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MCAT Score Choice To End This Spring

By Samuel M. Kabue, Contributing Writer

This April’s Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) will make an indelible mark on the applications of all pre-meds who take it.

The April administration of the exam will mark the initiation of a policy change by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) requiring all MCAT scores to be automatically released to medical school admissions committees—meaning students can no longer choose which scores a school will see.

The new full disclosure policy is the result of a 2001 review of the test.

MCAT Director Ellen Julian said the policy change is meant to ensure that all medical schools receive the same information about applicants.

In the past, some medical schools just saw the MCAT score picked by the applicant, while others had a full disclosure policy, she said.

“These colleges [with a full disclosure policy] ended up spending a lot of time following the scores,” she said.

Julian said the AAMC consulted with some medical schools before making their final decision to require full reporting of scores.

She said most of the schools are satisfied with this change—especially the ones that did not receive full reports before—because it makes the admissions process more open and standardized.

Albert Chen, executive director of graduate programs at the test-prep company Kaplan, Inc., said the biggest implication of the new policy is that students will probably no longer take the MCAT exam for practice or without preparing thoroughly.

While the new score release requirements takes away the possibility of a “second chance” for students who do not do well in their first attempt, Chen said deterring students from taking the exam multiple times will probably make the medical school admissions process less time-consuming.

“Taking an MCAT is a very difficult process, so the students should do it once and never do it again to eliminate unnecessary suffering,” Chen said. “Prepare right and do this one time.”

Chen said students will now likely have to rely more on test preparation companies like Kaplan and Princeton Review to get them ready for the MCAT.

Harvard Medical School (HMS) Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Mohan D. Boodram ’87 said he doubts the new score release policy will effect the way HMS conducts their admissions process.

“The change is pretty minor to medical schools,” Boodram said. “It’s fairly uncommon for applicants to hold their scores from us.”

Boodram said medical schools did not usually consider the number of times a student had taken the MCAT exam when they applied.

But they did note if the applicant had taken the test many times within a short time interval, Boodram said.

“Any medical school would be concerned by anyone who, in a short time period, took the test multiple times in succession,” said Boodram.

Julian said students she has spoken to about having their MCAT scores automatically released to medical schools have been everything from surpised to unhappy to apathetic.

“People have been taking the MCATs seriously anyway, so I don’t think [the policy change] will have such a big impact,” said Kristin J. Hung ’04, a Mather House pre-med. “I’m not opposed to the change as it won’t affect the way I perform in the exam.”

But Hung admitted that the new policy might force students to invest more in other ways of studying for the MCAT.

“Maybe a lot of people are going to take more preparatory tests...but they already take Kaplan and Princeton Review tests anyway, so it won’t change much,” she said.

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