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wavves

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[FONT=Arial, sans-serif][FONT=Arial, sans-serif]This seems like a good place for my questions...

I took the MCAT back in August of this year, and my computer froze. Twice. Not only did I lose time in the verbal and bio sections, but I was thrown off my game for the rest of the exam. I complained to the AAMC, and they sent me a rather apathetic letter ("Yes, you lost time. I guess we're sorry. Attach this letter to your score if you want. No refunds.") that did little to soothe my concerns about retaking this monstrous test in the spring.

Well, I got a 34Q, which is great considering my experience. However, I consistently scored between 36-38 on all five of the practice exams I took. Moreover, I always scored highest on the verbal section, but because I lost around five of the last ten minutes during that part of the exam, it became my lowest verbal score ever (11). It would be completely foolish to retake and risk a solid score, so I want to follow the advice of the AAMC and attach their letter to my results to serve as a footnote ("Hey, see this score? There is a chance that it should be higher.")

My two main questions are:

1) Would this letter make a substantial difference in my application? I can see how it would be difficult to estimate "what could have been", but I feel that these factors are significant enough to mention (especially the time lost during the verbal section).

2) How would I attach this letter to my score? I emailed the AAMC and AMCAS around two weeks ago, but they have not responded. The only way I can imagine doing this is by sending an individual copy everywhere I apply, which seems impractical.

Any advice would be tremendously helpful. Thank you.
 

EgyptianDoc

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34Q is a solid score... take it and run with it. To answer your questions...

1. No, I don't think it will make a "substantial difference." Once you score reaches the mid-to-upper 30's, the rest usually comes down to luck.

2. Not sure. Maybe someone else can answer this question but I doubt it. Usually when someone has a major issue on test day, the outcome is not as pretty. Good luck.
 

wavves

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I agree with a 34Q being solid, and I also agree that my experience was relatively harmless compared to what could have happened, but...

1. No, I don't think it will make a "substantial difference." Once you score reaches the mid-to-upper 30's, the rest usually comes down to luck.
After perusing the archives, the consensus is that the point of diminishing returns for the MCAT is around 35-36, which means that as soon as you reach that level the difference between your score and anything higher is inconsequential for most med schools. Because I had to guess on three to four questions on the verbal section (I'm assuming that I got those questions wrong), and because I was frazzled during the subsequent sections, I did not reach that level. Perhaps the difference between a 34 and a 35 would not be acknowledged at some schools (like my state school), but when we compound this information with the listed averages for other schools in the MSAR, this difference is something that I would consider "substantial".

I guess it's simply frustrating. You pay $230 to take a test, and while 99.99% of people had a relatively pleasant experience (except for the fact that it's, you know, the MCAT), you get stuck with the one computer that malfunctions twice and compromises your performance. It seems unfair to compare me with everyone else (wow, that doesn't sound pretentious...) when I wasn't afforded the same amount of time. So simply “running with it” is not the most palatable option for me.

Of course, after lurking on this site for over two years, I can see how some people would call me crazy. But hey, what's a pre-med site without over-analysis and arrogance?
 

Moonrunes

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First off, congrats on a good score!

It's unfortunate that you had this event occur. It seems to me, the situation was handled poorly and with great disregard. At the very least you should have been given the option to void your score and retake the examination at no further cost to yourself.

You are held to very strict standards when taking the MCAT, as with most standardized tests, you must submit to security, confidentiality, time, and procedural constraints that are very exacting. The agency proctoring the examination should be held to equal levels of responsibility, along with their facilities, equipment, and personnel.

Of course problems will always arise. But I judge a company or person, not by if a problem occurs, but on how they respond to the problem once it inevitably does...

So I would advise retackling the root of the issue, they way the problem was addressed by the AAMC. In all honesty you probably should have raised a bigger stink back in August, right after the exam. But when you have a serious complaint with any major entity, never stop at the front door. When you settle for the first low-to-mid level manager you get the ear of, you usually get low-to-mid level results. It may take a dozen phone calls, and literally hours on hold, but you'd be surprised what asking for the president of a company's office gets you. I've argued up from the lowest of the low operators to regional directors, and they get their s**t done. They make a 30-second phone call and your situation gets resolved.

Be calm, cool, and confident, and always present your case with logic AND enthusiastic diligence. At the very least you could ask for a more favorably worded letter from the AAMC. If today were the day after the exam, I would say you could get your scores wiped and a retest.

Whatever course you pursue, good luck.
 

wavves

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At the very least you could ask for a more favorably worded letter from the AAMC.
Honestly, that's all I really want at this moment. If they offered a free retest before I got my score, I would have gladly taken it. But now it's November, and retaking would mean another six weeks devoted to studying. Plus, some med schools would probably question my maturity if I retook with my current score. So just a simple letter that doesn't sound like it was written by Morrissey would be great.


Your advice is very encouraging, and I think that anyone in a similar predicament can use it to garner positive results (I also like your "three c's" approach, very nice touch). I will try to reopen the lines of communication with the AAMC in a more active fashion, and hopefully something happens.

