- Decide whether you actually need to take the exam again. Most importantly, this requires actually knowing your score from your recent test date! Once scores have been released, decide whether yours is within an acceptable range for the program you wish to attend (U.S. MD schools, DO schools, etc.). If it does fall within that range, a retake likely isn’t going to be productive, even if you’d like it to be higher. The exception is if something happened to significantly impair you on Test Day, whether you were sick, especially tired, or had serious timing issues. If your score is lower than your desired range, or if other aspects of your application are less than ideal, then you can fully devote your energy to taking the MCAT again.
- Think of three things that you can do differently. The majority of premeds who retake the MCAT score exactly the same, or at most a point or two higher. This isn’t simply coincidence – it happens because most people retaking the test use the same methods that got them their original score. Before starting your actual prep, list three or more issues that you can change. Did you feel weak on the actual content? Did you try to put in 12-hour days and simply become too exhausted? Or do you think you need a different method of prep (group course, tutor, etc.)? From there, specify these points even further until you have a streamlined “plan of attack” to get where you need to be.
- Allocate enough time before your next exam. Imagine a premed who takes his exam in April, receives his score in May, and immediately plans for a June or early July test date. Many students do this, but it’s not a good idea! If you truly plan to improve from your previous test-prep process, you need to put in the same amount of time as you would have originally. This means three months minimum, or more if you still feel weak on the material. But just setting a test date for three months in the future isn’t enough – ensure that you also have enough time within these months! Whether that means taking a reduced course load, altering your schedule at your research lab, or carving out a few hours per day reserved for studying, it’s necessary to make the MCAT a top priority.
- Don’t neglect the content. Since you just prepared for the MCAT, it’s easy to think that you already have most of the material down. Students often focus almost entirely on practice tests, or study less for a retake overall. Remember, though, a solid knowledge of the science content is the foundation that the rest of the exam rests upon! Make sure to cover all of the material at least somewhat, focusing heavily on topics that gave you trouble in the past. This works best if you use different resources from your previous MCAT administration – otherwise, you’re likely to fall into the same mistake patterns as before.
- Find new resources, but utilize old ones, too. If you previously used only practice tests from one company, you’ll certainly want to find new ones to supplement your prep. But don’t think that you can’t retake old exams again! This is especially true for the official AAMC sample test, official guide passages, and other important materials. Even if you remember the passages and questions, it’s not a waste of time to retake. Just think of the questions you miss as special hints at your most common mistakes – after all, if you miss a question twice, you’ll likely miss it on the exam unless you fix what you did wrong!
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