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    Dr Ferdinand

    Hello Future Doctors!

    I am happy to be working with Admissions Consultants to bring you the latest information about the MCAT and answers to your MCAT questions.

    Let me introduce myself. I took the MCAT, aced it and was fortunate to be accepted to all the medical schools to which I’ve applied. I have since written books about the MCAT including The Gold Standard MCAT and The Silver Bullet: Real MCATs Explained (http://www.bestmcatbooks.com/mcat-books.html). I have done MCAT video series, audio, complete multimedia packages (http://www.mcat-bookstore.com/complete-mcat-courses) and I teach live online MCAT courses (http://www.mcat-prep.com).

    I assure you that I will strive to answer your questions to the best of my ability.

    Best of luck with your studies!

    Dr F


    Nice to meet you and welcome.


    Dr. Ferdinand,
    I am a somewhat older student (27yrs) white male from Idaho. I have a 3.52 overall, 3.24 science, and 3.74 AO gpas. I just got my April MCAT scores back and the were 10 Phys, 15 Verb, S writing, and 12 Biol, for a 37S total. My undergrad gpa is not stellar, especially the science scores. I am currently in an MPH program at Idaho State University with a gpa after one year of 3.94. My undergraduate school was Utah State University. I am wondering what my chances for admission are overall and which schools I can expect to have a chance at. I am considering U of Wash. and U of Utah because they have deals with the state of Idaho to accept a certain number of students from the state, but was encouraged by my MCAT scores and am thinking of applying to some IV U’s and (my top choice) Mayo. Could you help me decide where to apply and what my chances are?


    Dr Ferdinand

    Hello Brian

    Your application seems very promising. I will try to deal with most of your concerns. Age is a minor issue and statistically, race/sex are not factors. Some admission committees question the commitment of students who are older than the average applicant. You can easily deal with this question by clearly addressing the reasons for your commitment to a career in medicine during your application (personal statement, interviews).

    Regarding academics, it is your undergraduate GPA which is of most importance. Graduate grades are usually higher so most medical schools will evaluate them separately with the entirety of grad work (publications, evaluations). Having said that, your academics are good enough for Utah though Washington may be more challenging: the rest of your application will be the deciding factor.

    The usual strategy for your situation is to apply to 3 schools were you should get accepted (ie Utah), a few schools that could be somewhat more challenging (ie Washington) and a few dream schools (ie Ivy League). Good luck!

    Average MCAT scores, GPA: http://www.mcattestscores.com/usmedicalschoolsmcatscoresGPA.html

    Admission Requirements (AAMC): http://www.mcat-bookstore.com/premed-books.html#1


    I just graduated from Yale in May and had between a 3.3 and 3.4. I retook the MCAT in August only to make the same score I had made last August: 26S. I went up in the two science sections (bio and physical sciences) but went down from an 11 to a 9 in my strongest section, which was verbal. So overall, my score stayed the same yet the sections I worked hardest on, I improved in. I’ve applied to 15 schools, some being state schools and others being private schools. I dont know if I should retake it in January, or even if schools would consider January scores since I’m applying for admission for the fall of 2007. Do you have any advice and what do you think my chances of acceptance are? Thank you for your time.


    Dr Ferdinand

    Hello Katie

    I’m sure that you are already aware that your GPA is below the average GPA of accepted students at most US medical schools; however, considering the Bell Curve, 3.3-3.4 is still within acceptable range for many institutions especially because of the school that you attended (Yale). The problem is that MCAT scores below 30 combined with your GPA makes a successful application more challenging.

    Let’s be clear: depending on the merits on your entire application, it is possible to gain admissions somewhere but clearly an MCAT score over 30 would increase your options.

    Most medical schools will now consider the new January scores (but obviously not as part of the early admissions process). I would call or email any institutions that interest you to see which ones may consider those scores to help you to decide if retaking the test would be worth it to you.

    The next challenge would be your preparation. I’m going to assume that you made the same mistake twice while preparing for the MCAT that most students make: you studied too much and too little. You had an “MCAT library” with lots of information to review which you tried to get through (of course, most of the information was not on the MCAT); and at the same time, you spent too little time focused on the equations, concepts and questions which come up over and over again on the MCAT.

