Students taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) will not be able to withhold their scores from medical schools starting April 2003. The Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) Nov. 8 announcement will mean that students will not be able to submit their best score to the medical schools to which they apply, but will have to submit all of their MCAT scores. This new policy does not include 1991 to 2002 scores.
The AAMC consulted medical schools and other testing programs and most parties seemed in favor of the change, according to Ellen Julian, assistant vice president and director of the MCAT. Julian said that the main reason for the change was to discourage students from taking the test more than once.
“The intent is that they don’t want the students to take the test for practice,” said Albert Chen, executive director of Kaplan Test Prep.
Julian estimated that in one year, one-third of students take more than one MCAT. In many cases, students pick their best score out of all of their test results and send that score alone to medical school admissions officers.
“Students should be ready and not take the MCAT if they aren’t” ready, Chen said.
After Julian spoke to many medical school officials, she said most admission directors “wholeheartedly approve” of the changes. One supporter of the score option change is Dr. Charles Bardes, associate dean of admissions for Cornell’s Weill Medical College.
“I think that the change will benefit both applicants and the schools. Withholding an MCAT score could be interpreted as hiding unfavorable information, so that full disclosure makes an application more candid and forthright,” Bardes stated in an e-mail.
Chen said that he does not expect average test scores to change. Rather, he said that scores will probably increase because “only legitimate students are willing to take it.”
“I don’t think that the policy changes will affect scores significantly. It could happen that if students do not take the MCAT without preparing, the average score will be a little higher,” Bardes stated.
According to Chen, taking one test will simplify the admissions process for both schools and students. The change will decrease students’ anxiety over taking the MCAT multiple times.
The AAMC urges medical schools to place more emphasis on a student’s entire score history rather than MCAT test results.
“MCAT scores are only one consideration in medical school admissions and not the most important consideration by any means. We will not change our evaluation methods as a result of the MCAT change,” Bardes stated.
According to Chen, students could opt for other options such as taking practice tests through test preparation agencies. He said that by doing this, students will only have to take the MCAT “once and for real.”
“Students will take it in stride. Everybody wants to do as well as they can already. It’s not our intention to increase pressure on our exams,” Julian said.
The AAMC also announced other minor changes to the test. Questions about alkenes, phenols and benzenes from the Organic Chemistry portion of the exam have been removed. According to Chen, many of these content changes started last year. Kaplan spent approximately $4.5 million since last year to update its testing services.
In addition, the cost of MCAT registration will increase from $180 to $185, although extra phone charges and early score report fees will be waived.
“We have saved many changes up over a long period of time,” Chen said. She added that future changes will now be announced immediately.
The new changes will not effect biological and environmental engineering student Rachel Ross ’03. However, she said, these new changes might hurt students’ chances to get into medical school.
The MCAT “is an endurance test more than an intelligence test. It keeps students honest, but will hurt people who would otherwise take it again,” Ross said.
She added that the new changes would not add pressure to students, saying that, “pressure is sky-high as it is.”
Daria Homenko ’04 said that the policy would reduce the hassle of sending scores herself. She is not worried about the implications of taking only one test.
“Talking to people who have applied, I think if you end up taking it twice and improve your score, [medical schools] wouldn’t mind,” Homenko said. “There are so many other things that the MCAT is not the only thing they look at.”
Archived article by Brian Tsao