MCAT Question Mix-Up Affects 2,200 Students

Test-takers will be permitted August retake

2,200 students who took the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) this weekend at a test center where faulty exams were administered will be allowed to retake the important test this August, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported yesterday.

The Association of American Medical Colleges, which sponsors the MCAT, said about 30 test centers gave out the flawed test, which featured questions about black holes following a reading comprehension passage on nutrition, according to the Chronicle.

Some test centers in California, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida were affected, but the Boston-area test administrations appear to be untainted, according to Andrea Wilson, a spokesperson for Kaplan Educational Centers, which prepares students for the MCAT.

It is not known if any Harvard premeds were affected. LeAnn Michelson '77, the pre-medical advisor at Harvard's Office of Career Services, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Because medical schools rely heavily on MCAT scores for admissions, performing well on the test is of paramount importance to many premeds, and aspiring medical students often spend months preparing for the exam.

A mistakenly-printed MCAT is a rare occurrence, said Maria Lofftus, Kaplan's director of academic services.

"There have been other things that have happened, but nothing of this sort," she said.

While all students who took the test at a center where faulty tests were administered have the option of retaking the exam, Lofftus said, not every premed affected by the mistake should necessarily take the exam again.

"If a student did not believe that their power of concentration was broken, they should go ahead with their April scores," she said.

Because of the rolling nature of medical school admissions, she said, students who retake the exam could be at a disadvantage.

"Many medical schools have a time-sensitive admissions process," Lofftus said. "The students who delay until August could be competing for fewer positions, potentially."

MCAT observers also noted the probable mental effect of a faulty test on students, given the stressful nature of the exam.

"Stressed would be putting it lightly," 1said Reed Talada, executive director of theBoston office of Princeton Review, which offersMCAT preparation courses. "The MCAT is anincredibly important part of an incrediblycompetitive and incredibly stressful admissionsprocess."

The AAMC plans to renorm the scores of allaffected students who choose not to retake thetest, allowing their scores to discount the flawedquestions, according to Talada. But he doubted theassociation's remedial measures would helpstudents who were faced with a faulty exam.

"We can't account for what happens to someone'smental process," he said. "There is an inevitablemoment of panic.

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