    Just having more review material does not create a more focused review.

    Good luck!

    Average MCAT scores, GPA: http://www.mcattestscores.com/usmedicalschoolsmcatscoresGPA.html

    Admission Requirements 2007 (AAMC): http://www.mcat-bookstore.com/premed-books.html#1



    Originally posted by Dr Ferdinand

    statistically, race/sex are not factors.

    How can you say race is not a factor? Some stats show URM’s average accepted MCAT as 2 points lower per section and the acceptance rate at schools such as UCLA show URM about 10 % as opposed to a normal 3%

    Dr Ferdinand


    Though your question is short, this is a topic that has many layers and often brings out the worse emotions in people. As a result, I must apologize in advance for what may seem like a mini-essay!

    Consider this: you are a doctor and a drug company tells you that their new Drug X extends the life of pancreatic cancer patients by 80% as compared to the standard treatment. Typically, this new anti-cancer miracle drug would “only” cost a few thousand dollars to extend the life of your patients. So, doc, what do you recommend?

    Well, a famous foreign minister once said, there are lies, greater lies and then there are statistics! Here is how the game works: most patients with the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer may only live 3-6 months. “Standard” treatments may add a few weeks but are rarely recommended because of the additional suffering that some of these treatments incur. “Extending life by 80%” only means that the 3-4 additional weeks that standard treatments currently achieve may become about 7 weeks. To be more precise: if we believe the company’s research, then at best we are adding about 3 weeks to 3-6 months with the resulting morbidity (meaning in this context, the quality of feeling sick).

    The stats you presented may or may not be accurate; after all, I do not know your sources. However, let’s say your numbers are 100% accurate, and given your tone, let me assume that your real question is: how does such a policy affect those who are not URMs (Underrepresented Minorities)?

    Statistically, as an individual, the effect is insignificant. I will happily use your numbers to prove the point. An acceptance rate of going from 3% to 10% of 24 students out of 169 positions means that the random acceptance expected may have been 8 students. Assuming that the additional 16 positions were not created by UCLA (meaning that if they were eliminated, that still would not change the overall 3 % admission rate), this means that instead of 161 positions available to “other” students, there would be 145 positions. How does that alter the “3%” rate of overall admissions? It goes up from 3% to 3% ! More specifically, from 2.8% to 3.0%.

    OK, so now you can argue that your application is really borderline and you represent a fifth of one percent of the applicant pool that would be affected. Even that argument is marginal because there are 126 medical schools in the US, many of which have no policies regarding URM (in 2002, 24 medicals schools accepted 2 or fewer African American first year students). The one fifth of one percent of students who did not gain admissions to a quality school like UCLA will certainly gain admissions elsewhere if so desired, or, in another instance.

    By the way, 97% of medical/science faculty members are not from URM. I was once a member of an admissions committee and sometimes members are attracted to a student because of extracurricular activities such as horse back riding, classical piano or having family members as part of a particular “club.” That would be quite the uphill battle for someone from Compton.

    All of this, and I will not even touch the issues of diversity, equity, history, etc which others could discuss more eloquently (here is an article from the President of the AAMC, the group which created the MCAT: http://www.aamc.org/newsroom/reporter/aug01/word.htm).

    Assumption: UCLA has 24 positions in the Drew Medical Program. Charles R Drew was an African American surgeon who discovered the means to store blood and give safe transfusions. I am assuming that all 24 positions are reserved for URM.

    Good luck with your studies!


    Hello Dr. Ferdinand.
    My MCAT score is 17O.My GPA is between 3.0 and 3.2.Should I still aply to med schools?Any advice?



    I just received my second set of MCAT scores. THe first time I took it, I scored a 27S, and I decided to retake it. My score actually went DOWN by one point – 26Q. I am very disappointed with this. I have already started the application process. I am hoping to enter in the class of 2008, and I would like to know how much this one-point decrease really hurts me. I have a 3.65 GPA.

