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Medical College Admissions Test to change to electronic format

Students may have just crawled their way out of the new SAT tests, but reformatted testing does not stop there. The Association of American Medical Colleges announced last summer that the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) will convert into an electronic format as of August 2006.

Currently, the MCAT is an eight-hour, fill-in-the-bubble styled test administered every April and August.

With the new electronic format, life will get easier for the MCAT test centers. Examinees and medical schools will be open to more tests each year with faster results and even a shortened exam. This new MCAT includes the technology to submit thumbprints electronically, rather than on paper in order to hasten the pre-testing and check-in processes and to enhance the verification of test-takers’ identities.

In August 2006, students may choose to take the electronic version.

According to a new Kaplan survey of 3,858 pre-med students, 82 percemt of students are concerned that they would perform worse on the computer-based test than on the paper-and-pencil version of the exam.

“I believe that I am a better test taker on paper as compared to on the computer,” Krunal Patel, junior, said. “It is also harder to concentrate on the computer screen with your eyes.”

The most common concerns according to the survey include: Malfunctioning computers, difficulties in annotating, eyestrain, distractions caused by other students’ computers and a general lack of familiarity.

As a result, students may have to work on typing skills for the essay portion of the exam. Also, many questions would arise as to whether students can go back and check their answers. Students will now be incapable of underlining or circling parts of the questions, or even eliminating the wrong answer choices.

Unlike the GRE or GMAT, which are already administered through the computer, the MCAT sections involve a lot more scratch work, which may not make the new format ideal.

Electronic exams may give students that are dexterous with the mouse and keyboard an unfair advantage, but this may also be a major advantage for students who type faster than they can write. The computer would allow essays to be more organized and legible. In the long run though, students may benefit from the change. Steps I and II of the United States Medical Licensing Exam are administered on the computer, so the new MCAT format may be something students should start getting used to.

“Some people will be more affected by it than others considering the familiarity of using the computers for such a long test,” Pat Szaraz, sophomore, said, “but as long as the difference in test grades is acknowledged by the med schools, I think it’s fine.”

Nisha Shah can be contacted at n.shah@umiami.edu.

September 23, 2005

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