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Easy/Hard MCAT Dates

Discussion in 'MCAT Discussions' started by Merissa87, May 31, 2008.

  1. Merissa87

    Merissa87 Member

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    Is this true? I talked to several ppl who took the MCAT in April and they thought it was easy, then several people I know took the MCAT this may and all the people from May said it was hard. Is there such thing as easy and hard dates? Do they alternate the exams?? I searched the forum but didnt find much.

    Also, How much can you expect the curve to alter your score?? Can it hurt you or only help you???
     
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  3. mterp45

    mterp45 Banned
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    I don't know how the curve is affected. However, I would advise you to stay away from the August dates, unless you don't feel ready. They were pretty bad last summer, but again, what do I know? just study hard and you'll be fine.
     
    #2 mterp45, May 31, 2008
    Last edited: May 31, 2008
  4. nfg05

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    shhoooot i'm signed up for August 22, why do you think they were so bad last year. I was actually thinking that August would be advantageous since there would be more re-takers than in, say, january and hence a weaker overall pool of test-takers.
     
  5. mterp45

    mterp45 Banned
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    Ok. I don't want anyone to get upset, please understand that this is just SDN speculation. The SDN speculation is that the test taker pool in August is comprised of intelligent sophomores, and others who have had all summer to study. They are generally well prepared, hence the curve may be a little less forgiving and sometimes the tests may be tougher(this I say because of the August 20th test of last summer). However, One of my buddies took it on the 28th or 24th of August(I don't quite remember exactly)and got a 42, and many people have done very well in August so no worries.
     
    #4 mterp45, May 31, 2008
    Last edited: May 31, 2008
  6. Merissa87

    Merissa87 Member

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    Well i'm not sure that is 100% true. The curve for the MCAT is already set before you take the test, so the people who are taking the exam on that day have no effect on your score. What I was actually asking is if anyone knew how giving the curve was, could I expect a 1 pt increase from each section? and will the curve ever hurt me??
     
  7. Decicco

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    No. When you take it doesn't matter as the poster above said. Take it when you are ready and do your best. There are no tricks.
     
  8. sleepy425

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    The curve can neither hurt nor help you because your MCAT score is defined by the curve. In other words, it's not like they have a standard scale and then they curve it up or down depending on the test format, etc. It's not like a class where everyone gets a certain score and then the instructor curves it. You can't say the curve will help you/hurt you because there's no basis to determine whether it helps you or hurts you because it's not like they say, oh, this person has a 10/10/10 so the curve is 1 pt per section so that gives them an 11/11/11 or w/e. The 10/10/10 is your score, after it has been scaled by a method they use to convert it from the raw score to an MCAT score. It's unpublished, but it is known that the scaled score is affected by previous administrations as well as by the current administration so that the scores can be reasonably standardized across administrations. So that means that no administration should put a person at significant advantage/disadvantage because it is standardized with minimal variance.

    I hope that is clear.
     
    #7 sleepy425, May 31, 2008
    Last edited: May 31, 2008
  9. nfg05

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    What do you mean "the curve is set before you take the test". How is that possible? My understanding is that whatever X% will get 15, Y% will get 14, and so on down the line based on how they performed RELATIVE TO EVERYONE ELSE WHO TOOK THAT PARTICULAR TEST.

    So variations between test dates come in two flavors:
    1) The questions may be particularly hard for your test date and people do worse than usual. Thus, you can afford to miss 2 questions and still get a 15 on a given section compared to only being able to miss 1 question and get a 15 for that same section on a different administration.
    2) The actual test-takers for your administration are not as strong as usual for whatever reason. Thus, it is "favorable" for you as it is easier to get into that top X% required for a 15 score.

    Granted, this is only my impression and may not be fully accurate so someone with more knowledge please correct if necessary.
     
  10. patelakshar

    patelakshar Member

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    I'd say end-of-may test dates are the best as many schools have finals just a week or two before and thus most other test takers are busy with all that. Of course, if you go to one of those colleges then maybe junes better. Just took May 31 and it was a lot easier than the practice aamc tests, at least i thought so..will figure out in a month.
     
  11. Captain Ellerby

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    Statistically I think the April/May curves are easier because the standard deviation is probably lower and the average scores are lower as well. This could be because the playing field is leveled by the fact that everyone just finished the spring semester. That could also lower the average. Then during the summer there are many more people who absolutely kill themselves studying 12 hours a day for all of June, July and August, and then skew the mean and the SD with ridiculous scores. So the same number of questions correct might equate to a higher score in the spring vs. the Fall. Also, I'd expect there are more re-testers in August, and they'll be more prepared and less nervous than the April people.