    Dr Ferdinand


    The answer to your question is highly dependent on the specific medical schools to which you will submit applications for admission. I’m sure that after your first MCAT, you realized that your GPA was competitive but if you could get your MCAT score up to a 30 then the academic part of your application would be competitive at many, though not all, medical schools.

    From a statistical standpoint, every mark below 30 certainly reduces the competitiveness of the application. Of course this is not a reason for despair since there remains many medical schools which would find such an academic profile acceptable. It depends on your objective. You can find a link above to help you compare MCAT scores at various medical schools.

    Your objective at this point should be to optimize the other aspects of your application to ensure that you give your best effort in this admissions cycle. If you are not satisfied with your options in terms of academic programs (after reviewing the GPA/MCAT score profiles) then you might consider retaking the MCAT in the spring or early summer. Good luck!


    Hi Dr. F,

    I appreciate the service you are providing, and would like to run by you some of my stats in hope of getting your profession opinion and possibly some suggestions. To begin, I have taken the MCAT three times, each with a positive progression to a 31R.

    1st attempt: 19M, 8V/5P/6B (April 2006)
    2nd attempt: 24O, 9V/7P/8B (Aug 2006)
    3rd attempt: 31R, 9V/11P/11B (Aug 2007)

    Overall GPA: 3.47
    BCPM GPA: 3.34
    AO GPA: 3.80

    In addition, I am currently finishing my 11th semester as an undergrad, and have already received a degree in biochem, minor in chem, and interdisciplinary study in microbiology. The last 4 semesters of my undergrad I have received a 3.95 GPA.

    My EC activities are very good – two research positions, three medical volunteer positions, tutor (students and disabled students), physician shadows, lifeguard, AMSA officer for school’s chapter.

    What do you think my chances are for gaining acceptance into medical school? Any suggestions you might have to improve my chances?



    Dear Dr. F

    Well I am in the same boat kind of! I took the mcat in 2004 my junior year in college twice april and august and completely bombed! I made a 13 both times. Since then I have gotten my Master’s in Molecular, Cellular, & Systemic Physiology. I am currently working at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as a research tech! I enrolled in a Kaplan course and I was making in the mid 20’s right before test day! Then when my scores came back I made a 17!! I am so discouraged! I devoted so much time and effort to this test and I don’t know what happened!! I was working 40hr weeks and studying until late hours everyday except friday and all day on the weekends! I started studying for the test in Jan.2008 and took the test May 2008! I wanted to apply for the 2009 admissions cycle, but now I’am thinking should I re-take the test or not? I have plenty of research experience! My undergraduate gpa is 3.67 and my graduate gpa is a 3.4! I have always performed poorly on standardized tests!! Is there any help for me!! I really don’t want to take the test again because of fear of a mental block!! Do you think I have a shot in heaven at obtaining my dream of becoming a physician?? I’m also a underrepresented minority.

    Please Help!!

    Harriet Crockett


    Hi Dr.Ferdinand,

    So I am a Bio Major at UC Berkeley
    I have a GPA of 3.6
    My Mcat is Verbal 9 Physics 11 Bio 12 Total: 32

    My extracurriculars:
    I’ve done 3 years of research.
    I am doing a senior honors thesis.
    I’ve volunteered at UCSF for 7 summers.
    I am a health worker for my residential building.
    I’ve held numerous leadership positions in my sorority.

    Should I retake my Mcats?
    What schools should I be looking to apply to that I can be competitive for?


    hi Dr. Ferdinand:
    I took the MCAT 6 times and got 29 as my most recent score. My first score was 24, and it has gone up and down for the 6 MCAT’s in the past 3 years. My GPA is 3.6. I’m applying to medical schools now, but in case I don’t get in, how would you recommend me to improve my credentials? How much can publications in basic sciences help an applicant’s profile? Do publications in clinical sciences help it more? Where would you place publications among the applicant credentials that range from the most to the least important beginning with GPA, MCAT, graduate course work, letters of recomm., and clinical experience? Thank you so much for your help.

    Ting Chen

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