But in the mean time, I am also going to talk to a few med school admissions departments. Maybe they simply want a copy of this letter on file when they review my application next cycle instead of having it attached to my score.

 

Isoprop

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But in the mean time, I am also going to talk to a few med school admissions departments. Maybe they simply want a copy of this letter on file when they review my application next cycle instead of having it attached to my score.]

Don't do this. It gives off an aura of entitlement which would mar your very good score. It's petty to advertise to adcoms that you might have done better if you didn't experience computer problems.
 

wavves

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It's petty to advertise to adcoms that you might have done better if you didn't experience computer problems.
Are you implying that the entire pursuit is petty? Because this thread is focused on what you just described: trying to get the AAMC to admit that computer issues led to an inaccurate score by attaching a written letter.

Not defensive, just curious.
 

EgyptianDoc

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Are you implying that the entire pursuit is petty? Because this thread is focused on what you just described: trying to get the AAMC to admit that computer issues led to an inaccurate score by attaching a written letter.

Not defensive, just curious.

The AAMC will not bend over backwards and write you another letter. You're lucky you even got a letter to begin with so get over it. If you truly believe you could've scored better than a 34Q then retake it. The entire pursuit IS petty and will hurt you more than it will help. If you can't see that yourself then you have a problem.
 

Moonrunes

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The AAMC will not bend over backwards and write you another letter. You're lucky you even got a letter to begin with so get over it. If you truly believe you could've scored better than a 34Q then retake it. The entire pursuit IS petty and will hurt you more than it will help. If you can't see that yourself then you have a problem.

I wouldn't be so harsh and say "he has a problem", what he has is frustration. A frustration that can only be understood if you have experienced a similar incident. It's easy to say get over it if your computer didn't breakdown during your test. But the combined stress of this incident pales in comparison to the fact that substantial question reading/answering time was lost, on the MCAT!

That said, the AAMC cannot speculate on what score you MIGHT have received, so their letter cannot begin to even suggest this. What it should do, however, is clearly document the incident and how it impacted your examination, i.e. what test sections the computer went down in, for how many minutes, etc.

This type of letter attached to your file is not petty, it is factual, it is the conditions under which you tested: abnormal. If anything, if might show resolve in the face of adverse conditions. It is what happened, no reason to hide the facts.

Again, this was handled at the onset almost ineptly by the proctors... I would be interested in hearing the details of what your test site admin explained to you on your test day.
 

wavves

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I wouldn't be so harsh and say "he has a problem", what he has is frustration. A frustration that can only be understood if you have experienced a similar incident. It's easy to say get over it if your computer didn't breakdown during your test. But the combined stress of this incident pales in comparison to the fact that substantial question reading/answering time was lost, on the MCAT!
That said, the AAMC cannot speculate on what score you MIGHT have received, so their letter cannot begin to even suggest this. What it should do, however, is clearly document the incident and how it impacted your examination, i.e. what test sections the computer went down in, for how many minutes, etc
This type of letter attached to your file is not petty, it is factual, it is the conditions under which you tested: abnormal. If anything, if might show resolve in the face of adverse conditions. It is what happened, no reason to hide the facts.
Wow, I had just typed out an entire response, only to notice that you pretty much summed up my main points beautifully! Thank you!

I'll concede that my concerns aren't the norm on this site. And I'll concede that they aren't crucially important. But it's only fair to get a footnote like this letter attached to my score, something which only the AAMC knows how to do.

I can't see how this action will be detrimental unless I bring it up in conversation during interviews or meetings in an annoying fashion (as Isoprop astutely pointed out...thanks by the way, that was quite a large lapse in judgement on my part). And I certainly don't understand how I now have a personality disorder for wanting what only seems fair. But, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.
Again, this was handled at the onset almost ineptly by the proctors... I would be interested in hearing the details of what your test site admin explained to you on your test day.
Oh man, it's a lengthy story. I'll PM you if you're still interested.
 

Moonrunes

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Sure. I am always interested in hearing how mistakes were made. What better way to learn and avoid them in the future.
 

noshie

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A similar thing happened to me... Except I got a 22 due to a huge loss of time...

Heres my story:

http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=700496

I got the same letter from the AAMC... I went ahead and submitted the letter I wrote to the AAMC and the one they wrote back to me to all of the medical schools I applied to... I figured it wouldn't hurt. But my situation is MUCH different than yours! I got a 22 and retook it a month later and got a 27... Which is what I would have received in the first place. Also, I had taken the MCAT 5 times and wanted them to know that I wasnt just taking the test over and over to make better scores. They were pretty spread out so it really is not as bad as it sounds :laugh: Though taking it 5 times was as bad as it sounds...

I think you should be fine with a 34! Just be thankful that it wasn't much much lower! Sending in the letter at this point would kind of make you sound bad in my opinion...
 
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wavves

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Heres my story:
That is terrifying. My sincerest apologies. Everyone who is about to take the MCAT should read your story and realize that you can never really prepare for everything. I applaud your ability to stay positive throughout the entire ordeal.

But out of curiosity, how did you get the schools to acknowledge the correspondence between you and the AAMC? Did you mail it in separately? Did they? What did they say about it? Again, I will concede that my experience was not as bad as it could have been (read:yours), but it still happened. So if you could please give me some more info, I would be grateful.

