you obviously have what it takes. schools understand that and should be able to make the decision if its too long ago. ohhh well.. get ready to spend money on lots of tests that only pad the organizations and employees pockets.

Sent from my VS986 using Tapatalk
 
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futdoc251989

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Sure, if you get a sub-500, then that 39 looks like you need the planets to be aligned for you to do well. But if I'm reviewing your app, I'm not looking for you to match a 39 with another top 2% score. If you get above average, 510+, then that takes a little shine off your 39, but it doesn't devalue the rest of your app. It just dampens the "whoa! 39!" effect somewhat. Of course, the effect you want to try for is "whoa, 39! and whoa, <5xx>!"

Fundamentally a 39 makes a reviewer suspect/hope that the student can get a great step 1 and therefore a great match thus making the school look great. Having a second score that isn't cringeworthy would probably not take away my suspicion/hope that under similar circumstances after M2 year you'll be able to meet that 39 bar. And per your description, that looks likely to me.

I assume this is a roundabout way to ask "how do I explain why I didn't use my 39 right away?" Answer: by having a narrative that's easy to understand. Nobody is going to question doing research years before med school (particularly if you get pubs), and nobody is going to doubt you if your new score is 510+ (imho).

tl;dr: don't blow your retake, and don't overthink it.

Best of luck to you.
My old, expired score is a 30 (507), taken in 2013. My new, retake score is a 498, taken 6 weeks ago. How would an adcom interpret this? Would they see me as a

A. a 30 (507) student
B. a 498 student
C. an average of the 2 scores
 

Shotapp

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I don't know what goes through the mind of an adcom but going from a 30 (507) to 498 is a good example of knowledge decay. I am sure you are aware that you need to retake that score.
 
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futdoc251989

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I don't know what goes through the mind of an adcom but going from a 30 (507) to 498 is a good example of knowledge decay. I am sure you are aware that you need to retake that score.
I will if I don't get in this cycle. I just had an interview today. I'm in an SMP-type program right now. I have a 3.7 GPA in the program but my overall GPA is really low (2.7) due to my low undergrad GPA. I interviewed at my school's DO school (KCUMB).
 

AnotherLawyer

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Sure, if you get a sub-500, then that 39 looks like you need the planets to be aligned for you to do well. But if I'm reviewing your app, I'm not looking for you to match a 39 with another top 2% score. If you get above average, 510+, then that takes a little shine off your 39, but it doesn't devalue the rest of your app. It just dampens the "whoa! 39!" effect somewhat. Of course, the effect you want to try for is "whoa, 39! and whoa, <5xx>!"

Fundamentally a 39 makes a reviewer suspect/hope that the student can get a great step 1 and therefore a great match thus making the school look great. Having a second score that isn't cringeworthy would probably not take away my suspicion/hope that under similar circumstances after M2 year you'll be able to meet that 39 bar. And per your description, that looks likely to me.

I assume this is a roundabout way to ask "how do I explain why I didn't use my 39 right away?" Answer: by having a narrative that's easy to understand. Nobody is going to question doing research years before med school (particularly if you get pubs), and nobody is going to doubt you if your new score is 510+ (imho).

tl;dr: don't blow your retake, and don't overthink it.

Best of luck to you.

I apologize for the thread hijack, but what does a reviewer think when someone has a high MCAT score and expresses a sincere desire to pursue a less competitive specialty (and therefore not pursue a "great match")? Is the benefit of a sky high MCAT score diminished at all in this case?
 

DrMidlife

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I apologize for the thread hijack, but what does a reviewer think when someone has a high MCAT score and expresses a sincere desire to pursue a less competitive specialty (and therefore not pursue a "great match")? Is the benefit of a sky high MCAT score diminished at all in this case?
In the evaluation of a premed it's good to see that there's a favorite specialty and to find out why that specialty is of interest, not because it's what the premed is actually going to do, but because it sheds some light on how well the premed understands US medicine and on the basis of the premed's interest in practicing. Legitimacy in a premed specialty preference comes from research or practical experience in that specialty (such as free clinic work for primary care, bone strength studies for ortho, etc.). Which most premeds don't have, and which most premeds pretty much can't get.

There's no downside to not wanting ortho/derm/etc. Most match lists are an ocean of IM. If your "less competitive" specialty is in primary care, and you actually know what primary care is, that's a net positive except at maybe Ivys. Google match lists for some of your target schools, you'll see.

Best of luck to you.
 
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