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FAQ: Should I Rewrite the MCAT (And other MCAT Score related Questions)


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#1 register

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 03:44 AM

I've noticed quite the same questions circulating this forum over and over, so I have taken my time to write a guide to these common questions. I've so far written the guide on my site. It's better viewed there as the links work and the formatting is a bit better. I will continually update and refine it.
Should I Rewrite the MCAT

I will repost the information in this post. If anyone has any general advice / specific advice / success stories / scenarios they want to add to this thread, feel free. Hopefully, this can be a resource that future forum members can find useful.

What is your Score?

This step should be pretty self-explanatory for all test-writers. Your score should be a number ranging anywhere from 8-43 (I’ve never heard of any score <8 or similarly the other extreme >43) and a letter from J-T. A key fact about the MCAT is it is a curved test. That means that your grade is a reflection on how well you did on the test relative to other students who took the same test. The median of the test will always be 24 because AAMC sets it up this way. In other words, what really matters is your percentile score and how well you did compared to other test-takers. It’s set up this way to ensure that all the tests are standardized so even if you find one sitting of the MCAT harder than another sitting, you won’t be punished for answering less questions correct because your fellow test takers will have found it just as hard. Regarding the letter score, it is sometimes looked at by schools and sometimes totally disregarded by other schools.

Most medical schools require their students to be above average. A score of 24 will not cut it for almost all schools. A standing in the 80th percentile is a solid score, but there are more factors to consider than just the percentile, which brings us to the next point.

Which medical schools do you want to apply to?

The next step is to see if your score is compatible with the schools you want to apply to. Make a list of which schools you will be applying to. Take into consideration factors such as location, expenses, curriculum, etc. Ideally you want to apply only to schools you would be willing to go to if accepted. Nothing is harder to explain to future admissions committees than being accepted into a medical school and declining their offer without having another acceptance in hand. It will make re-applying to medical schools that much harder.

Determining the school’s statistics and cut-offs for admitted students.


The next step is some basic information collection. After all, you want to know what it takes to be admitted to these schools so what better place to find out than through the previous year’s numbers. A good source would be the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) published by AAMC each year [For Americans]. This usually includes the statistics of accepted students from previous years, including the average/median GPA and MCAT for admitted applicants. You’ll soon realize that top-tiered schools usually require higher MCAT scores, an example being Washington University in St.Louis which has been notorious for admitting students just because of high MCAT scores.

Another good place to look for data is on the school’s own website. Usually if you look up [school name] + [faculty of medicine] + [admissions] + [statistics] into a search engine, it’ll bring you to the right site. For example, the University of Toronto website had GPA stats for the previous 8 years. At the bottom they list that the previous year’s class of 2007 had the following MCAT scores.
Minimum Median Maximum
Verbal Reasoning 7 10 14
Physical Sciences 8 11 14
Biological Sciences 9 12 14
Writing Sample M Q T

From this we can tell that half the class got an MCAT of better than 33Q which is quite impressive. The max/min data is a bit unclear whether it belonged to one student or whether that was the max/mim of each of the MCAT sections. My gut instinct is that there was a 42T student because if it was the latter case of individual sections, I am certain it would have been 15 for the PS and BS sections as there are students who score full marks in these sections each year. However, I am doubtful if UofT let a student with a 24M into the class, so I would assume that this would be the minimum for each section. However, whenever things are ambigious, it would be best to call the school directly to clarify.

The internet is also a powerful tool you can use to gather information. I have already listed two forums with pre-med users that know a lot about the admissions process. Similarly, there is a website called MD Applicants where applicants put up their stats, which schools they applied to, were rejected from, waitlisted, or accepted to. (Warning: Take the stats you see with a grain of salt as they do not represent the average applicant pool. The whole website is self selecting as usually only people with good grades will be posting them up on the Internet)

Matching Your Stats and MCAT score with the School’s Cutoffs (Include Special Conditions)

The next step after you have gathered the necessary information is to see if your profile fits these schools. It’s absolutely necessary to read over the school’s website carefully as there are often many different statuses/special rules that will affect how your score will be viewed.

