Study: Medical Admissions’ relationship with Innovations Can Cause Unintended Disruption in Admitted Students

diverse doctors clipart

MSC Dive Brief:

  • Since 2007, when the MCAT switched from a paper-based format to a revised computer-based format, technologies have been disrupting medical school admissions, such as situational judgement tests (SJTs) like the CASPer and the standardized video interview (SVI), a new study reports conducted by Canadian researchers and published in the Journal of the Association of American Colleges. 
  • The research has various implications for students hailing from a rural or international background learning for the MCAT as applicants must be able to achieve a certain score in order to be in serious consideration for admissions. Furthermore, the lead author of the study, Dr. Mark D. Hanson, pondered whether the advance of technologies which reduce human contact, whether by eliminating the need for an evaluator or a physical interviewer, increase the effect that convenient access has on how and why we conduct the admissions process.
  • Earlier studies have noted the idea that Artificial Intelligence (AI) may impact the practice of healthcare in the US, but Hanson states that none have looked at the impact that technologies were having on medical admissions now. The global impact of the MCAT, SJTs, and SVI may actually hinder those who are trying to gain access to medical education in the US, and increase the already present divide between rural and urban medical school applicants.

MSC Dive Insight:

Creating a fair and equitable admissions process is a noble goal, but there needs to be a discussion about specifics as well when the process is driven by academic capitalism. These problems with already-present computerized tests which assess personality and “human touch” through a screen may actually accentuate local institutional and national student diversity problems.

For example, data which is collected by the MCAT during a U.S. based examination was the same as a Canadian examination until 2016, and notably left out several minority groups who took the examination (First Nations, Inuit, etc.) which have been recognized by the Canadian government. Because no data are collected about these test-takers, they are essentially invisible to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) when they look at who is applying to medical school.

Communities who are not as vocal may not be able to change implicit biases against them when it comes to the CASPer, which is a type of SJT which imposes yet another financial burden on students when trying to send scores (which applicants cannot see) to medical schools. Reducing the “human touch” aspect in favor of convenience may not be equated with utility in medical admissions.

Medical school applicants should be wary of these biases when studying for the MCAT, because there is a lot of variability when it comes to college classes. The MCAT is standardized (albeit with the drawbacks mentioned in the study) and therefore, the information that one needs to learn is clear. Adjusting the test for local demographic changes needs to be done in a socially responsible manner which aligns incentives with academic capitalism. For the applicant, this means that while doing these tests, remembering to stay true to oneself and your individual identity. The medical school admissions process, while disrupted by technology, can still be engineered to one’s benefit. If one has the right tutors and self-awareness of how the technology used during admissions, they will also know how it will affect the school’s eventual decision.

Citation

Hanson, M. D., & Eva, K. W. (2019). A Reflection Upon the Impact of Early 21st Century Technological Innovations on Medical School Admissions.Academic medicine: journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

What’s the Latest I Should Take the MCAT for an Application Cycle?

Latest date to take the MCAT

Students often ask: What’s the latest I should take the MCAT if I want to apply this year? Great question! There are several factors to consider when you talk about MCAT timing. We’ve laid out a few different scenarios below to help you determine what the latest date you should take the MCAT is.

UPDATE: In 2020-21 application cycle, with COVID-19 Pandemic affecting so many things, AAMC has released a new timeline for the cycle. More information can be found here.

Scenario 1: Taking the MCAT just once and applying early

If you are only taking the MCAT once, the most ideal scenario is that you have your MCAT score by the time the application opens up in early June. That usually means taking the MCAT in the winter/early spring (Jan – April test dates) because MCAT scores take about a month to be released (see score release dates below). For some people, that is during their Spring semester, which may become busy (classes, MCAT, application, extracurriculars, etc!). For others, this is during a gap year so it’s not as cumbersome to carve out MCAT study time.

Scenario 2: Taking the MCAT just one and applying without an MCAT score

This scenario is fairly common for test takers in the later Spring. If you take your MCAT in mid-May, you won’t have your score back until mid-June. Remember, the application opens up in early June, so that means you don’t have your score by the time you apply. That’s not the end of the world as you CAN STILL SUBMIT OUR AMCAS WITHOUT AN MCAT SCORE (little known fact, but super important one!). You can choose a list of schools and add to it as well post submission, depending on your MCAT score. You can do this and have your score come out as late as mid-August (which means a mid-July test date) and still be relatively early in the cycle because you’ll be “complete” by the time secondaries come out and you submit them. That typically means that mid-July is the absolute latest we’d recommend taking the test, if you are only taking it once, and you want a relatively early application. Even with that, you should be getting the rest of your application done before your MCAT (which can get difficult with timing, but hopefully you get the idea!

