How can medical schools put so much weight on the MCAT when so much of it is luck?

Premed2003

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So many people guess on the MCAT. They narrow it down to 2 answers and then have to guess. If you guess the right ones, you get a great score but if you guess the wrong one you get a low score and don't get into a good med school. Why do they put so much weight on one single day? It seems so ridiculous that hard work for 4 years can be negated by one day's performance.

Do you think med school admissions is really based heavily on MCAT, or is it just one factor of many? Do you think they say "well this applicant is amazing with a 3.8 GPA from School X (ranked in top 3) with great recs and unique experiences that others don't have and we'd love to have him/her, but oh that MCAT is oooo. Can't accept. Or do they say "oh that MCAT must be a fluke?"

Any experiences or responses would be great....I'm kind of nervous about this MCAT and I will never ever retake it. I can't do that to myself again.

Thanks
 

Street Philosopher

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That's probably why the scale is 1-15 and not say... 1-77. I don't think people nitpick over 34 vs a 33, but if the difference is something like 33 to a 22, then that says a little something don't you think?

When it comes down to it, being a doctor takes a lot of dedication and training, but at that critical moment (maybe at a ER or whatever), you're gonna have to step up to the plate and deliver. Think of that moment as the MCAT. Both aspects are important in my opinion.
 

Jalby

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You know, when I read this, I thaught for sure I would disagree whole hardily with you. But you are right. 3 questions can make a huge difference in your score. I felt that way after I finished the test. I agree with med schools putting as much emphasis on the test as they do because it is a standard test. Jessica couldn't have gotton into any school without the MCAT. (Maybe not any, but not 10)
What I think should happen is there is more of a scoring breakdown of the MCAT. Instead of grading from 1-15, maybe they should report percentiles. Break each test's scoring down to the question, so that if you miss 3 questions, instead of dropping from a 14 to a 12, you would drop from a 95 percentile to a 89. Just my .02
 

Hoo\/er

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While the MCAT plays an important role in whether or not you get accepted, it is not the sole determinant. You must also consider your performance while in undergrad (GPA and grade trends), extra-curricular activities, LORs, clinical experiences, and your interviews. My opinion is that your grades and MCAT determine whether or not you get an interview. Once you receive an interview invite, then the quality of your interview determines whether or not you receive an offer for the class. You might have heard some version of the adage: "Numbers get the interview, interview gets the spot." However, keep in mind that this is not a universal application as each school is different.
 

Hercules

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I echo Street Philosopher's sentiments on "stepping up to the plate." And, yes, med schools do put a lot of weight on it. Lots of schools have a formula that they score you with. An example at my school is 30% GPA, 30% MCAT, 40% interview--or at least that's what I've always been told.
 

Michelys

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...just my lil' bit of input on the subject! The nice dean of students from UR said that the best predictor for your boards is how well you did on your MCAT. I could have wretched! <img border="0" alt="[Laughy]" title="" src="graemlins/laughy.gif" />
 

missbonnie

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I disagree. I think the test is a mesaure of one's commitment to studying for the test- I don't think it's a guessing game at all. I didn't feel that I had to guess on most of the questions. And I definately disagree that "most ppl guess on this test". While the mcat is just a test, if you freak out on exam day then I think you should be thinking about how you would react when a patient is dying in front of you. It's a test - you sytudy for it, you take it and you move on. There will much harder tests in front of you.
 
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Premed2003

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I don't think it's a commitment to studying because I studied so much and though I knew a lot of it from studying, there were some questions that I had never seen before! Maybe if I had gotten a different test version, I could have done better.

Also isn't it odd that many times people have terrible GPAs and do well on MCATs? How can they do so poorly in classes without learning the material and then miraculously do better than others on this one test? Even if there are 5 questions that you guess on, it could be the difference between a 12 and 10 or 10 and 8. And what about people who fill in the wrong bubbles by mistake? I'm worried about that too! And people who are very sick on the day of the test with the flu or even a cold? And those who can't fall asleep the night before or are awakened by rowdy partiers? There are so many factors that influence this one day that it isn't only how much you study.

Oh well. Hopefully admissions committees don't put as much weight on this as we think <img border="0" alt="[Clappy]" title="" src="graemlins/clappy.gif" />
 

McEntrye

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I think you also underestimate the importance of "guessing." When you aren't sure of the answer, yes you have to go with your intuition, buts its not a random guess if you have good intuition and good logical skills. Normally, in the MCAT as in life, one's intuition is right on the money. A good USMLE taker, and arguably a good future doctor, will need to go with his/her intuition, his/her gut feeling, when that unexpected case comes in and there isn't even time to check your Palm pilot PDA file...

So while MCAT obviously isn't everything, it is relevant, IMHO.

(Of course, i am biased because i did well on the MCAT.)
 

Doctora Foxy

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I don't think luck has much to do with doing well on the mcat, but moreso genetics. :) If you are good at standardized tests, you have a big advantage. Studying helps a lot too, and that gives you confidence during test time. I don't think guessing can get you anywhere, unless they are educated guesses from knowing the material well.