A classic example is the case of being an Out-of-Province (OOP) applicant. For instance, all Albertan medical schools reserve the majority of their class (85%) for Albertan residents. This ensures that graduating medical students will most likely end up staying and serving the Albertan community. The other 15% of the seats is alloted for OOP applicants. This in turn creates two different applicant pools. As seen on their Applicant Guide, the University of Calgary uses a different formula for calculating these two pool’s GPA and MCAT, with OOP applicants requiring much higher stats to meet the cutoff.

Similarly, The University of Western Ontario Admissions has a different status for people who are from an area classified as SWOMEN (South Western Ontario). As shown from their 2008 data cut-offs, SWOMEN applicants have a much lower MCAT minimum allowance (PS 8, VR 8, BS 8 ) than non-SWOMEN applicants, who need a (PS 9, VR 10, BS 11) in order to get an interview.

The point is to make sure you get all the information from the schools about the CUT OFF Marks and to see that Your stats are above the cutoffs. Most schools do their admissions in several steps. When you submit an application into a school, they take your most quantifiable data (GPA + MCAT), run it through a computer algorith and then remove applicants below the cutoffs. You want to be above the cutoff. You shouldn’t waste your time and money on schools you know which you have no shot at because they will just toss out your application before they even review it.

I have a good overall MCAT score but an UNBALANCED MCAT Score

I will get into the different scenarios that most often come up. Perhaps the most common type of question I hear is the unbalanced score. This score is generally a “high” score of above 30, usually in the mid-30’s and above. However, the student performed poorly in one section of the MCAT. Most often students who are good at numbers do terribly on the verbal section and may end up with a score of 32Q (12PS, 7VR, 11BS) or a 37S (15 PS, 9VR, 13BS). Or it may be they bombed the PS section and only got a 7 on it.

The verbal section is the most tricky because it is often the section that ALL schools look at. Some schools such as Queen’s and UWO have “hard” cutoffs. What I mean by hard is that if the numbers are below that “set” number, you won’t be getting an interview. Both Queens and UWO have been known to have a strict (10, 10, 10 Q) cutoff. This becomes problematic for people who have performed overall well, but lack in one area.

The University of Calgary on the other hand, if you’re an OOP applicant, they will only look at three parts of your MCAT score (VR, BS + Writing). This is why it pays to do your research and information collection. You will find schools where your marks will make you competitive.

Other schools such as University of Toronto and University of Alberta have “soft” cutoffs. What that means is that they will give interviews on a case-by-case basis and that you won’t be automatically sifted out if you did poorly in one section. Granted, they still have a formula that looks at your MCAT score. For instance, they may want applicants who have a total score greater than 30, with a minimum of 7 in each. This allows for people with “unbalanced” scores to apply and still have a shot.

I did poorly on the Writing Section, what options do I have?

This technically falls under an unbalanced score but since this is such a common occurence, I will address this question separately. The writing sections works like any other section of the MCAT. Some schools will have “hard” cutoffs for it (UWO, Queens) and others will have “soft” cutoffs.

An interesting situation is that most American schools do not consider the writing section at all. So often time, if you have a high MCAT score but a poor writing section (37O) you might consider applying to state schools as your numbers will be very competitive.

My MCAT score sits on the border of the CUTOFFS

This is an agonizing situation to be stuck in. You may have a balanced 36 with 12’s in each section but be stuck with a P or similarly, you have a 29Q (PS 10, VR 9, BS 10, Q). In each case you are so close to the “ideal” mark you want.

If you want to bump your P up to a Q, one method you can try is for them to regrade your test. There has been stories where score were bumped up enough to make it worth applying to some schools. However, there is also a chance that the score will go down when they regrade, so it’s a risk you should consider. If you’re really dieing to apply to a certain school though, by all means request for the regrade and hope for the best.

