Took MCAT march 26 - impressions


may you be right and I thank you for your nice words. I want to reiterate my appreciation toward all of you guys and the support you are providing here. This is simply an awesome place!

Giving it another shot right now would be very reasonable, considering all the stressors the couple of weeks before your MCAT, which probably impacted your score quite a bit.

I get the impression you are rather a perfectionist :)…it’s still April so you definately have time for another MCAT this year. From all you have written, you seem to have done a VERY thorough preparation already. That’s just my encouragement . I’m sure you’ll make the decision that is right for you.


Hi Kate

Perferctionist, not sure, but I really thought I would do better. Here is a composite of the scores (only for the AAMC). For the Kaplan and EK tests I scored in the 9s VR, and on average 12.5 for the science sections. The detail for the AAMC:


3R 13 14 9 36

4R 13 12 9 34

5R 14 13 10 37

6R 13 13 9 35

It seems as the VR was really the issue and prevented me from reaching high 30’s. So I took a two more AAMC tests but just the VR section only because I knew that I would at least score 12 in the sciences and the final score depended strongly on the VR . I got 9 on each, so it was not great but at least consistent enough to lead me to believe that I would score that on test day or 8 maybe. There are a few more AAMC tests I can take (I didn’t take them as I had planned to take them during the 3 weeks before the test, but then shit happened).

Scoring consistently in the 12-14s gave me confidence because the curve is very steep, I mean 1 more right answer can bump you 1 more point. Often time I was doing very stupid mistakes (like diameter instead of radius, or unit issue). Definitely I knew it was not about the knowledge but about the focus and my though was that on test day, the added stress would help.

On test day I had many of those (more than usual) and I believe that explains the two 12s (I though that my PS section didn’t deserve a 12, it is likely a low 12, while the BS is probably a high 12). Still I can’t explain a 6 in VR…

Anyway, I think that from a preparation, at least in the sciences, I have the background down and the difference between a 12 and a 14 depends on the form of the day and the luck of the day as well.

So I am redoing some VR practice right now and will see if I get enough of an increase and consistency to retake earlier than later. I will have 3 weeks during May where I my in-laws will be coming from Europe and take care the kids. So that a unique opportunity to work during normal hours and not try, at 9.30 pm, after work and the kids in bed, to work on MCAT stuff.

Speaking of applying this year, I have a few questions that I will post separately on the forum in the applying to med school topic, just to keep things neat.

Let’s not jump the gun on anything just yet. To begin with, a 30 with two 12’s in the sciences is very impressive and not something to poo poo on. The 6 in verbal, I am sure is disappointing.

My advice would be to take a step back for a moment and take a deep breath. Go through the entire day and see what may been different during the verbal section than the science sections. Did you guess? Did you run out of time? Did you feel you were not answering the questions? Did you feel you were taking too long to read the passages?

Before deciding on whether or not to retake the MCAT, think about this. Unless you change something drastically, a tester will typically see their score decrease from one test to the next. Therefor, go through you study habits and see what it is that you can change. That is the only way to increase your score.

When you have gone through all of this, and then come to the conclusion that retaking the MCAT would be beneficial to you then, certainly retake the test to even it out with the verbal. What you do not want to do, is make such a decision because of emotion.

Good luck

Hi Gabe

well thanks very much for the input.

All I remember is that while my timing was great (I was happy about it), my feeling is I consistently struggled to choose between two answers. I read fast enough, and the text was easier than on the practice test. But the questions were more difficult as the choices were so close and the differences very subtle. It seems the difficulty had shifted from understanding the wording in the passages to understanding the questions themselves.

I felt I had to guess more and that uneasy feeling (more than usual) made me considering to void. But then after VR you have the BIO section that I though I aced, but in fact didn’t. I also apparently blacked out during the void screen (no one was in the cockpit) till the AAMC confirmed I didn’t void.

