#T4DTourX: MCAT2015 – Where Are We Now?

 In Voices of Diversity

In one of my workshops covering test preparation, a group of students asked for advice regarding their MCAT score, and admittedly, I couldn’t discuss it as well as I would have liked. So I did what I know to best when stuck in this quandary: look at the data and the research!

In 2015, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) redesigned the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) to better reflect the needs for today’s medical students and tomorrow’s doctors. In the transition, the new exam focuses more on application of basic science facts, a higher level thinking skill than the previous MCAT, which had more fact-based (aka memorization) type questions. We know that with the old MCAT, GPA and MCAT scores were the most important factors in getting an invite to interview , while the interview and letters of recommendation were the most important factors for an acceptance [1].  We also know that the previous MCAT showed mild to moderate correlation to test scores during the first two years of medical school, but were not good predictors of success in clinical rotations or early residency evaluations [2,3]. While one would hope that the new MCAT would follow similar trends, it is very difficult to say as we are only 2 cohorts in at this point.

Recently, the AAMC released a new guide entitled “Using MCAT Data in 2017 Medical Student Selection” [4]. The new exam is scored from the composite of the four sections with a total score centered at 500 with a range of 472-528. We know that the median score has risen nearly 2 points to 501.7. In earlier reports, a 500 was noted to be an indicator of academic readiness but students with those score are not being readily admitted. But with this limited dataset, we do not know much about the outcome data of the new MCAT as it relates to correlations with markers of success in medical school. Early data is suggesting that the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior scores potentially predict academic success in courses and tests that have relevant behavioral and social sciences content. Overall though, this data is plotted to be analyzed between 2017 and 2021, and even by that point, it will only be 1-2graduating classes of students.

So what does this mean for students right now. Well, first, we know that more schools are accepting only the new MCAT, and by 2018, the old MCAT scores will have expired. This current MCAT is the test that will stay so students, especially freshman and sophomores in college, need to be prepared to add classes to their premedical requisites that support their readiness for the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section. It is likely only time before medical schools begin requiring coursework in this area. Early data is also that combinations of a GPA >3.60 and an MCAT score of >502 are indicators of receiving one or more acceptances. All in all, because of the uncertainty surrounding scores, acceptances, and readiness for medical school, it is imperative for students to be their best self advocate and read the reports from the AAMC to better understand how competitive their score makes them. Furthermore, working with advisors and mentors can better support the overall strength of the application as one continues to factor in their clinical experiences, community service, research, and letters of recommendation.

[1] Dunleavy, et al. Medial School Admissions: More than Grades and Test Scores. AAMC Analysis in Brief. 2011;11(6).

[2] Julian. Validity of the Medical College Admission Test for predicting medical school performance. Acad Med. 2005;80(10):910-7.

[3] Gauer, et al. Do MCAT scores predict USMLE scores? An analysis on 5 years of medical student data. Med Educ Online. 2016;21(1):31795.

[4] “Using MCAT Data in 2017 Medical Student Selection”. AAMC Report. https://www.aamc.org/download/462316/data/2017mcatguide.pdf. Accessed online: Feb 24, 2017.

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