The other best option you have is to call the admissions committee and ask if your score would be cut-off. Each year the cutoffs fluctuate a bit due to the competitiveness of the applicant pool changing. You might get lucky and they might drop enough for your score to be in the clear.

And if it’s really too close to call, I would suggest that you apply anyways. The worst they can do is reject your application and you’ll be out a hundred bucks. However, if you do clear the cutoff and get an interview invitation, it will definitely outweigh the risk.

I haven’t even written the MCAT

You would think this is a problem, considering the MCAT stands for the Medical College Admission Test, but there are actually two schools in Canada that don’t require an MCAT score. The two are McMaster University and The University of Ottawa However, just because these two schools do not require an MCAT score does NOT make these schools any easier to get into. In fact, they have more applicants than other schools and their GPA cutoffs are even higher. They usually require higher quality extracurriculars and reference letters too.

Should I Retake / Rewrite the MCAT?

Now, it’s very common for your scores to not be up to par with medical school cutoffs. That’s reality, it sucks. The only way to get to medical school is to improve your scores and that means the dreaded rewrite. That means studying for the MCAT all over again, running through practice tests and sitting down to write the beast again. It is a lot of work. You should only rewrite the MCAT after you’ve given some thought into these next few points.

1. Is Medicine still something you want to pursue? - Taking another semester or summer to study for this test is a big commitment. Is it worth the sacrifice or is medicine just something you’re aiming for because of peer pressure or you have nothing better to do. Think about this one clearly, as this question will follow you when you write your application, into the interview, and into medical school.
2. When do you plan on Applying? - Most applications begin in the summer (USA) or fall (Canada) so finding “When You Should Write Your MCAT” is an important question to ask. Can you rewrite before the next application cycle? For instance, you may have taken the MCAT in April and received your scores at the beginning of the summer. If you decide to rewrite, you could make it in time for August’s test date and your new scores would be ready for the upcoming application cycle. If this isn’t the case, will you be willing to wait another cycle to write your MCAT and then apply?
3. How will you improve your score? - The whole point of rewriting is to better your score. What makes you think you will get a better score this time? Will you take a PREP course or will you study alone? How will you change your strategy and what will you do differently. Most students I see who retake the test just go about it the same way as they did before, read books, make notes, do practice questions. But perhaps their problem lies with their test taking abilities and not their knowledge. Before you begin to restudy, you must first evaluate what you did right the first time and what you could have done better.
4. Was this score representative of your ability? - This is the final question you should ask to see if you should rewrite. Did the score I received back reflect my true abilities. If the answer is yes, then perhaps a rewrite is not for you. You have reached your limit. However, if you believe you did poorly on test day for whatever reason, you were sick, you couldn’t sleep the night before, you didn’t take organic chemistry, and you believe you can do better, then a rewrite is for you.

How Many Times should I write the MCAT?

The best answer to this question is just once. However, the real answer to this question is as many times as necessary. If medicine is the field you want to go into, the MCAT is just of the hurdles you will have to overcome. The MCAT is not the end goal nor is it the biggest hurdle. Medicine requires dedication and it is not always the smartest students who can get pass the MCAT but the dedicated and persistent. The people who are willing to sit their butts down to study during the summer and the people who are willing to give it another go even after failure. Best of luck to all the pre-med, students, MCAT writers, applicants out there.

#2 The Law

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 04:16 AM

Also, to add to register's once again, incredible post (great job!)...

You should also consider the importance of the MCAT in the entire scheme of the application.

At certain schools, the MCAT only serves as a tool to determine who gets an interview or not (either as a strict cutoff, or a soft cutoff; see below for definition). Following this stage, the mark you got is not important, since it is not factored into who gains admission.

Note: A strict cutoff is one where falling below the cutoffs in any section will result in your automatic rejection. End of story. Whereas, failing to meet a soft cutoff will not necessarily result in your rejection, provided you have a very compelling application.

