By Stephanie Schwartz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday November 18, 2002
Pre-med students preparing to take the Medical College Admissions test, or the MCAT, will no longer have the option of replacing poorer test scores by retaking the test.
Starting with the tests in April 2003, all test scores for each student who takes the MCAT will automatically be sent to every medical school to which a student applies.
Under current policies, students have the option of withholding multiple test scores from medical schools and only sending the best score.
Medical schools will not, however, receive multiple MCAT scores from tests taken before the policy goes into effect if students ask that the scores be withheld. Students who don't want the older scores released must file a request to have them held.
Medical schools will, however, see how many times the student has taken the test between 1991 and 2002.
The MCAT, a multiple-choice test that assess problem solving, critical thinking and writing skills, in addition to the student's knowledge of science concepts and principles, is necessary to apply to most medical schools.
The MCAT includes sections in verbal reasoning, physical sciences, a writing sample and biological sciences.
Additional changes were also made to next April's MCAT exam.
Three questions about DNA and genetics will be added in the molecular biology section about eukaryotes. The organic chemistry and verbal reasoning portions will be shortened.
The coming policy of reporting all test scores will mean that medical schools will be provided with a fuller history of an applicant's capabilities, said Christopher Leadem, senior associate dean for admissions and student affairs for the UA Medical School.
"I think the more information we have for students is helpful," Leadem said.
Medical schools often see improvement between test scores as a positive aspect, Leadem said.
"We look at the last two MCAT scores that were sent to us and
evaluate for patterns of improvement," he said.
Some students say the change will cause many students preparing to take the exam additional stress.
"If I did really poorly and didn't make it into medical school it would affect me because I would take it again later," said molecular and cellular biology junior Jane Davis.
"(The change) will cause a little more pressure," said Suzy Prudinsky, a junior majoring in English and nutrition. "But it's such a big test and expensive process, I don't know how many times people take it."
Although medical schools weigh later test scores more than early scores, the change will still cause students anxiety, Leadem said.
"Everything worries applicants," he said. "The loss of control will increase applicants' pressure. It's a more high-stakes exam for them."
The changes in reporting and the exam itself are a little disconcerting to one student.
"One thing I'm concerned about is the (other) changes in the exam," Davis said. "They've added different things and those might be discouraging in addition to the change (of submitting every score). There won't be a chance to test how well you know the new material."
Leadem stressed that MCAT scores are just a small part of the admissions process when looking at applications for medical school, he said.
"This is just one of the small things that worry me about getting into medical school," Prudinsky said.