Jan 13, 2012
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So the MCAT is curved based on the performance of test-takers in a given group. I imagine the exam is randomly generated out of a vast question bank for each test-taker, but certainly some limits need to be set on how large a "batch" is considered before calculating and applying the curve. If this is true, then it makes sense that, if certain times of year are more popular for certain types of students, then it's very possible that certain times of year would be more competitive than others to score well on the MCAT. Now obviously if the sample was randomized in all ways, the season should have no effect, but if it's the case that eager, type-A, gunner-types tend to take the exam in May while non-traditional students might be more likely to take the exam at odd times like October or January. If timing affects applicant type, then we should be able to figure out the most statistically favorable time of year to take the MCAT. Is this totally impossible, or am I on to something?
 

TheKDizzle

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So the MCAT is curved based on the performance of test-takers in a given group. I imagine the exam is randomly generated out of a vast question bank for each test-taker, but certainly some limits need to be set on how large a "batch" is considered before calculating and applying the curve. If this is true, then it makes sense that, if certain times of year are more popular for certain types of students, then it's very possible that certain times of year would be more competitive than others to score well on the MCAT. Now obviously if the sample was randomized in all ways, the season should have no effect, but if it's the case that eager, type-A, gunner-types tend to take the exam in May while non-traditional students might be more likely to take the exam at odd times like October or January. If timing affects applicant type, then we should be able to figure out the most statistically favorable time of year to take the MCAT. Is this totally impossible, or am I on to something?
This incorrect assumption leads you to your incorrect conclusions. There are a lot of threads on this topic... but essentially, time of year doesn't matter because the of the way the MCAT is scaled.
 

0919mmk

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So the MCAT is curved based on the performance of test-takers in a given group. I imagine the exam is randomly generated out of a vast question bank for each test-taker, but certainly some limits need to be set on how large a "batch" is considered before calculating and applying the curve. If this is true, then it makes sense that, if certain times of year are more popular for certain types of students, then it's very possible that certain times of year would be more competitive than others to score well on the MCAT. Now obviously if the sample was randomized in all ways, the season should have no effect, but if it's the case that eager, type-A, gunner-types tend to take the exam in May while non-traditional students might be more likely to take the exam at odd times like October or January. If timing affects applicant type, then we should be able to figure out the most statistically favorable time of year to take the MCAT. Is this totally impossible, or am I on to something?
I've thought about this, and yes, I think that if you knew when "dumb" students were taking the test and took it then, your score would probably have a gentler curve. The problem is that I really dont think that there is a time when the avrage intelligence of test takers is significantly lower than any other time. A lot of the time, for example, the gunner-types that you assume are high scorers dont score well (perhaps they were too busy triple-majoring and curing death to study). The only people I personally know who scored over 38 were non-trads by the way. I know two people who scored over 40, and guess what? Non-trads.

In any case, yes in theory, no in practice. Too many variables.
 

0919mmk

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This incorrect assumption leads you to your incorrect conclusions. There are a lot of threads on this topic... but essentially, time of year doesn't matter because the of the way the MCAT is scaled.
No, I'm pretty sure this is actually true - the MCAT is scored by percentile so that the 50th percentile is always at a 25 or whatever. If all the test takers were dumb, it would be easier to be in the top 10th percentile or top 5th percentile = 32 or 36, regardless of your raw score.
 

TheGloaming

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These threads pop up all the time. I was under the impression that the test is already scaled before it is administered. So time of year really doesn't matter.

This is also from the AAMC site: "Examinees often ask if earning a high score or higher percentile is easier or harder at different times of the testing year. They ask whether they have a better chance of earning a higher score in April or in August, for example. The question is based on an assumption that the exam is scored on a curve, and that a final score is dependent on how an individual performed in comparison to other examinees from the same test day or same time of year.
While there may be small differences in the MCAT exam you took compared to another examinee, the scoring process accounts for these differences so that an 8 earned on physical sciences on one exam means the same thing as an 8 earned on any other exam. The percentile provided on your score report simply indicates what percentage of examinees from the previous testing year scored the same as you did on the MCAT exam.
How you score on the MCAT exam, therefore, is not reflective of the particular exam you took—including the time of day, the test date, or the time of year—since any difference in difficulty level is accounted for when calculating your scale scores (see above for information about scaling)."
 

