Are you planning on going to med school? You’re likely looking forward to meeting like-minded intellectuals, shadowing knowledgeable physicians, and gaining valuable hands-on experience.
To get into the school of your dreams, you’ll need to do something that isn’t as exciting — take the dreaded MCAT.
See also our post on the Best MCAT Prep Courses here to know what’s the best for you.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average score of all 2020-2021 med school applicants was right around 506. All matriculants did a little better, with an average score of 511.5.
If your first score isn’t in this range, you may be wondering: How many times can you take the MCAT?
In this guide, we’ll answer this inquiry and provide more details on how to perform up to par.
Is It Possible to Retake the MCAT?
The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a rigorous exam that’s part of the medical school admissions process. It takes seven-and-a-half hours to complete and includes four intensive sections. These sections cover everything from critical reasoning skills to knowledge on biological systems’ chemical foundations.
It’s a challenging exam. Many students aren’t satisfied with their scores the first time around. Luckily, they can retake the test to improve their marks. The AAMC doesn’t bar students from second (and even third and fourth) attempts.
You can also check out our How Hard Is The MCAT here so you can have a background on MCAT.
Limits on Retaking the MCAT
While you can retake the MCAT, you can’t continue to take it indefinitely. The AAMC places retake limits to ensure students make each attempt count.
Beyond that, you can take the MCAT up to seven times during your life. You can space out your attempts in years, but there are specific caps in place. For more ideas on When Should You Take the MCAT, see our post here.
How Often Can I Take the MCAT?
The AAMC has established the following caps for the MCAT:
- Three attempts in one year
- Four total attempts in two consecutive years
- Lifetime limit of seven attempts
All of your attempts include voids and no-shows. If you didn’t perform well and want to void your test to ensure medical schools don’t see the results, you’ll use up one attempt.
If you don’t show up to your scheduled exam at all due to unforeseen circumstances, you’ll also use up one of your attempts.
Should I Retake the MCAT?
Some people are hesitant to take this monumental medical school exam multiple times. They believe multiple attempts will make them look bad to schools’ admissions departments.
However, taking the MCAT more than once (and improving) can show a school that you’re seriously committed to becoming a physician.
Consider how your schools’ admissions departments view multiple MCAT attempts. They may:
- Average all your scores together
- Only consider your highest score
- Consider all scores but give more weight to the newest score
- Consider the highest score from each section
Before you retake the MCAT, you should understand the weighing process for the programs you’re interested in attending.
Deciding Whether to Retake the MCAT
There’s no definitive way to decide whether to retake the MCAT. However, you can ask yourself the following questions to help guide your decision.
How Did You Do the First Time?
If you achieved around a 510 your first time around, you’re right where you should be for public med schools. However, you may need to aim higher to get into more prestigious med schools.
How Prepared Were You for Your First Attempt?
Did you give every topic equal weight during your study sessions? Did you have something going on in your personal life that affected your level of preparation? If so, you might do better on your second attempt with more practice. See also our post on How Long Does It Take to Study for the MCAT here for more information.
How Do You Plan to Improve Your Score?
You shouldn’t sign up for a second attempt out of frustration. Do you have a solid plan for improving your score? You can simulate a testing environment and work through practice exams to give you an edge on your next test day.
How to Achieve a Better Score
All med school applicants should strive to achieve a total MCAT score of at least 510 (the highest is 528). If you’ve already taken the test and want to increase your score, you have several options available to you. It is also important to note the validity score of the MCAT, so see our post on How Long Are MCAT Scores Valid? here.
First and foremost, we recommend taking an MCAT prep course. These courses cover essential information and review effective test-taking strategies. You can take one online or in-person, depending on your preferences.
You can also join a local study group or meet with friends to cover the topics you didn’t do so well the first time around.
How Many Times Can You Take The MCAT? The Bottom Line
More than the number of times you take the MCAT, you want to be strategic about how you study. That way, you can get a higher score the first time — or the next time you take it.
Join a study group, leave yourself enough time to study without cramming, and you’re on your way to a higher score already.