Starting with the April 2003 test date, students applying to medical schools will no longer have the option of withholding Medical College Admission Test scores, the Association of American Medical Colleges announced Nov. 8.
This is the latest in a series of changes designed to alter the content of the MCAT and create an easier application process. Last month, the AAMC made slight changes to the MCAT’s questioning and scoring process.
“The change helps students and the medical schools,” said Albert Chen, executive director of graduate programs at Kaplan. “Now the medical schools have a clear record of student testing. They want to talk about testing history, not just scores.”
Previously, medical schools that received multiple scores from students would take an average score and consider that the student’s MCAT score. Students also would take the MCATs for practice and subsequently withhold their scores, Chen said. Now, the AAMC is hoping that students will take the test fewer times and cut back on the practice of averaging scores, he added.
“Scores have been rising for last seven years. Score inflation is decreasing. As more people apply there will be more people with high scores,” Chen said. “[The change] is a benefit for everybody; it allows people to not worry about whether they will average scores. The recommendation now from the AAMC to schools is to not average scores.”
Richard Silverman, Director of Admissions at the Yale School of Medicine, said it would take time to gauge the impact of the policy change. While the change will not have an immediate effect, he said, it may help the exchange of information between applicants and admissions offices.
“I seriously doubt that this will make any difference to anyone, but it will make the process flow better,” Silverman said. “By making the data flow a little more smoothly, it means that the application information will get to the medical schools more quickly.”
Elizabeth Lara ’04, who took the MCAT this past summer, said she did not feel much pressure because she knew the option of withholding scores existed.
“I was taking the test going into my junior year and I knew that I could always take it again if I needed to,” Lara said. “I suppose I didn’t put as much weight in it because I knew my scores wouldn’t necessarily be released.”
Dina Ismail ’04, who had just started a Kaplan preparatory course for the MCAT, said she believes students should be able to control which scores they send.
“We should be allowed to decide if we want our scores sent or not,” Ismail said. “I will definitely have that in the back of my mind so it will motivate me more.”
Because of the changes, Chen said, students should begin to prepare for the MCAT more rigorously.
“Anybody taking [the MCAT] now had better prepare better than they would have before,” Chen said. “If you’re taking the April test, start preparing now. If you’re not preparing now, you’re behind. If you’re not getting an ‘A’ in organic chemistry, you’re falling behind.”
But Silverman said admissions officers consider factors other than test scores when determining an applicant’s fate.
“Standardized tests in general are a pretty good way to measure the aptitude of students going into medical schools and other schools, but they aren’t perfect,” Silverman said. “They don’t determine the outcome of admission.”