Knocked Up

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I've thought about this, and yes, I think that if you knew when "dumb" students were taking the test and took it then, your score would probably have a gentler curve. The problem is that I really dont think that there is a time when the avrage intelligence of test takers is significantly lower than any other time. A lot of the time, for example, the gunner-types that you assume are high scorers dont score well (perhaps they were too busy triple-majoring and curing death to study). The only people I personally know who scored over 38 were non-trads by the way. I know two people who scored over 40, and guess what? Non-trads.

In any case, yes in theory, no in practice. Too many variables.
Hey, you know what? I have to agree with you there. In real life I only know of 5 people who actually broke a 34. All were at least 1-2 years out of college. SDN is the only place where you hear of juniors in college getting 40s. I think maturity really factors into this test more than we realize.

Oh, and it doesn't matter when you take it OP. It is impossible on every test date and will make you shed tears like a little baby whether you take it in January or September. Don't play the game of trying to game the system. The system will game you, it's meant to do that.
 

Midifelder10

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Very well could be but hard to prove. When they went from few test days to multiple computerized stuff no body can say anything for sure.
 

gettheleadout

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These threads pop up all the time. I was under the impression that the test is already scaled before it is administered. So time of year really doesn't matter.

This is also from the AAMC site: "Examinees often ask if earning a high score or higher percentile is easier or harder at different times of the testing year. They ask whether they have a better chance of earning a higher score in April or in August, for example. The question is based on an assumption that the exam is scored on a curve, and that a final score is dependent on how an individual performed in comparison to other examinees from the same test day or same time of year.
While there may be small differences in the MCAT exam you took compared to another examinee, the scoring process accounts for these differences so that an 8 earned on physical sciences on one exam means the same thing as an 8 earned on any other exam. The percentile provided on your score report simply indicates what percentage of examinees from the previous testing year scored the same as you did on the MCAT exam.
How you score on the MCAT exam, therefore, is not reflective of the particular exam you took—including the time of day, the test date, or the time of year—since any difference in difficulty level is accounted for when calculating your scale scores (see above for information about scaling)."
Thank you.

Any MCAT administered has already been scaled. If everyone on a given test date (or heck, even a given test year) got between 0 and 10 questions correct on the entire test, every single examinee would get a composite score in the low single digits.
 

TheKDizzle

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No, I'm pretty sure this is actually true - the MCAT is scored by percentile so that the 50th percentile is always at a 25 or whatever. If all the test takers were dumb, it would be easier to be in the top 10th percentile or top 5th percentile = 32 or 36, regardless of your raw score.
Nope.

These threads pop up all the time. I was under the impression that the test is already scaled before it is administered. So time of year really doesn't matter.

This is also from the AAMC site: "Examinees often ask if earning a high score or higher percentile is easier or harder at different times of the testing year. They ask whether they have a better chance of earning a higher score in April or in August, for example. The question is based on an assumption that the exam is scored on a curve, and that a final score is dependent on how an individual performed in comparison to other examinees from the same test day or same time of year.
While there may be small differences in the MCAT exam you took compared to another examinee, the scoring process accounts for these differences so that an 8 earned on physical sciences on one exam means the same thing as an 8 earned on any other exam. The percentile provided on your score report simply indicates what percentage of examinees from the previous testing year scored the same as you did on the MCAT exam.
How you score on the MCAT exam, therefore, is not reflective of the particular exam you took—including the time of day, the test date, or the time of year—since any difference in difficulty level is accounted for when calculating your scale scores (see above for information about scaling)."
Thanks for digging that up.

Thank you.

Any MCAT administered has already been scaled. If everyone on a given test date (or heck, even a given test year) got between 0 and 10 questions correct on the entire test, every single examinee would get a composite score in the low single digits.
Yep.
 

IncognitoGuy

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Just study your butt off and forget about everyone else. As explained, they're not going to affect your score or performance - you and your preparation will.