It can seem forever before getting you MCAT results. That terror might be substituted for either the agony or the ecstasy. The agony of "should I retake the MCAT?" (if that is an option) or the ecstasy of "my MCAT scores are just fine."
For those who feel that they did well, congratulations!
For those who are unsure about their scores, let me help put them into perspective.
- The national average score for everyone who takes the MCAT is 8 in each subject - we don't anticipate that the average MCAT score in 2010 will be substantially different than that in 2010.
- For those who actually complete an application to medical school, the average score is 9 in each subject area. (Not everyone who takes the MCAT actually then applies to medical school.)
- For those who matriculate into a medical school, the average score is 10.
- I hear applicants tell each other that all you need is a sum score of 30 to consider yourself a near shoe-in for med school. But think about it…should a 14/8/8 be considered in the same light as a 10/10/10 or 9/11/11?
When should I take the MCAT?
The easy answer is "April." Earlier in the application year is better. However, early is better ONLY if you are well-prepared. You do not do yourself any favors to take it in April if you aren't fully prepared to do your best. So, if you are marginally prepared, think twice before taking the MCAT at all. If you will have more relevant coursework completed in August (and not in April), then take it in August. The bottom line: take the MCAT when you will do your best.
Should I retake the MCAT?
This is truly a difficult question to answer. If you know that you weren't at your peak when you took the test, and your scores are marginal, then you might consider retaking the exam. If you did relatively well but are suffering from med school applicant paranoia, then evaluate carefully whether you actually need to take the exam again, and whether you think it's necessary to improve your score. Remember, during the admissions process the MCAT exam is viewed not as a single entity, but in concert with your other academic credentials as well as you relevant activities (clinical experiences, community service, research, leadership, etc.).
I'm thinking of taking a MCAT prep review class. Which do you recommend?
I don't recommend any one particular program over another. I don't even recommend that you necessarily need to take a formal class. It may appear that everyone takes a review class - it's estimated that somewhere around 70% of examinees have taken a prep class.
This is where thoughtful self-evaluation should occur. Are you already well-prepared in your knowledge of the material? If so, perhaps you merely need to review on your own. Do you require structure imposed from the outside to buckle down and study? If so, perhaps you are a candidate for a review course. Can you afford the time a review class takes? Can you afford it financially? Are you a marginal student who will benefit from a review class? Are you an excellent student who is afraid to not take a class? Alternatively, you may be located in an area without access to on-site review programs and therefore must evaluate other alternatives. Be brutally honest with yourself regarding these types of questions. This is no time to take on a perceived standard which isn't "you." Whichever route you choose, study hard, get a good night's sleep prior to the exam, and try to relax during the exam.