Scenario 3: Taking the MCAT multiple times

It’s of course possible to take the MCAT more than once. That means you can have a score, apply, and still have a pending score. The same situation as scenario 2 applies in that you may not have a final school list yet. You may also start getting your AMCAS application actually evaluated by schools because you already have 1 score, so that means you can take the second MCAT a tiny bit later (mid-August MCAT date would be the last advisable date in this scenario).

MCAT Test Dates and Score Release Dates

Test Date Release Date
January 17, 2020 February 18, 2020
January 18, 2020 February 18, 2020
January 23, 2020 February 25, 2020
March 14, 2020 April 14, 2020
March 27, 2020 May 1, 2020
April 4, 2020 May 5, 2020
April 24, 2020 May 27, 2020
April 25, 2020 May 27, 2020
May 9, 2020 June 9, 2020
May 15, 2020 June 16, 2020
May 16, 2020 June 16, 2020
May 21, 2020 June 23, 2020
May 29, 2020 June 30, 2020
June 5, 2020 July 7, 2020
June 19, 2020 July 21, 2020
June 20, 2020 July 21, 2020
June 27, 2020 July 28, 2020
July 7, 2020 August 6, 2020
July 18, 2020 August 18, 2020
July 23, 2020 August 25, 2020
July 31, 2020 September 1, 2020
August 1, 2020 September 1, 2020
August 7, 2020 September 9, 2020
August 8, 2020 September 9, 2020
August 14, 2020 September 15, 2020
August 29, 2020 September 29, 2020
September 3, 2020 October 6, 2020
September 4, 2020 October 6, 2020
September 11, 2020 October 13, 2020
September 12, 2020 October 13, 2020

How to Make the Most of Studying for the MCAT During a 1-3 Week Break from Work or School

Girl studying in library

By: Sarju Panchal

Many pre-meds are extremely busy during the “daily grind” of school or work, and so having a break to concentrate on the MCAT could be just what you need. Studying using a 1-3 week break can be a great way to become more relaxed and better prepared for the MCAT. I personally am a crammer, and so I actually took a month off during the summer between an internship and school, and did almost all of my MCAT studying in that month. While that’s not always an option for every student, here are some tips for making the most out of a week(s) long stretch of free time.

Plan your break

Try to plan a few weeks to months in advance what part of the break you will use for studying, and what part you will use to see family and friends. Ideally, with advance planning you can make time for both. Try to stick with your study schedule as much as possible, as it’s easy to waste a break, but also plan time off for relaxing.

Read More: MCAT Retake – is it worth it?

Plan your studying 

Have a clear idea of what you want to get done during the break. If you have an overall MCAT study plan, make sure to write in your break time and plan to get a little more done then to lighten your load for the rest of your study time. If you have a break a few months out from the MCAT, maybe try to use the free time to go through several chapters of content review in a shorter time. For a break a month or less out from the MCAT, maybe you would want to commit to being able to do full length practice tests and re-reviewing challenging material.

Study during the morning and make the most of the day

During school or work, most people only have time to study in the evenings. However, the MCAT starts at 8am, so a break is great time to try studying and doing practice passages in the morning. Also, while it is tempting to sleep in during a break, starting off early is both good practice for the 8am start time and maximizes your time. If want to really maximize your time, consider picking a few days a week and studying 5-8 hours a day in the daytime, as if it is a full time job. You’ll still have your evenings free, which is more than you have during work and school.

Read More: 12 MCAT Strategies and Techniques That Work

Study outside your home

During a break, if you’re studying for several hours a day during the daytime consider studying somewhere other than your home, such as a public library. It’s free, and removed from some of the distractions at home. Many public libraries also have reservable private study rooms. Also, a public library computer lab is pretty similar to the kind of computer testing center you’ll take the MCAT in.

Related Posts from ProspectiveDoctor:

  1. MCAT Study Plan Tips 
  2. 12 MCAT Strategies and Techniques That Work