How Many Times Can You Take the MCAT?

February 21, 2024
3 min read
Contents

”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Chief Resident in Anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medicine, & Admissions Officer, Columbia University

Reviewed: 2/21/24

Students often want to retake the MCAT to improve their scores before applying to medical school. Here we’ll talk about how often you can retake the MCAT and how it affects your application.

Are you wondering if you can take the MCAT several times? You’ve come to the right place! The MCAT is a standardized test administered by the AAMC multiple times a year. It is known to be challenging, taking over seven hours to complete.

Due to the MCAT’s complexity and the weight it carries in medical school applications, students often schedule their first date with enough time to retake the test. But how many times can you retake the MCAT? And how does that look on medical school applications? Read on for the answers. 

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How Often You Can Take the MCAT

You can take the MCAT up to three times in a single year, four times over two consecutive years, and up to seven times in your lifetime, according to AAMC rules. You should limit attempts to three times with score improvement each time to avoid negative impacts on your medical school applications.

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When Do You Take the MCAT?

You take the MCAT in the same year you are applying to medical school. Most pre-med students take the MCAT for the first time in late spring or early summer after completing the required undergraduate course prerequisites.

The courses needed for the MCAT include introductory biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and first-semester psychology, sociology, and biochemistry. Once you’ve taken these, you can schedule your MCAT exam.

Single-Year Limit

You can take the MCAT three times in a single testing year. Each exam date can be scheduled as far apart or close together as you’d like, although you need time to review your score and study again before retaking the test.

Two-Year Limit

In a consecutive two-year period, the MCAT can be taken four times. If you’ve already taken the MCAT three times in your first year of taking the test, you have one more try before waiting another year. 

This limit applies only to two consecutive years. If you wait a year between the first three tests, the single-year limit remains unchanged.

Lifetime Limit

So, how many times can you take the MCAT over a lifetime? You can take the MCAT up to seven times. After your seventh attempt, you’ll no longer be able to register or take the test, regardless of how long it’s been since your last attempt. 

How Many Times You Should Take the MCAT

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You should take the MCAT just once, putting your best effort into thorough preparation leading up to the first attempt. This avoids studying and sitting for the difficult 7.5-hour exam again.

If necessary, retake the MCAT up to two to three times total—space out attempts with enough time to thoroughly review and improve your study strategy. More than three attempts can reflect poorly.

Although you can take the MCAT up to seven times in your lifetime, that number certainly doesn’t reflect how many times you should be taking the MCAT. Taking the MCAT twice is fine; even three times shouldn’t impact your admissions too much. However, any more tries can begin to damage your application. 

If you’re struggling to acquire your intended score on the exam, book a one-on-one tutoring session with one of our consultants. They’ll help you learn everything you need to know for the MCAT, beyond just textbook academics.

Consider applying to medical schools that don’t require the MCAT if you’ve retaken the exam multiple times without the intended result, or consider other careers in the health field. 

FAQs: Retaking the MCAT 

Here are some frequently asked questions about retaking the MCAT. 

1. Will It Look Bad On My Application If I Retake the MCAT?

Retaking the MCAT only once, even twice, and improving your score each time won’t impact your chances of admission. However, retaking the MCAT excessively or scoring lower each time you take it may negatively impact your application. 

2. How Many Times Do People Retake the MCAT On Average? 

It’s normal to retake the MCAT once. After all, the test is challenging, and we all have bad days. Just ensure your score improves when you retake the test. 

3. Should I Retake the MCAT?

If you already have a good score (e.g., 514 or above), it may not be the best idea to retake the MCAT. Retaking the test risks lowering your score from your first attempt. Try looking at the stats of your target schools to see if retaking the MCAT is worth the risk.

4. Is It Bad To Retake the MCAT More Than Once?

Retaking the MCAT multiple times isn’t necessarily bad as long as your score improves each time. If your score worsens with each attempt or stays the same, it won’t strengthen your med school application. 

5. How Many Times Can I Retake the MCAT Per Year?

In one year, you can take the MCAT up to three times. The test dates can be scheduled as far apart as you wish, although you should give yourself time to review your score and study before retaking the exam. 

6. How Many MCAT Attempts Is Too Many? 

Retaking the MCAT isn’t a red flag, and even three attempts may not impact your admissions decision, although we recommend performing your best on the first two tests.

However, taking the MCAT multiple times (more than two or three times) can signal that you haven’t grasped the material and may struggle with medical school’s rigorous instruction.

7. Do Medical Schools Care If You Take the MCAT Twice? 

While many students worry that taking the MCAT twice is bad, medical schools won’t care if you take the MCAT twice, especially if you improve your score! 

Final Thoughts

Retaking the MCAT is a big decision. Between each attempt, it’s vital to give yourself time to study. You should take full-length practice tests to simulate the actual testing environment. Avoid retaking the test hastily without giving yourself proper time to study, as you risk receiving a lower score than the first time. 

Retaking the test more than twice may reflect negatively on your application, so consider all factors before moving forward. If you’re unsure how to improve your initial score, consider hiring an experienced MCAT tutor to boost your results.

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