I don't think schools care THAT much about mcats, but definitely use them for the initial cut. Fortunately, they are very interested in other aspects of your application too. And I got in with a sub-30 mcat :D
 

lyle

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I don't know about the luck and guessing, but here's what i think Premed2003. I fit the description you originally posted. Great GPA and even greater science GPA. Experience, extra-curriculars, etc. And I did pretty poorly on the MCAT(8V, 10PS, 10PS, S) after averaging around 35 on all my TPR practice exams. I thought of retaking it, but I knew that I could not get myself to do it. So I applied. The schools that really care about the MCAT (Wash U, Penn, etc...) did not interview me, but I did interview at Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Hopkins, and other great schools. I was waitlisted at almost all of the schools I applied to, and I do not know if that had anything to do with my MCAT or not. I did get into 2 schools (Univ. of Pittsburgh and MCPHU) Either way, if you are a strong applicant, your a lower MCAT score will not keep you out of medical school. If you feel as though you HAVE to go to a top 5 school, then you may want to retake it. But you will still interview and possibly get in to one of those prestige schools with a "lower than their average" MCAT score. But my best advice is not to take it again unless it really low. Med. school is a place to learn the language of medicine...where you do that does not matter so much, especially amongst top 25 schools. Each school will tell you why they are "better", but go to where you will be the most comfortable.
 

Mr.D

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Just wanted to add my two cents. When I did a prem-med summer program a couple years ago there was this guy who visited us during the program who was this kind of "master standardized test taker" (Hy Doyle I believe). He had taken the MCAT multiple times (until AMCAS found out and banned him for life) and always averaged double digits, and he wasnt even a student! He was just some older guy promoting his preparation technique. Anyway, he talked about how success for exam was taking a lot of full diags, strong reading skills, and learning how to eliminate answers and pacing yourself. At a very minimum was "head knowledge" that people sometimes spend countless weeks studying for that hardly ever shows up on the exam. Remember, the MCAT is supposed to be a thinking exam, one that the makers say is based on how well you can apply new information (thus the reason why sometimes what you study is not in the exam) and at a minimum (non-passage) questions that are based on cold information that you should know or simply apply. Usually (on average) people who have strong reading skills (such as humanities and social science majors) tend to do better on the exam overall b/c they're used to reading more critically and more effeciently, and as a result they can incorporate the new information in the passeges much better, rather than relying on head knowledge that most science majors focus on. As a result, not only do they blow away the verbal and writing section, but do just as well or even better on the sciences than non-science majors. This is another reason why there is an increasing trend among medical schools in placing a greater emphasis on ther verbal section, the reason: testing people on "new" material that they have not studied before (unlike the sciences which we all study ad nauseum) which will test them on how well they can incorporate new information and analyze or apply it under new conditions (kind of what we're going to do in medical school amidst the volumes and volumes of new material which we all are going to have to learn).
 

time quaker

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Percentages wouldn't work but percentiles would. I seriously don't think the MCAT is about luck. Even if you could narrow it down to two choices, you would only get 50% of the questions right that you guessed on average. I agree that it is about studying but even knowing everything, it is about putting that knowledge to use. Most of the questions on the test have a passage preceding it. And if you look at that passage and combine it with the knowledge you have groomed from a review book, then you should be able to get the right answer. One day we are going to be sitting at a desk with a passage (or a patient) in front of us and we will have to combine the knowledge we have gotten from that source with what we know to get an answer. Hopefully, none of us will be relying on luck.
 

opel

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The thing that is screwed about the M-CAT is the grading. In some cases, the difference between an 8 and a 10 is a couple of questions, the best manner to grade the test is just like any other test. If you get 50 questions correct out of sixty thats an 83% and then they can curve the score according to all of the test takers.
 

Barton

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</font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Why do they put so much weight on one single day? It seems so ridiculous that hard work for 4 years can be negated by one day's performance. </font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">I think that the MCAT is extremely useful as it is about the only thing that is standard for all applicants. I believe that it either validates or invalidates four years of hard work. Think about it. 2 people at 2 different universities have different GPAs. Adcoms can use completely subjective assumptions (often based on things like "reputation" (whatever that is) or US News rankings) to determine which of these GPAs is "better". The MCAT score can give an indication of how these people perform regardless of where they were educated. And there are many more variables than school to school. For example: two people at the same school with completely different courses of study, two people at the same school with the same courses with different professors (come on, every school has at least one super bad-ass organic chem prof whom students avoid like the plague). So in that sense, the MCAT gives everybody an equal shot to show what they know and how they can perform on the same test (yeah, yeah, different forms. all forms are normalized so no form has an advantage over the others). Also, your transcript shows your past, and we all make mistakes. The MCAT is supposed to show your potential to succeed in med school, especially on the boards.
 

Ice Man

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I took the MCAT in 98 did a little above average (28). I had to guess a lot on that thing and am still sure that luck was the biggest factor in my score, i.e. I guessed better than most that day. The USMLE, however, I knew what I was doing and guessed rarely. I never changed my study habits or how I took those types of tests. I scored a 254. Conclusion, the MCAT is STUPID. I looked at some of the questions that were posted and have to just shake my head. Some of that stuff is med school stuff not undergrad. (Astrocytes, mesoderm, and others) Anyway, I hope you all do as well as you want. I told my interviewers that I thought the MCAT was biased toward biology/chemistry majors, and stated the above case. I got in. I guess they liked my candor.