On the opposite side of the spectra, there are schools that use the marks you got on the MCAT as both, a tool to determine who receives an interview and also, a tool to determine who gains acceptance. In this type of admission policy, the better your score is, the more likely you are to gain admission since the MCAT does hold importance in deciding the overall grade of your application.

Edit: Just to add, very high MCAT scores will also give you a very good shot at many US medical schools, since the MCAT holds a lot of weight at most US schools.
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#3 AndyDude

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 04:22 AM

I am forced to ask, what motivates you to undertake such elaborate schemes of social assistance?

I think you can get a pocket book published from all of this.

I'd suggest the topic: The Medicine Panorama : It's not just a guideline, it's your lifeline. Get yours today for only 19.99 + SH and if you call now, you will get ... blah blah.

lol ;p.

#4 OneDay

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 05:12 AM

Also, to add to register's once again, incredible post (great job!)...


On the opposite side of the spectra, there are schools that use the marks you got on the MCAT as both, a tool to determine who receives an interview and also, a tool to determine who gains acceptance. In this type of admission policy, the better your score is, the more likely you are to gain admission since the MCAT does hold importance in deciding the overall grade of your application.


Which schools have this? I know for Calgary, higher MCAT helps OOP get interviews, but haven't seen any others in Canada. I was under the impression that most ontario schools just use the MCAT as a cutoff, and is not part of any final admission formula?

#5 The Law

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 05:21 AM

You are correct, Ontario schools use the MCAT as a cutoff only. A few years ago, I was aware that Western used it a little bit in their final mark calculation, but I do not know if this is currently the case.

For out of Ontario, Manitoba places heavy emphasis on the MCAT. Alberta also places a large emphasis on the MCAT. Dalhousie might for the final score of the application, but I am not sure so cannot really comment.
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#6 eng_dude786

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 10:09 AM

I think you should do a flow chart again. Those are the easiest to follow :D

#7 RCP90

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 11:16 AM

This is why the Forum needs a 'Rep' function.

#8 vigilent

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Posted 13 October 2008 - 05:08 PM

register/opensourceMD:

thanks for the flowcharts and the post regarding rewriting the MCAT...very helpful.

#9 StreetballKing

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 07:58 AM

Great thread, very informative

#10 ratatat

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Posted 29 August 2009 - 04:24 PM

Thanks guys for posting such great info in this thread.

#11 abyss

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 07:34 PM

Just an update. According OMSAS, the rules have changed for McMaster. Starting 2009/2010, you are required to write the MCAT for McMaster.

#12 Dreamcatcher

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 06:15 AM

I'm planning to re-write the MCAT as I have a current score of 11/8/8 P (V/P/B). I can't believe I bombed Bio like that as it's always been my strongest section :(

Even as a grad applicant, I obviously need to re-write to have a shot at schools like UofT who have require a minimum score of 9 in each section. I'm gonna forget places like UWO and Queen's with their insane rising cut-offs. Alberta may be in the books for me and as IP, I've heard they look at your overall score and don't care about individual sections (I'll look this up in the UofC and UofA forums).

So should I keep my overall score of 27P (not stellar I know) or aim for a more balanced score? *sigh I think I know the answer, but I'm not feeling very confident about a re-write :confused:

#13 Starling

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 06:28 AM

I think Mac only looks at VR(?), so that could be an option.

I know U of C looks at overall score (although I wonder if they place more importance on VR and BS, since they use those when deciding whether OOPs get file review). But yeah, rewrite and try to bring those sciences up to double digits. I doubt your VR or WS could go down much, so rewriting's not too risky (though it is expensive and generally sucky :P ).

I'm also a grad student facing a rewrite (unless I miraculously get good news on Friday), so I feel your pain.

#14 tennisgirl

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Posted 12 May 2010 - 11:46 AM

Hey Everyone:

Do you think I should re-write a 32S - P12/B11/V9?
I'm applying this summer and will be finishing up my last year in a double degree program at UWO.

I guess if I don't then UWO & Queens are out of the question... has anyone heard of people getting in with a score like this?