    But AAMC is not stupid. And I'm sure they tailor the exams or scores somehow to compensate for the difference. They keep us in the dark about a lot of things.
     
  12. physics junkie

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    n=your_friends is not as ufficient sample size. h4r h4r h4r. I'm drunk. See you kids in the morning. By the way, I think the curve is set before the test is even administered. Sorry.
     
  13. mterp45

    mterp45 Banned
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    It's hilarious that this discussion always comes up and I always find myself saying the same thing. Unless AAMC comes out with a written report on how the scores are calculated, everything is speculation. NO ONE KNOWS HOW THE SCORES ARE CALCULATED PERIOD. I don't care who says what, who spoke to whom, or how many MCAT conventions you attended. I want to see written proof from AAMC. If you ask me, I don't think anything is predetermined, I think the people taking the test on that day definetly factor in big time, and I think the real thing often ends up having a curve similar to Kaplan's depending on the test takers, and the test difficulty.
     
    #12 mterp45, Jun 1, 2008
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2008
  14. quenton cassidy

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    dupe
     
    #13 quenton cassidy, Jun 1, 2008
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2008
  15. quenton cassidy

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    Thats kind of an ignorant comment, the scores are always set to a standard bell curve with 26 roughly being 50th percentile, while there may be slight variation from test to test, but for the most part the bell curve is always the same. Your scores are all relative to how everyone else did. I still think you can somewhat accurately calculate how well you do though, i know i got pretty good at estimating my scores when i was studying, (yes i know they were practice test).

    I do think what captain Ellerby says is somewhat right though. But bottom line is that the AAMC isn't going to let one test date be "easier" than another.
     
    #14 quenton cassidy, Jun 1, 2008
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2008
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  17. secretin11

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    How is that comment ignorant when you simply reiterated exactly what mterp said, your statement was extremely contradictory. Plus, we aren't talking about practice tests we are talking about the real thing, which am sure you haven't even taken yet.

    I do agree with mterp, everyone assumes the scale is predetermined but the truth of the matter is like mterp said "no one knows" but everyone wants to get on SDN and claim that they spoke to an AAMC employee, some unknown source with no credibility, which I think is bull.
     
    #15 secretin11, Jun 1, 2008
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2008
  18. skybannister

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    Well, how about September?
    I'll be a junior in the fall and was wondering if this month is usually tougher.
    Thanks
     
  19. BerkReviewTeach

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    Come on now, next thing you're going to do is tell people that WWF is not real wrestling and that reality shows are actually staged. How can you say that the MCAT curve is not 100% preset prior to anyone taking the exam and that they don't already know exactly what schools everyione will attend and the careers they are going to have? Urban myths have to get started somehow, and you sure are a party-pooper trying to squelch this one.

    On a serious note, I want to respond to your post in that years ago (late 90s if I recall correctly), they gave a brief description of field tested versus non-field tested passages and how they dealt with the data from each. That listing disappeared pretty quickly. They also listed 300 prompts for the essay composition from which they draw, and that too was down within a few weeks. Someone at AAMC headquarters probably took a bunch of heat for sharing too much on their website.

    Based on what I've read and heard from AAMC, I tend to believe they follow typical statistical methods (which they use as their calling card for their validity) which includes the methods they described in that post. I'm not sure if your comment about conferences was a swipe at a post I made quite a while ago about the workshop on the MCAT at the AAMC anual conference, but they did briefly comment that the curve is an evolving curve. They use historical data as well as data from the current batch of test takers to establish their curve. So while some comments in this thread about the curve being pre-determined have taken things to an extreme, the curve to some extent is pre-established. However, the people disregarding the fact that current scores are also included in that pool are missing the point.

    They do set scores based on a bell-curve (normalization), but the total data pool includes numbers from previous examinees as well as current examinees. This balances out the seasonal impact on the curve that you and a few others talk about. If they did it exactly as you say, then EVERY exam would have the exact same distribution, which they definitely do not. Also, the means for 2007 were PS 8.4, VR 8.0, and BS 8.8 and not 8, 8, 8 as a pre-established bell curve would have generated.

    We (BR) are sort of nutty about statistics, and we evaluate our student's scores from a bunch of different angles. Before 2006, the going rumor was that the August curve was harder than the April curve. What we found was that such a notion was overrated. The reduced distratcions of summer (better ability to focus on the MCAT without having school) was offset by repeat test-takers who were inherently worse test takers than the average MCATeer. There was little to no difference between the two test dates.