Sending in the letter at this point would kind of make you sound bad in my opinion...
If I applied this cycle, I would completely agree. But I feel that if med schools get it along with my primary during the next cycle (especially from the AAMC), then they would most likely be receptive.
 

Isoprop

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If you got a low score, then it might be worth it to let the adcoms know of your situation. But you got a 34, which is a very good score. It like complaining about a silver medal in the olympics.

S*** happens. Luckily, everything still worked out. Don't make a big stink over nothing.
 

noshie

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That is terrifying. My sincerest apologies. Everyone who is about to take the MCAT should read your story and realize that you can never really prepare for everything. I applaud your ability to stay positive throughout the entire ordeal.

But out of curiosity, how did you get the schools to acknowledge the correspondence between you and the AAMC? Did you mail it in separately? Did they? What did they say about it? Again, I will concede that my experience was not as bad as it could have been (read:yours), but it still happened. So if you could please give me some more info, I would be grateful.


If I applied this cycle, I would completely agree. But I feel that if med schools get it along with my primary during the next cycle (especially from the AAMC), then they would most likely be receptive.


The AAMC will not send a letter on your behalf... In fact, they think that your test was taken under "standard" conditions... This is checked on the MCAT report online for me, which kind of ticks me off. So they don’t think that they did anything wrong and they don’t think it had any effect on your ability to do well on the test.

I had to send in my letter to the AAMC and the letter I got back from the AAMC to all of the schools myself. I did this right after all of my applications were sent to the schools... I also was sending out my CV so I figured I could send it all in one big letter. I am not sure if it helped or hurt me. None of the schools have ever commented about it, not even in any of my interviews. I would think that it can only help me due to my situation. It’s also obvious that the testing environment was the problem due to the fact that I took the test and got a 22, and then I took it again a month later and got a 27.

I sent the letter ONLY to allow them to see part of why I had taken the MCAT so many times... I didn’t send these out just to let them know why I did poorly. I think your reasons are different than mine. You want to send it because you think it will show them why you may not have done as well as you wanted. But really, if you think you didn’t do as well as you wanted, you should just retake the test. Taking it twice will not hurt you in any way if you do better on the second exam... My advice is to not send the letter, and retake the test if you feel that you are able to make a much higher score. However, I will say that I would never, in a million years, retake an MCAT with a score of 34. I don’t care who you are, you will get into a med school with a 34 just as well as you will with a 40 if all other things are equal. At scores this high, it does not matter so much about how well you did on the MCAT, what matters is what you have to back it up.

What I mean by this is, if you have the experience, the high GPA and everything in order... You will get into med school with a 34... People with a 40 on the MCAT that lack the experience needed sometimes don’t have a chance at all. Just take the 34 and run with it. :D
 

wavves

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It like complaining about a silver medal in the olympics.
Interestingly: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7473022

Some people aren't content with silver, including me. As pretentious and as aggravating as that may sound, please respect it.

I had to send in my letter to the AAMC and the letter I got back from the AAMC to all of the schools myself. I did this right after all of my applications were sent to the schools... I also was sending out my CV so I figured I could send it all in one big letter. I am not sure if it helped or hurt me. None of the schools have ever commented about it, not even in any of my interviews. I would think that it can only help me due to my situation. It’s also obvious that the testing environment was the problem due to the fact that I took the test and got a 22, and then I took it again a month later and got a 27.

I sent the letter ONLY to allow them to see part of why I had taken the MCAT so many times... I didn’t send these out just to let them know why I did poorly. I think your reasons are different than mine. You want to send it because you think it will show them why you may not have done as well as you wanted. But really, if you think you didn’t do as well as you wanted, you should just retake the test. Taking it twice will not hurt you in any way if you do better on the second exam... My advice is to not send the letter, and retake the test if you feel that you are able to make a much higher score. However, I will say that I would never, in a million years, retake an MCAT with a score of 34. I don’t care who you are, you will get into a med school with a 34 just as well as you will with a 40 if all other things are equal. At scores this high, it does not matter so much about how well you did on the MCAT, what matters is what you have to back it up.
Thank you for taking the time to explain how you contacted them. Especially since you're probably bogged down with more important things (good luck this cycle!)

I appreciate your advice, but again, I can think of no specific reason why this letter would hurt my application. Maybe it won't help as much as I expect, but at least they will acknowledge it when making their final decisions. And then, instead of prepping, I can spend my time on other activities.

Eh, I got what I need. Thread over. Peace out.
 

Isoprop

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Some people aren't content with silver, including me. As pretentious and as aggravating as that may sound, please respect it.

I didn't mean any disrespect. Hopefully, you don't project your self-admitted "pretentious" and "aggravating" attitude to adcoms if you are looking for admission.

Good luck.
 

alopathik

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i had computer problems too. think i lost like 8 minutes on PS. cursed a little bit, proctor moved me to another computer, shook it off and scored well. wrote about it at the end of the exam.

i think OP should attach the letter. i don't think it shows he's being petty. had i not done as well as i did i would ask for a letter too.
 
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