October 12, 2006

Students Anticipate Electronic MCAT

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Aspiring doctors at Cornell and around the country will soon have to deal with the new electronic edition of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), but fresh concerns have been raised as many Thomson Prometric centers may not be able to offer the test to all the students who wish to take it on a specific date.

The official MCAT website touts what it believes to be the many benefits of the electronic edition for both test takers and admissions officers.

The test will be offered twenty-two times during the calendar year instead of just twice. The overall time of the test will be cut in half because of the elimination of administrative overhead. And finally, the electronic edition will allow the testing administrators to send the scores back to students in one month instead of two.

But a press release from the Kaplan Testing Agency states that “the computer-based format requires that the MCAT be taken at specially designated Prometric testing centers, which means limited seating for each test administration – previously a non-issue with the old paper-and-pencil exam.”

Russell Schaffer, a Kaplan representative, advises that students should try to take the test early in the calendar year, especially January, to avoid the more popular testing months of May and June. Either way, though, students need to register for the exam upwards of six months earlier than their preferred date. Students who do take the test in January also have more time to prepare for a second crack at the MCAT, if they are unsatisfied with their first attempt.

The predicted complications with space at the testing locations have brought to the forefront the question of whether the MCAT should have been changed in the first place.

David Chen ’07, a hopeful medical student, claims that “although the new format is shorter, I’d rather take the longer paper base format because overall, it is more user friendly.”

Chen is not alone in his sentiment. According to a student survey conducted by Kaplan, data showed that 80 percent of the 3,858 respondents had not taken a college-level computer exam, and 82 percent felt they would do worse if they took the computer test.

But the new computerized exam will also take place in climate-controlled rooms with machines that can help safeguard against cheating through the use of not only photo identification but also now electronic fingerprint identification. Ellen Julian, the director of the MCAT, insists that the new advantages are too great to not go with the new technology.

The logistical questions will not be settled until the new electronic edition of the test actually takes place just over three months from now.