    What we have found with the CBT is that most people claim their test date was the hardest of all. :)

    Seriously though, we have found that the time of day and weekday versus weekend make a bigger difference than the month you choose for your exam. There are all sorts of theories as to why, mostly having to do with analyzing the test-takers nature. I'm sure it can be explained by that, but at the end of the day, all of the conditions around the test are far less important to a test-takers score than three basic things:
    • Focus and the ability to avoid careless mistakes
      Confidence and the ability to negotiate anxieties during the exam when the weird passages present themsleves
      Time management and one's preparation for going through questions quickly, but not in a hurry.

    Admittedly, we do spend about ten minutes of class time in our opening class explaining the advantages and disadvantages of various test dates, so I'm being a bit hypocritical in downplaying it here. But in the end, good test takers get good scores, period.
     
  20. con1988

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    So what time of the day or week do you think is the best? ;)

    I guess they do use old test takers' stats because there are questions that are repeated on the MCATs. That would make more sense than to ONLY use old or new data.
     
  21. smeagol

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    Very informative post BRT. This was kind of what I was speculating.
     
  22. Excelsius

    Excelsius Carpe Noctem

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    I wonder how they would do the curve. Regionally? Nationally? Because if just one person gets 45 nationally, then theoretically there shouldn't be a curve unless they decide to ignore this data point. I suppose if bunch of people got 45, then they could curve down, but people who know they didn't make any mistake on the test and still got a low grade will be pretty pissed and appeal. This whole idea of curving seems pretty crazy. Maybe it will be a good idea to call and find out.
     
  23. Vihsadas

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    Great post as usually BRT. Let's all agree on one thing:
    It is in the AAMC's best interest to make sure that the variations in raw score from test date to test date don't affect student scores. It wouldn't be prudent nor fair if the AAMC neglected to make each test date a fair and equitable testing and scoring experience for each student.

    Given that, those of us that are versed in statistics already know that there are existing statistical methods to help correct for seasonal and daily variations...One of these is using previous data to temper current changes. The AAMC makes it known that they are extremely careful in ensuring that they use proper statistical methods.

    Given just that, it would not make any sense whatsoever if an entirely new curve was generated for every test date.
    First, it would mean that the scores of people who took the test in previous years (not to mention previous testing days) would not be comparable to test takers of different test dates/years. That alone, would be enough to compromise the usefulness of the MCAT due to the very large number of re-applicants from year to year. To correct for this, the statistics should take into account the current year and previous years.

    Without any heresay inserted, it just simply does not make good statistical sense from a psychometric viewpoint to regenerate the curve every year. The validity of the test is highly increased if data from previous testing administrations is used.

    Now we insert the heresay:
    Myself and BRT have both heard very similar information, from independent AAMC employees, and as stated, this information was posted on the AAMC website at one point. Namely, passages and questions are reused from year to year, and the curve is evolving; it is more or less pre-generated before you take your test. Your current testing date does affect the curve, but the large pool of data from previous years probably prevents your testing pool from altering the curve too much. Whether you want to believe that or not is your perogative...but even without the heresay, it does not make any statistical sense to regenerate the entire curve for each individual test date.
    So you can believe what you want to believe, and change your testing date based on your speculations, but my advice will still stand:

    Take the MCAT when YOU are prepared to take it.
     
    #21 Vihsadas, Jun 1, 2008
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2008
  24. BerkReviewTeach

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    It's irrelevant in a general post, because stress of commute is the most important factor we consider when suggesting dates to our students. That is not necessarily the most important factor for many students outside of our area. In the Los Angeles area and near Berkeley (where the majority of our students live), driving stress can significantly impact one's mindset. Worst of all is that commute time is unpredicatable when dealing with freeway driving. The last thing you need is road rage and any anxiety caused by a fear of arriving late. I know commute concerns apply at many places, so it's something everyone should consider to some aspect. But negotiating freeway delays at different times of day versus how crowded and the subway might be at a given time of day are different experiences. So mentioning what we found in terms of day-to-day and time of day curves may not at all apply to your situation.

    I'll just say that what we found in looking at the numbers was that a less stressful commute had a bigger impact on a person's score than I ever would have imagined. And weekend versus weekday stresses also play a role in how well a student relaxes prior to their MCAT. Walking into the center as calm and confident as possible is what really and truly matters. Pick a date that allows you do do that. And as Vihsadas said, "Take the MCAT when YOU are prepared to take it."
     
