We interviewed one student who has shared his strategy for preparing to retake the MCAT and gives advice for premeds thinking about taking the test for a second time. Dominic is currently completing a 1- Year Master’s Program at Columbia University and has been admitted to George Washington University MD program. He is expected to start in August 2012. After you took MCAT for the first time did you initially believe you performed well out of the testing room feeling uncertain about your performance?
The interesting thing is that I felt good the first time I took it. And it wasn’t until the second time that I took it I was more unsure of my performance. So I walked out of the second test really questioning if I did well or not. And I talked to a few friends who had taken the test on the same day and that was sort of the general consensus among the group who thought it was a really hard test. I was normal to question your performance on it and sometimes that meant if you were questioning yourself than you did better than you actually thought you did.
Once you received your scores back from you first test, did you question whether or not you still wanted to pursue a career in medicine?
I didn’t. I knew that medicine was something that I wanted to pursue. I questioned my ability to do it. Because even though medicine was where my passions lie, I didn’t know if I’d be able to overcome the subpar score that I got the first time in order to get a better score. But I heard statistics that half of all MCAT test takers will retake the test a second time so it was reassuring that I could take it a second time.
What made you believe that you would do better the second time?
The second time I took it I was out of school, I was working full time. It was different because at my job I could leave work behind and go home and study without the distraction of having projects and assignments to worry about that I would have had to worry about had I been in school. So the timing the second time around was better for me.
When it came to your decision to retake the MCAT, did you discuss it with anybody like an advisor?
I was really fortunate in that my undergraduate institution was a small school and had a small premed program and my advisor was really involved in my application process pretty much from the moment I entered school as a freshman so I was in regular communication with her about what I was going to do after I had taken it the first time and we discussed whether or not I should take it again so I really relied on her guidance with making that decision.
How important was it for you to get a better score on the MCAT?
I retook it to get into an MD program. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. My scores were right around the range that would get me into a DO program. So it was the push of me needing a higher score to get into an MD school that encouraged me to take it a second time.
In addition to your MCAT score, how strong were the other components of your medical school application?
So one of the things that I’m proud of is that my application to med school was what I consider to be very diversified and strong. I majored in English in undergrad, I did volunteer work at a children’s hospital, during the summer I worked at a pharmacy, I took a service trip through my college to Oakland, California. So I think I was in a good position overall in my application the only thing I thought was deficient was my MCAT score.
Did you do any background research on how the medical schools you were applying to were going to treat your multiple scores?
I didn’t. I wasn’t exactly sure how they would look at multiple scores. I kind of approached it from the general idea that they would only look at the most recent score and for that reason there was a certain amount of pressure that I put on myself to perform better the second time. I know in general that it doesn’t look good to retake the test and not get a higher score the second time.
What was your MCAT study strategy the first time around?
The first time I took it I enrolled in an MCAT prep course during my junior year in college that met every Saturday for three hours from October through April. I used their materials – in class and online – and they provided textbooks and problems that you could work on, so I utilized their resources but as I mentioned it’s difficult trying to balance that and other schoolwork because I was a full-time student at the time. So the course became another class for me but it wasn’t necessarily something that got my full attention because I had other schoolwork to take into account at the time.