Making emotional decisions is what I am trying to avoid right now. I remember I was considering registering again after I found out and decided not to, so that I can analyze. If I can correct things quickly, then I will retake soon, if not, I will retake later. But my gut feeling is that I can improve. I was not shooting for a 30, that’s for sure .

This is what I believe at this time:

1- There is not much room of improvement for the sciences. I mean that to get 12, you probably need 46 or so right answers out of 52 and depending on the curve, each additional right question can get you one point more. I know I screwed a bunch in Phys (so 12 is generous), but in Bio (only 3 that I can think of, and one was due to an English expression I didn’t understand). I am 99% sure on the others (however sometimes I used some knowledge that might be out of scope and while technically right, is not for the MCAT, I have a few examples of that). So if I am lucky on test day I might do a bit better,maybe one more point or so. It could also be lower if I hit a bad passage (like I got in Physics). But getting less than 12 on the sciences is something that has not happened, on any testing material I have used (Kaplan, EK, AAMC)

2- I have a 6 in VR, so the room for improvement is quite important. I have to figure out what is wrong first, so I have restarted to work on that but this time, I am changing my method from trying to remember the gist of the passage, to mapping and jotting 3 words for each paragraphs. I know some will say it is a waste of time but I have found that it keeps me engaged and I can rely on notes when I hesitate while when I memorized, any hesitation tended to darken my mental map. It also has resulted in an increase of my confidence level as if my notes were like a web to catch me if I fall - although most of the time I don’t need to refer to them. I am also trying to pay attention to structures and try to distinguish main idea / purpose of each paragraph (and keywords or extremes), things that I didn’t really look at before. I am also trying to read questions and choice more carefully and arrogantly, as trying to identify what is wrong with all of them (after all most of the choices are wrong).

For now I am doing without a time constrain because I am trying to find out the methodologies and identify the traps I keep falling into. Only then will I be able to get better. The reading speed is not a problem. There seems to be no magic methods to ace VR, but one has to find what works. I am not constrained by time, because I will take the time I have to take. The reading comprehension has not been a problem in my life, but in the way of the MCAT that is another story. I am realizing that reading for the MCAT and reading NewsWeek or novels are two very different animals. [NEXT SENTENCE IS IRRELEVANT =>]It is puzzling to see how authors (picked for the MCAT) try to achieve artistic mastery of their craft, and prove their intellect, decreasing by the same token the accessibility of their views and opinions in a way that seems to defeat the very purpose of writing (i.e TO COMMUNICATE).


It looks like you’re in a predicament – you got an equivocal outcome. Had you gotten a 22 or a 36, your plan of action in either case would have been obvious – study and retake in the former scenario or start preparing your applications in the latter scenario. You are somewhere in the middle so giving you advice on what should be your next move would be difficult. I would encourage you not to throw in the towel so quickly towards applying this year. I’ll offer you some of my “observations”. I will denote these as either PRO, CON, or FYI (For Your Information = neutral).

  1. PRO: You did exceptionally well (better than the national average for matriculants) on the biological & physical sciences and scored on the national average for the writing sample, this despite English not being your native language. I wouldn’t be so quick to beat yourself up.

  2. CON: You scored substantially below the national average (for matriculants) on the verbal reasoning. Unfortunately, this is the one MCAT subsection that bears the most scrutiny by adcoms because it supposedly bears the closest correlation to success on national licensing exams (USMLE/COMLEX).

  3. PRO: Your overall score of 30Q is still far above the national average for accepted applicants at DO programs (27Q).

  4. CON: You live in Texas and there is only 1 DO program in TX: Univ. of North TX HSC (TCOM).

  5. PRO: You live in Texas, the state with the best odds of their residents getting into their own state’s medical schools, all but one of which are MD programs. In fact, Texas is so preferential to their own residents, the medical schools there use a completely different application procedure than the rest of the country – TMDSAS. The rest of the country except ND uses either AMCAS (MD) or AACOMAS (DO).

