The MCAT is one of the toughest tests anyone can take. Not everyone does well on the first attempt. This leads to the question most commonly asked by test takers: how many times can you take the MCAT?
The simple answer to the question is that you can take the MCAT a maximum of seven times in your lifetime. Also, you can only register for one test at a time. That means you cannot register for another test until you have finished a test you have already registered for.
The AAMC Rules for Taking MCAT
Here are some information according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC):
- In a testing year, you can take the MCAT a maximum of three times
- In two years, you can take the test a maximum of four times
- In your lifetime, you can take the test a maximum of seven
The fewer times you take the test, the better. We would recommend you do not take the test more than three times.
Does Taking the Test More than Once Look Bad on Your Application?
Everybody knows that the MCAT is a tough test. So, there is no harm in taking it more than once. In fact, thousands of aspirants have taken the test more than once. However, taking the test more than three times may not look very good on your medical school application.
Even though we recommend that you do not take the test more than three times, some people have been accepted in medical school even after taking the test four or five times. Taking the test more times may show your determination to do better.
If there is no remarkable improvement in your scores each time you take the test, that could go against your chances of admission. Either way, if your medical school application shows too many attempts at MCAT, it may go against your chances of getting admission. So put in your best effort in the first shot itself.
If you do need to take the test again, make sure to learn from what you did wrong the first time and change your strategy the next time around. Work harder and try to improve in areas you did not do well in the previous attempt.
The AAMC website even has a story about a young man who took the MCAT seven times. And yes, he did get admission and is now a practicing doctor.
Can You Improve Your Score by Taking the Test More Than Once?
Studies have shown that there were some improvements in the test scores of people who took the test another time.
Besides, studies show that those who score 517 the first time could gain a couple of points. However, those who scored 518 the first time may not show any improvement at all.
Some people who retake the test get a lower score, and that does reflect badly. An admission committee may wonder if your previous score was pure chance.
So, if you are just taking the test to try and improve your score, be careful. Your MCAT score does matter, but there are a lot of other factors that also decide whether or not you get admission to medical school.
Does the Number of Attempts and Your MCAT Score Show Up on Your Application?
Yes, the number of attempts and your scores do show up on your medical school application.
Therefore, you have to be careful at how many attempts you take at the MCAT. Your MCAT test scores do count, but even your extracurricular work matters when it comes to getting admission to medical school.
To Take the Test Again or Not: That is the Question!
Ideally, you want to take the test again under the following conditions:
- If you did not prepare well for the previous attempt or if your preparation was impaired due to illness or some other family issue, it’s best to retake the test. Any turmoil in your life could only lead to a bad result.
- If your total MCAT score was lower than the average score for the medical schools you are targeting, retake the test. If your score is just a bit lower, you can try to scrape through if your other credentials are good. But if your score is much lower than what your target schools expect, you should think of attempting the test again.
- If you did not prepare well enough or did not take the MCAT seriously enough, take the test again. As long as you can identify where you failed and what remedial action you can take to improve, you should try again.
- If your practice scores were much higher than your test score, you must do the test once again. If you regularly scored higher on the practice MCAT tests in simulated conditions, you can do much better in the real test.
- If your section scores are much lower than the section scores are below par. For example, if you scored 5 or more points less in the CARS section, you must do the test again to improve your scores
On the other hand, you should NOT take the test again under the following conditions:
- If your test scores are enough for your target medical schools, do not take the test again. Your existing scores should take you through. However, if your GPA scores are low, then you must try to improve your MCAT scores.
- If you scored 518, taking the test again may not show any improvement. Instead, you may see a dip in your scores. Studies have shown that those who scored 518 earlier will not see any improvement in test scores if they take the test again.
- If the scores on your last MCAT were very close to the sample test scores, then it does not make sense to try to do the test again. You may not see any improvement at all.
- If you do not have the time or opportunity to assess where you went wrong or to go through the preparation all over again, do not take the test.
The MCAT is an exceptionally tough test. It is not unusual for people to take the test more than once. The AAMC permits you to take the test a maximum of three times in a test year and four times in two years. This means you have a maximum of seven tries in your lifetime. That should suffice for most people.
The MCAT takes a lot out of you both physically and mentally. So we highly recommend preparing well to do well. Taking the test again can help only in certain conditions. Not all attempts at a re-test will have positive results. Studies show that if you already have a high score, taking a retest may not necessarily improve your scores.
Also, since your previous attempts and test scores are visible to the admission committees of medical schools, too many attempts with no substantial improvement may make it more difficult for you to get admission to medical school.
Hopefully, the information presented above can help you decide whether you should retake the test or not. In the event you do, it’s best to prepare in advance so you can obtain good scores.