Students Complain About Test Blackout

A blackout at Tufts University delayed the start of the MCATs last Saturday, requiring pre-meds to wait nearly two hours before they could begin the six-hour exam.

The lights went out at 9:15 a.m., just seconds before proctors would have instructed students to break the test seal, one student said.

"If we had broken the seal, the test would have been cancelled and we would have had to make it up," said Ayelet K. Margalioth '94.

The power failure resulted from a problem with the incoming electric feed from Massachusetts Electric Co., the Primary utility serving Tufts University, according to an official there.

"The room was pretty dark and there were a lot of rumors going around," said Rachel A. Katzenellenbogen '94. "Nobody knew how long it would take for the power to come back on."

"The head proctor kept calling ETS [Educational Testing Service], who said to sit tight until the lights came back on," Margalioth said.

After two hours of darkness, though, the lights came back on and the MCATs began. "Most people were happy that they were able to take the test that day, despite the delay," said Jeffrey R. Wesolowski '94.

While some students said the blackout didn't affect their test performance very much, others were less optimistic.

"I started zoning out the last part of the test," said Philip R. Chang '94. "Most of us have been training for a certain schedule so [the blackout] threw our body clocks off."

Students interviewed this week said they didn't think a scoring adjustment on the test was necessary, but said ETS should indicate next to their scores that there were "adverse conditions."

"It was definitely distracting, but I don't think there has to be any scoring adjustment--maybe a note to be made at the end of the scores about technical difficulties," Katzenellenbogen said.

"I don't think a scoring adjustment would be fair to other students," Chang said. Still, he said, several students plan to write to ETS requesting the notation and a discount for those students who want to re-take the test, for which ETS charges $145.

ETS officials refused to comment.