  6. CON: Your overall score of 30Q is a bit below the national average for accepted applicants at MD programs (31Q). I’m basing these numbers off of what they were 2 years ago. Given that each year the applicant pool seems to get more competitive, these numbers may or may not still be accurate.

  7. CON: Applying broadly, especially if you want to stay in TX, means being competitive at MD programs.

  8. FYI: I don’t know what your GPA breakdown looks like, but if you have at least a 3.3, you will be OK to apply to DO programs this year. If you have at least a 3.6, you may be OK to apply to many MD programs this year as well, especially in state, but see point # 9 below.

  9. FYI: For MD admissions, invest the $33 (2008 price) in the MSAR and find out what the MCAT/GPA averages are for each school you plan to apply to. You may find that your overall MCAT score is either slightly below the average, slightly above the average, or right on the average of the schools you’re interested in. If your MCAT is below average for a particular school, your GPA will need to be proportionately above average for that particular school.

  10. CON: You’ll likely be out of the running at Baylor, the state’s only private school and the toughest in the USA to get into. I hope this wasn’t your “target school”. If so, I’ll ask the question gonnif should have asked you. Do you want to be a doctor or do you want to be a Baylor-trained doctor?

  11. CON: If you retake the MCAT, you may risk doing worse or no better than you did the last time. How bad would it suck to spend another $210, delay your applications for at least another 2 nerve-wracking months (1 month to prepare again + 1 month to get the scores back) only to find out you improved VR from 6 to 10 while your science scores dropped from 12s to 10s resulting in another 30.

  12. FYI: You can explain your lackluster verbal reasoning score in your personal statement, drawing attention to the fact that English is not your native language, yet you’ve had a successful career in US academia, and still scored on the national average for accepted applicants on the writing sample. This is one of the few instances I could think of where the writing sample score could matter for an applicant.

  13. PRO: Don’t overlook the power of other aspects of your application if you were to apply this year: career experiences, clinical/service experiences, personal statement, secondary essays, interviews, etc.

  14. FYI: You had some other “life issues” going on around your test day. If preparing for an MCAT retake buys you some extra time to deal with these issues before applying to medical school, then by all means do so. But, see my caveat for # 11 above.

  15. FYI: I read on the AAMC website that the pre-reqs for medical school are changing in 2013 in anticipation for the 5th generation of the MCAT (MR5) that goes into effect in 2015. AMCAS will also be changing its format for MD admissions (outside of TX & ND). So regardless of what you decide is best for your situation, you’ll want to keep this in mind because you’ll want to apply to medical school by 2014.

    Whatever you decide, I wish you the best of luck and I hope I gave you some good food for thought.


thanks for taking time to compose this (I wish MCAT passages were as clear).

It is true, that the MCAT accomplishment of which I most proud of is the writing sample. I hadn’t prepared a single hour, but perhaps nobody really does.

I plan to stay in TX, not because of the name of whatever school but more because of geography and family obligations. I am in Dallas and luckily we have both a DO and an MD (both state schools).

I probably cannot apply this year to the DO as they are very firm with the 90 credit limit which is not the case of the MD school. However the MD school has a MCAT average of 33ish (say 34). So right now, I am sitting right where I don’t want to with a score of 30 and because of and very poor VR performance.

On the upside I didn’t have an undergrad GPA before starting the pre-reqs and mine is currently 4.0 (Gen Chem series; OChem I; Stats). I am taking Calc Based Phys II right now and have only 100s thus far so I should maintain the 4.0. I am taking OChem 2 during summer 2 (hopefully) and English next year. As for Phys I will need 4 more hours, but of a lower class level, so I may take an AP exam (assuming I get a A this semester on calc Phys 2 – which is likely as I have the top rank in class). I got an MBA in 2005 with a GPA of 3.56, so I don’t know how this will affect the overall GPA and how it will be viewed for adcoms. But this was an accelerated part-time while doing my post-doc, so frankly I was shooting for Bs, not As and had to consistently pull off all nighters before exams due to lack of time to read and study.

