The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) announced several changes to the administration of the April 2003 MCAT, the entrance exam required for medical school admissions, earlier this month. Some Georgetown students, however, are confident that the changes will not have adverse effects on test scores or admissions statistics.

Medical schools will now be able to view all the scores for a particular applicant, a reverse in a policy that previously allowed students to send only their highest score to medical school admissions committees. MCAT scores from 1991-2002 can still be withheld by request of the applicant.

Some Georgetown students, however, believe the change in the test reporting will not have a tremendous effect. “I don’t believe that the new MCAT score reporting procedure will make a profound impact on the nature of medical school admissions,” ark Bratus (COL ’04), treasurer of the Georgetown Pre-Med Society, said. “Most pre-meds will sit for the MCAT during their junior year of undergraduate study. Because of the timing of medical school application deadlines, there is no opportunity to prepare for and re-take the test and still go directly to medical school after college.”

In addition, the change in policy may be only a formality, as several institutions presently request scores from previous test sittings. “I am currently applying to medical school and I know under the current system, most schools are interested in all your MCAT scores, and, additionally, if you have applied to medical school in previous years, so I’m not sure this change will drastically change anything,” Josh Lerner (COL ’03), president of the Pre-Med Society, said. “Schools like BU [Boston University], for example, request you report all MCAT scores from the past three years.”

Administrators at test preparatory and tutoring companies, such as Kaplan, say the new policy will ultimately benefit both medical schools and prospective students.

“The advantages are twofold. A lot of students were taking [the MCAT] for practice and withholding their test results,” Albert Chen, executive director for graduate programs at Kaplan, said. “The AAMC doesn’t want the MCAT to be taken for practice, partly because if students have a bad experience the first time they may continue to not perform as well and also, because if the test is being taken for practice, then it probably isn’t being taken seriously, and the tests are expensive.”

The AAMC is recommending that medical school admissions officers place greater importance on an applicant’s test score history instead of single-performance results. According to a press release by Kaplan on Nov. 8, “extreme variations in sub-score ranges” may now count against applicants.

“The change helps schools in that if students take the test more than once, schools can see test history and any improvement, not just the highest score,” Chen said. “So this change should be good for everybody.”

Chen said there is a tendency for students to take the actual test for practice before their junior year. “Whether it’s from Kaplan or another company, students should take the free practice test that is offered. [Under the current system], some students don’t review very much before they take the CAT if they take it as a practice test,” he said. “The test shouldn’t be treated this way because it does need considerable review, and students who plan on taking the April MCAT should already be studying for it. Take the real test only when you are ready to take it.”

The change in policy will deter students from taking MCATs as practice, which may lead to an increase in the mean scores, Chen said.

The AAMC has made other changes to the MCAT, including the addition of three questions that cover DNA and genetics and the omission of questions covering alkenes, phenols and benzenes from the organic chemistry portion of the exam, although a general understanding of these topics is still recommended by the AAMC. These changes follow last year’s alterations, which included the removal of five verbal reasoning questions.

Lerner said that the changes in the test format and reporting process should be negligible. “From a Georgetown perspective, I don’t think it will change a pre-med’s chances of getting into medical school.” he said. “Georgetown has an excellent tradition of getting its pre-meds into school and the quality of the pre-med courses here mean that every pre-med usually does well on the MCAT.”

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