You may not have received the best score when you took your first MCAT. But hey, guess what? You’re hardly alone. Every year, the AAMC estimates 10,000 people retake the MCAT. Now that you know you’re no longer a minority, you may feel more comfortable asking the question “how many times can I take the MCAT, then?”
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How Many Times Can You Take the MCAT?
It’s quite common for med school hopefuls to retake the MCAT. In many cases, in fact, sitting again for the test is a highly strategic move, whether the goal is to make up for a poor score or to improve upon a decent one.
Let’s dive into how many times you can take the MCAT across various timeframes: in a single testing year, in two testing years, and over the course of a lifetime.
How many times can you take the MCAT in one testing year?
In a single year (defined as twelve consecutive months) you can take the MCAT a total of three times.
How many times can you take the MCAT in two testing years?
Over the course of two years (defined as 24 consecutive months) you can take the MCAT four times.
How many times can you take the MCAT over a lifetime?
You can take the test a total of seven times in your lifetime. Obviously, these attempts must be spaced out over time to account for the one-year and two-year testing limits above.
That means that a lifetime’s worth of MCAT tests could be taken in three years at the fastest allowable rate.
Does A Voided MCAT Score Count as an Attempt?
When you “void” an MCAT, it becomes, with a few notable exceptions, as if you never took the test in the first place.
You might opt to void your MCAT score for a variety of reasons, such as:
- The exam was, or seemed, more difficult than you anticipated
- The exam questions were dramatically different in form from your prep course questions (which is why choosing a high-quality MCAT prep course is so important)
- There was something, like a family emergency, for example, in the time immediately prior to sitting for the test that distracted you and potentially compromised your score
Unfortunately, a voided MCAT score does count as an attempt. So you won’t get your money back, and it goes toward your testing limits explained in the previous section.
To learn more about how voiding your MCAT score works and whether it’s a good idea in your own case, check out our thoughts on voiding MCAT scores.
Does a Canceled MCAT Count as an Attempt?
If you cancel your MCAT test within ten days or more of your test, it won’t count as an attempt. If it’s less than ten days until your test, it will.
No-shows (meaning you scheduled an MCAT, didn’t change the date in time, and didn’t show up on test day) count as attempts.
Relatedly, even if you cancel within ten days or more of your test date, you might not be able to get all of your money back. As the AAMC lays out in its chart below, depending on when you cancel relative to your test date, you might receive a full, partial, or no refund:
|Standard Change Fees||Date and/or Test Center Reschedule Fee||CancellationRefund|
|60 or more days before exam||$50||$165|
|30-59 days before exam||$100||$165|
|10-29 days before exam||$200||$0|
No changes to your testing schedule can be made less than ten days prior to the exam, so if you’re on the fence about canceling or rescheduling, it’s ideal to make your move as early as possible.
For more information about canceling your MCAT, head over to our How-To Guide on Canceling or Rescheduling the MCAT.
What Do Med School Admissions Think About Multiple MCAT Attempts?
Again, it’s important to emphasize that retaking the MCAT is not unusual. Many students do it, and many of them go on to be accepted into leading medical schools and have fruitful careers in medicine.
That said, medical schools have access to all of your scores, except in instances when you’ve voided a test.
When it comes to what medical schools do with that information – how they react to a candidate with multiple test attempts – it’s entirely in their court. Some admissions officers may hold multiple attempts against a candidate, while others may not. Whether your score improved or decreased, and by how much, will also be taken into account.
The general rule of thumb is that one or two retakes probably won’t compromise the success of your application – provided that your score improves with each successive attempt.
Here are some other caveats to consider in terms of retaking the MCAT:
- Schools generally weigh the most recent score most heavily
- Sometimes, in cases where the test scores vary widely, admissions officers might take the highest score from each section and apply those to their decision-making
- Retaking the MCAT once or twice demonstrates persistence, which med schools factor into their analyses of candidates to various degrees
How Many Times Do Most Students Take the MCAT?
Most students take the MCAT one to three times. Taking it three times generally doesn’t raise any eyebrows in admissions offices – particularly if you raise your score each time.
How Many Times Should You Retake the MCAT?
This is sort of a loaded question, and perhaps not the exact right one to ask. The best way to approach each MCAT test is as if it will be the final one you sit for because you’re going to rock the exam.
That said, if you earn a suboptimal score on your exam (most experts consider the threshold for a solid score to be 509), retaking it once or twice more may be the wisest course of action.
Deciding if Retaking the MCAT is Right for You
Let’s run down a few questions to ask yourself if you’re considering retaking the MCAT.
Do you need a higher score?
MCAT score requirements vary by medical school, but here are the general figures that apply widely throughout American medical schools:
- The median score for all MCAT test-takers is around 500
- The average score for accepted med school applicants into mid-tier medical schools is around 507
- A good medical score (meaning you are likely to be accepted into a program) is considered 510 and above (this is the minimum score you should shoot for)
- The average MCAT score required by elite medical schools is higher (Emory University’s average, for example, is 514)
If you know what medical school you would like to attend, you might want to take a look at the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) online database where you can view average MCAT scores and GPAs for the program you are most interested in.
(You should also consider your GPA when assessing whether you should retake the MCAT for a higher score. The reason is that if you have an optimal GPA then admissions officers might grant you a little more leeway on your MCAT score. A very good GPA is generally considered 3.7 and above.)
Do you think you can still improve your score?
Whether you’re likely to boost your score significantly enough to warrant all the extra anxiety, time, and expense is a vital calculation.
Here are indications that might justify a belief that you can substantially improve your score:
- There was some distracting or emotionally destabilizing event prior to the test that may have harmed your performance
- You scored substantially better on one or more practice exams than you did on the actual test
- You did not prepare sufficiently for the test the first time you took it
Will retaking the MCAT fit in your med school application timeline?
In most instances, you can expect to get your MCAT results 30-35 days following the test.
Compare this schedule to the admissions timeline from the med school or schools you are considering applying to in order to ensure that you’ll have your test results in time to successfully apply.
MCAT Retake FAQ
Rounding out our treatise on how many times you can take the MCAT, we answer a few frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the topic.
How long is an MCAT score good for?
You can use your MCAT score for up to three years prior to the time you apply for medical school.
Does it look bad for med schools to see MCAT retakes?
It depends. If you improve your score on the retake, most med schools will forgive multiple attempts. If your score remains the same or worsens, retakes may be an issue.
Can I reschedule the MCAT if I’m not ready?
You can reschedule the MCAT without penalty up to ten days before your test date. If you cancel less than ten days before the test or simply don’t show up, that will count as an attempt.