I really excelled in all my pre-reqs (that’s why these 12, despite being OK, came as a bit of a surprise, especially in BS). When I say I excelled, I don’t mean that I got As, I mean that (I believe) I had a mastery of all concepts (and often scored more than 100 because of curves). I didn’t want to discount the slightest thing (in preparation for the MCAT).

Now perhaps, it is possible that a few school would look at my application favorably (and all I need is one), but right now, I am not in the application mood. Buying the MSAR guide was supposed to be my reward for doing well on the MCAT (not that 25 bucks is much, but it is more of a symbol). It’s like I don’t really deserve to even apply at this point (I am pushing things a bit far when I am mad at myself). I am not used to screw ups and I can’t believe I just screwed up when I shouldn’t have. I just don’t want to play out strategies just yet and would like to sleep a bit better at night. So right now, my plan of action is not to get accepted, it is to raise this damn VR. If after I retake I can’t raise this VR then it means that I just can’t and I will then play strategy. But I can’t just give up on it now, it would be worse than doing poorly again (at least for me).

As you said I had other issues at the time, taking away about 3 weeks of prep right before the MCAT and these were supposed to be for the VR. I had just started the previous week; so all in all, my VR prep has been far poorer than the sciences. If I had put the same amount of time and effort, I think I would have probably done better, but again, given the test scores (which really mislead me) and also given that VR seems to be the hardest section to improve I just gave it a shot thinking I would live with an 8.

I think this situation is really where I didn’t want to be and yet here I am. I am analyzing things right now and I am trying to see what is wrong with the VR. I will also redo a bit of science stuff but not so much as VR. I may retake during the next two months if I feel comfortable enough, otherwise will just delay an extra year). That’s the plan right now.

You could make an argument for going ahead and submitting your application and indicating that you will be retaking the MCAT. This way, you will not be substantially behind the curve in applying. The vast majority of schools will send you a secondary application even if you had a crappier GPA and MCAT.

I would argue that now is the time to contact a few med schools and run your situation by them and see what they recommend. How do they feel about your lack of 90 US credits (a great many med schools, MD and DO, have this requirement)? How big of a factor with the 6 in VR be? Is it at all balanced out by the good writing score?

Now is an excellent time to contact the medical schools. It’s between interviewing season and they aren’t quite ready to start gearing up for the next application season. Many med schools will not talk to you once they have started looking at applications for the year.

Hi Emergency

You are right, particularly about the 90 Cr US. These Credits are required by the time your start, not the time you apply (in most cases), the question is “how many should I need at application time to look reasonable, serious and hopefully competitive”. I won’t get a BS (because I have other terminal degrees). I thought 65 Cr is reasonable with one glide year to go. I will have about 45 at end of summer II. My plan was to CLEP spanish (good for TX) because I want to get into advanced spanish (I did 6 years of Spanish, long time ago). CLEP can give up to 14 CR. And also algebra and pre-calc (about 6 cr).

But screwing up my MCAT delayed things now as I was supposed to work on the spanish (already started).

I had things all worked out and planned, except for the major unbalance in my MCAT score.

Getting more credit hours by application time along with possible advanced level courses in 4 year are compelling reasons to delay (I don’t have a choice here). Still, if I can get done with MCAT sooner than later, it is a good thing. I don’t want to be working on that during the entire year.

I will probably be getting in touch with various universities to ask about the 90 Cr requirements and what flexibility they have (if any), although it is not necessary a good thing to appear as someone who is trying to identify shortcuts…

Many thanks for the input.

Wow. I just read your posting about your thoughts on your first MCAT and your scores. I am very terrified! To me I would die to have a 30 (even though my top choice schools average at about 33)! On practice tests I can’t even get anywhere near that so I am terrified to say the least. The only difference for me with the breakdown of my scores is that I tend to do the best on verbal. I have heard that some schools actually favor this because it’s more relative to your ability to comprehend medical texts but I’m not so sure…I would think a higher set of science scores would be more indicative of that? Anyway good luck & thanks for sharing your story!