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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

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    MCAT Blunders Hinder Students

    Many hopeful medical students took the first computerized version of the MCAT, last weekend. For most, this was a stressful but necessary requirement to attend medical school. Unfortunately, these students may be at a disadvantage. This is because an error appeared in the verbal reasoning part of the exam that resulted in questions that were not related to the passage.

    The AAMC announced the changes to the MCAT exam in July 2005 from a pencil and paper based exam to a computerized format. Many benefits were associated with this change including a shortened version of the exam from the previous lengthy eight hours to five hours, and more test sessions in the year to provide more flexibility to students. In addition, tests will be grades more quickly and scoring rates will change from the two to three month wait to only one month.

    ‘I was completely distraught,’ Daniel Sonshine from Brown University said to the New York Times. ‘I was struggling to stay focused, but I was not focusing.’ Roughly 30 percent of test takers, or 800 students, out of the 2,500 students who took the test, encountered this mistake.

    In addition, another problem surfaced with the College Board’s SAT exams, also given last weekend. According to the Educational Testing Service, students in South Korea are reported to having a part of the test before it was taken by 326,000 other students.

    Robert F. Jones, who is a senior vice president of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which oversees the MCAT exam, said to the Times, that the error on the test was ‘something we regret.’

    ‘No more than 800’ test-takers of about 2,500 were affected. However, in a press release to Stony Brook’s Academic & Pre-Professional Advising Center, Jones said, ‘We have not yet determined how the error happened, but are investigating. We learned of the error when it surfaced on Saturday morning. Prometric quickly, through its instant network, informed test center supervisors of the problem so that they could counsel students to continue through the test.We also took the opportunity to recheck Monday’s forms, none of which had the problem. Test publishing errors have occurred before, although infrequently, and are not specific to computer delivery. The computer delivery, in this case, was helpful in identifying and communicating about the problem, and on getting the data to seek a quick resolution.’

    Thomson Prometric, who worked with the AAMC to administer the test at the various computer testing sites was unable to be contacted.However, to address student’s concerns, the AAMC, announced two options for students who were impacted. One option is to allow the AAMC to score the exam, as they are confident that they can provide valid scores to the affected students without using the flawed questions. An alternative is to void the test and obtain a full refund. The voided test will not count towards the annual maximum of the three tests taken and the registration fee of $210 can be applied to a later test date.

    In regards to how many Stony Brook students were affected, Pre-Professional Academic Advisor Joanie Maniaci of the Melville Library’s Advising Center said, ‘A pretty small handful of Stony Brook students took the MCAT last weekend. Some of them were retakers, a few were people who missed the August 2006 test, and there were one or two early birds.Of those that I have spoken with they were either unaffected or decided to void the exam.’

    She also added, ‘I feel bad for the students who had something go wrong with this January MCAT. There is a lot of stress in preparing, and then to have something go wrong … A student is bound to ask ‘why me?’I know, however, that the dedicated students will move on and won’t let a few problems derail them.’

    Most future MCAT testers were apprehensive about the mistakes found in the MCAT. Sophomore and Pre-Med student, Vicky Chen said, ‘I really feel insecure about this because what if this happens to me? The MCAT is so important to getting into Medical School ‘hellip; I also worry about the students who are affected.’

    According to Matt Fidler, the MCAT Program Manager of Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, ‘It is something students will remember ‘hellip; the reality of the situation is that to go to Medical school, people will have to take the exam.’

    Students who experienced the testing error are encouraged to contact the AAMC at (202)828-0690 for more information.

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