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Does Retaking the MCAT Look Bad?

MCAT test-takers prepare for the exam for weeks and months, hoping to achieve their goal score and have a competitive application to medical school. Sometimes however, the exam score doesn’t go quite the way as anticipated. Students are then wondering if they should retake the MCAT, or if it is bad to retake the MCAT. An important question that students have when deciding this is, does retaking the MCAT look bad?

Does Retaking the MCAT Look Bad?

Admissions officers understand that bad days happen and sometimes it takes people an extra try (or two) to get the score that they like. If you can improve your score, especially if you can improve it significantly, then retaking the MCAT does not look bad and actually can demonstrate that you have improved and can perform at a higher level after taking some extra time to study. Medical schools will see all your scores, but if they can note an upward trend, then retaking the MCAT does not look bad.

When Does Retaking the MCAT Look Bad?

Retaking the MCAT can look bad if you get a less than ideal score and then on your second attempt, get the same or, even worse, get a lower score. By staying the same or getting a lower score, it signal to medical schools that this is probably where you fall in terms of MCAT performance. It can suggest that even with additional study time, you were still not able to improve. This can potentially look bad. When thinking about retaking the MCAT, make sure you are confident you can improve. One way to build that confidence is to take a diagnostic test.

Retaking the MCAT does not necessarily look bad.  Doing the same or worse a second time can be potentially bad for an application. An improvement, especially one where there is a clear reason for the original poor performance (illness, family emergency leading up to the exam, etc.) can be a positive on an application. Ideally, take the MCAT once and rock it–but it’s good to consider options in case you don’t get the score you want.

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2 Responses to Does Retaking the MCAT Look Bad?

  1. Ronny October 9, 2017 at 5:33 pm #

    Hi Burton,

    I’m wondering what significant improvement is numerically? If all but a single section was low and all the other sections were high would all 4 sections have to be increased or just the low section? can the original 3 high sections be kept the same scores on the retake and bring only the original low section up to their level or higher?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 18, 2017 at 10:14 am #

      Hi Ronny,

      What is a “significant improvement” depends on the individual starting point. If you had a low section and pulled it up while maintaining the same higher scores in the other sections, any admissions board would see that there was continued excellence in the other areas and additional learning in the low section. 🙂


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