Like many prospective medical students, Charles Drucker ’08 is preparing to apply to medical school. He is taking the pre-requisite courses, doing scientific research in a lab and leafing through a test prep book for the MCAT, or Medical College Admission Test — the SAT of medical schools. But he and other pre-meds might be in for a surprise.
The Association of American Medical Colleges has announced that the format of the MCAT will be switched from a pencil and paper test to a computerized one by 2007. The last hard-copy versions of the exam will be offered for 2006 testing dates, although students have had the option to take the computerized exam for the last several years.
“They’re trying to make the test as user-friendly as possible,” said Edward Miller, director of the Health Professions Advisory Program at Undergraduate Career Services.
Though this may be the case, the changes to the MCAT are creating substantial anxiety among many future test-takers.
With the changing format, several questions will be removed from each section, shortening the test from eight hours to five and a half. In addition, rather than administering the MCAT just twice a year, students will now have 20 dates to choose from annually.
“From a testing perspective it’s nice to have fewer questions, but it gives you smaller leeway to mess up,” Drucker said.
Drucker also said he worries his inexperience with computerized tests will negatively affect his score, and he is not the only undergraduate to voice this fear. In a Kaplan Test Prep survey of 3,358 pre-med students, 82 percent said they think they will perform worse on a computer-based MCAT.
Justin Serrano, vice president of graduate programs at Kaplan, said though the content of the test will stay the same, the different administration method will greatly alter the feel of the exam.
“On a scale of one to ten,” he said, “this change is a nine.”
The MCAT tests students’ knowledge of the biological sciences, physical sciences, verbal reasoning and writing. Richard Silverman, director of admissions at the Yale School of Medicine, said the change will not impact the way medical schools regard MCAT scores in the admissions process.
Serrano said Kaplan recommends that students who have taken the pre-requisite courses should take the pencil and paper test while they still can.
But in response to students’ fears regarding these changes, Miller said it is not time to panic.
“Each time they revise, they’ve taken tension off people,” he said. “This will do the same.”
The Dental Admissions Test is only offered in computerized form.