OMSAS GPA = 3.75
AMCAS GPA = 3.85

this is including years 1,2,3 - all courses.

Please reply if you have ANY input! Thanks so much. :)
-UWO BMSc/HBA-

#15 janny_jan

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Posted 12 May 2010 - 11:54 AM

Mac is proooobably out for you as well with a VR of 9 but it doesnt hurt to try next year if you really dont want to re-write. With this being the first year of VR being included, nobody knows what the average accepted score will be. According to this site, the average interviewed score was a VR=11. UofT would be an option because I think their cutoffs are straight 9s across the board. I think Dals cutoffs are similar to UofTs but you'd be OOP (im assuming) and they dont have many OOP spots.

I'm in a similar spot with double digits in all but Bio and I'm rewriting next week pending good news from Mac tomorrow (not too optimistic though :P)! Hey! Wanna swap my VR mark for your Bio?

In all seriousness, I would rewrite for VR. Its becoming more and more of a factor. With science marks and WS like the oens you have, I highly doubt they will go down much so the only place to go is up!

#16 tennisgirl

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Posted 12 May 2010 - 03:33 PM

Haha, Thanks Janny.

Sure!! LOL if only a swap were possible... not even... IF ONLY re-writing one section were a possibility. :( I guess this whole process really weeds out the unmotivated.

Yeah I guess at this point I'm gunning for UT and UofA/UofC or even UBC [I know they're slightly hostile to OOPs, but we'll see]. Honestly at this point, school just finished not long ago, and I'm really unmotivated to do this again. I might try for mac, simply because I have a business degree on top of my med sci one, which I'm hoping they'll like.

Anyway... I guess there's not much to do but try hard and see what happens. BEST OF LUCK for Mac tomorrow!! Hope you get it - I'll keep my fingers crossed for you. =)
-UWO BMSc/HBA-

#17 Dreamcatcher

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Posted 13 May 2010 - 01:55 AM

I think Mac only looks at VR(?), so that could be an option.

I know U of C looks at overall score (although I wonder if they place more importance on VR and BS, since they use those when deciding whether OOPs get file review). But yeah, rewrite and try to bring those sciences up to double digits. I doubt your VR or WS could go down much, so rewriting's not too risky (though it is expensive and generally sucky :P ).

I'm also a grad student facing a rewrite (unless I miraculously get good news on Friday), so I feel your pain.


Hey Starling, thanks for the input. A re-write is definitely in store and although I have a good verbal score, it surely won't be enough for Mac with my GPA. And besides, it wouldn't be wise to bank on just one school for the initial screen.

Good luck for Friday and I hope you get good news! What schools did you interview at this cycle? Here's hoping that you don't have to re-write!

#18 Dreamcatcher

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Posted 13 May 2010 - 02:01 AM

Tennisgirl, that's a tough one. I would think hard before re-writing. Yes, the reality is that schools like Queen's and UWO have and will continue to have rising cut-offs. So if you want to be in the running for these schools, then yes re-write if you are confident that you can raise your VR while maintaining the scores in the other sections.

In any case, you shouldn't limit yourself to Queen's and UWO. I actually think you have a good shot at Mac even with the 9 (I've seen people get interview invites this cycle with VR scores of 9 and GPAs similar to yours).

#19 nemesis

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Posted 13 May 2010 - 02:15 AM

...
Do you think I should re-write a 32S - P12/B11/V9?
...


Definite re-write, no question.

If your PS/BS scores were switched with your VR score, then you could probably have escaped through, but you yourself are aware that this cycle that score distribution would have resulted in immediate refusal from 50% (at least!) of the MCAT-requiring schools in Ontario.

#20 vcklo

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 06:25 PM

A related question:

UofT considers the most recent MCAT taken, whereas some other schools will consider the best result. So for UofT, in the case where you decide to re-write the MCAT but unfortunately get a worse score than before, is it possible to not release that newer, worse score and still use your old one?

Thanks.




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