Students vying for enrollment in medical school can say goodbye to Scantrons and No. 2 pencils thanks to a new, electronic version of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently designed a shorter, computer-based MCAT that will offer more often than the usual twice-yearly exam. Don Osborne, president of the Inquarta counseling service, which advises students in the application process, said the change should provide more chances for students to succeed on the test.
The MCAT is a standardized test required for admission to medical schools that scores test-takers on verbal reasoning, physical sciences, biological sciences and writing.
The unveiling of the test in Jan. 2007 will provide new opportunity, but unfortunately, added stress for some students, Osborne said.
“It is designed to be more convenient and more accessible to students, which is a net plus,” Osborne said. “However, with new options come new anxieties. Students are stressed because it’s a new layer of complications for them.”
AAMC spokeswoman Nicole Buckley said the modified test takes five hours to complete, instead of the usual eight, because there are fewer multiple-choice questions.
Buckley said the new MCAT provides 22 testing days per year at various testing locations and releases scores within 30 days, whereas the old test scores were provided within 60 days.
“The driving force [for the change] was the desire to provide examinees with more test dates and be able to turn around scores more quickly,” Buckley said.
Erin Fuchs, a fourth-year biology major and health profession peer advisor, said she has seen both concern and excitement from students with the new test version.
“Students are scared because of the change of looking at the computer screen for hours, and the fact that it’s different,” Fuchs said.
Emily Harbert, a pre-med biology student, said there are some disadvantages to having a computer-based test.
“The new online test will require students to mark on scratch paper and may make it harder to mark key sentences you would like to go back to,” Harbert said.
Fuchs, who took the old version of the test, emphasized its lengthiness and difficulty, and said students are excited that the modified test will be shorter.
“[The old test] was hard and very, very long,” Fuchs said.
Despite some drawbacks, Osborne said the new MCAT allows pre-med students more flexibility to plan the yearlong application process and provides more chances for acceptance to medical school sooner.
“It allows a lot more opportunities to take the test and more convenient timing to allow students to take the test when they want to apply to medical school,” Osborne said. “In the past, your odds were lower.”