  25. mterp45

    mterp45 Banned
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    I love threads on this issue, for they never fail to generate interesting responses. BerkleyReviewTeach, I do not disagree with the fact that historical data may be utilized in order to tabulate a new curve. In fact, I think it makes logical sense. Based on your posts, it is fair to say that you and Vihsadas agree that the test takers on the particular day have an affect on the curve. However, the conundrum lies in ascertaining not whether or not the test takers on test day affect the curve, but the degree to which they do. I believe that this is the key to ending all discussion on the matter. I maintain my standpoint on the issue in saying that until there is some sort of report from AAMC, all theory or discussion on the subject must be regarded as unfounded information.
     
    #23 mterp45, Jun 1, 2008
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2008
  26. BerkReviewTeach

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    I wouldn't hold my breath, because the one time they did that, it caused them considerable grief.

    The closest you will come is either (a) reading the detailed reports on their statistical breakdown of the applicant pool and inferring from that that they use standard statistical methods across the board on all AAMC-related statistics or (b) getting a transcript from their anual meeting (which I assume they would do their best to not have distributed, given the release form associated with conference registration).

    So you are correct that it is speculative as to what they do, but I feel pretty confident that they use a growing data pool. What I have no idea about is whether they toss out outdated numbers from the data pool over time, because there is an inherent inconsistency in the current data given that some was attained via a paper exam and some was attained via a CBT exam. But I perhaps have opened a Pandora's box with that question.

    If I could ask them anything and get a straight answer, it would be how they handle the discrepencies in the data between those two media.
     
  27. supafield

    supafield Dream Big

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    These guys are making some excellent points.... read them carefully...
    I would like to elaborate more about test stress.


    It seems every other MCAT club thread has a trend where a good % of test takers believing one of their sections was the toughest thing they have ever seen....

    Search my posts, I ranted and raved at the ridiculousness of my biology section 2 years back.... Even though I knew that everyone else writing my form was dealing with a tough section as well... I didn't truly respect the fact most of the questions were completely passage based and were now testing my time-pressured comprehension compared to any other person that wrote the same passages. I truly believe this lead to less the ideal comprehension because I perceived the obstacle in front of me much worse than it was.

    Reasons for this
    1) I used my AAMC practice test performances as a security device and was dumbfounded to see that they "tricked" me as what to expect.

    2) I was not a biology major and immediately felt I was at a disadvantage while I was writing it.

    3) I didn't critically evaluate the bio passages strategies my TPR teacher gave me... The AAMC is an evolving test and what works for one person may not work for another , or maybe may not work for the same person at a different administration.

    Those things considered, I abandoned my strategies, and worked through the section rushed due to my timing falling apart and proceeded with the mindset that I was filling out the section to the best of my ability but with no real chance of doing well.... I felt I walked out with a 6..... and still managed a 9.... Which may have been 1 question away from a 10 which was my average in practice tests.

    In terms of picking a test date make the choice that will allow you to feel most comfortable and relaxed....

    This will be a product of a time and date that reduces external stress (traffic, personal commitments, noise) and allows you to be as prepared as you want to be, reducing internal stress. On that test day, accept that you may see something that you and likely 99% of other diligent MCAT examinees did not explicitly prepare for. However you possess a capable reasoning machine in your skull to deal with new information hopefully just as well as anyone else.

    Keep calm, proceed through the most confusing of passages confidently and there is no reason you won't achieve comparable scores to an average practice test.

    There's a reason the concept of health has progressively accepted social and mental well being as contributors to overall health and I believe it's quite analogous with performance on a test like the MCAT... If you think your test harbors the most insane examination of the material ever, almost certainly others feel this way too.... you'll have a whole month to complain about it on SDN and brand the AAMC with labels comparable to criminals and deviants but during that section proceed with the notion that you're going to destroy the material while everyone else is worrying.

    Best of luck...

    P.S. I do have one secret test tip... July 18th is going to be particularly bad for traditionally high practice test scorers... If you consider yourself a potential matriculant to a top 10.... top 50... med school it would be highly recommended that you avoid this test date as it will likely ruin your score.... This has nothing to do with fact that I will be writing July 18th as well... that's merely a coincidence, why would I try to persuade people that will likely do amazing on the MCAT to avoid taking the test on my date? What possibly could be in it for me? lol...
     
  28. bluemonkey

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  29. Excelsius

    Excelsius Carpe Noctem

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    There are so many topics there that it's almost useless other than letting us know that the topics can be on anything.
     
  30. JohnnyRockets

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    I really do not think it makes much of a difference, except that in certain months it seems hard to find a preferred testing site, January seems to fill up quickly. Regardless, medical schools are not going to care when you took it, they are going to look at the bottom line, your MCAT score.
     

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