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

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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.


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.

Applying to Medical School If Your Parents Are Doctors

Parents Doctors and Applying to Medical School

The following is a guest post by Dr. Caroline Cusak, MD. She grew up in a family of physicians and each of her siblings is now a doctor as well! Applying to medical school from a family of doctors can be tricky; you want to convince the admissions committee that you know about medicine, yet are applying to medical school not because of pressure from your parents! Dr. Cusak shares her insight on applying here!


I grew up in a medical family. Both of my parents and my older brother are physicians and my twin sister applied to medical school along with me. Many other medical school applicants find themselves in similar positions and wonder if it is something that they should bring up during the application process.

In my opinion: Of course growing up in a medical household is something you should feel comfortable talking about! It is part of what made you who you are today and likely has a large role in why you are applying to medical school. It also lets the admissions committee know that you understand the struggles of life as a physician and you know what you are getting yourself into. You have likely spent many holidays without a family member while they were busy caring for their patients. Maybe you have seen the distress that comes when a long time patient of theirs passes away. Perhaps you have seen their patients greet them on the street and express their gratitude. Stories like this are great to write in your personal statement or mention in an interview.

While being from a medical family is something to be proud of, it is also important to be able to explain your independent attraction to medicine.

It is not enough to say: “I want to be able to help people like my parents did.” You need to be able to explain why you are applying to medical school instead of other areas of health care. Hopefully you had an open mind about other fields and can explain why they were not the right fit for you. Maybe you can explain that during your time shadowing in the hospital, you gained experience watching multidisciplinary teams treat patients. You can explain why being a physician is different from these other areas and how physicians face unique challenges in their daily practice. Perhaps you even explored other career opportunities outside of health care before deciding on medicine. Don’t be afraid to talk about this. It shows the committee that you took your own journey for a career seriously and decided on medicine for yourself. The admissions committee will want to see that you didn’t decide on medicine just because it is a family business. They want to see a personal story of how it is the right fit for you.

Keep these tips in mind and you will be on the road to success, just like your family member!

Not sure what your unique angle is? Our medical school admissions advisors are here to coach you through the process.