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Stereotype threat... does it mess with your MCAT prep?

Discussion in 'Underrepresented in Healthcare' started by MSTPbound, Apr 8, 2007.

  1. MSTPbound

    MSTPbound student
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    Hi everyone.

    I've been wanting to start this thread for a while; I've been reluctant because I know it's a provocative topic, and I typically steer clear of "flame war" caliber discussions.

    With the creation of this forum, however, I wonder if a "safer" place is provided to explore such questions.

    I will tell you personally that as a black male going through the pre-med process, I got sick and tired of the stats, stereotypes, and language surrounding URM performance on the MCAT. I don't know how the MCAT went for me this past weekend, but I gave it my best, and I can tell you that part of doing my best was working HARD to overcome the idea that somehow, I was automatically at a certain disadvantage taking the exam because... well... everybody expects me to do worse.

    Right up until test day... when I realized that I was the only black male among several dozen of us - at a downtown Brooklyn testing site, no less - I consistently took steps to remind myself that my race was not a disadvantage. In fact, I woke up at 5 AM that morning, and listened to an old recording of a sermon delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. just to remind myself how bogus the notion is.

    Anyway... my goal with this thread is to open up this discussion. I'm obviously especially interested in the feedback of other URMs who have gone through, or are currently going through this process.

    How do you feel about the stats (besides the fact that they're crappy)?
    Do they figure into your thought process and preparation at all?
    If so, how have you dealt with it, or how do you deal now?
    Do you have any advice for aspiring URM pre-meds facing similar issues?

    (Here's to hoping a productive dialogue is born from this.:luck: ).

    -MSTPbound
     
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  3. efex101

    efex101 attending
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    How do you feel about the stats (besides the fact that they're crappy)?
    I think the stats are a true poor reflection of the capabilities of URM
    s..but they are a fact and we should acknowledge that somewhere and somehow there is something we can do to improve.

    Do they figure into your thought process and preparation at all? NO


    If so, how have you dealt with it, or how do you deal now?

    Do you have any advice for aspiring URM pre-meds facing similar issues?
    I think that part of the reason for the "low" stats may be partially due to inadequate preparation. There is a large misconception out there that the MCAT is like any "other" exam and hence folks underestimate how difficult it is. Many folks I have encountered do not do enough practice exams which blows me away. I mean how better to prepare than by doing that which you will do for real on X day? Some URM's may think that just by the nature of being a URM they can get in with "lower" scores....big mistake. Low scores regardless of race/ethnic background/SE background does NOT mean a shoe-in.
    It has been some time since I took the MCAT but I can tell you that adequate preparation to include MANY practice exams puts anyone in a nice spot. Now, lack of fund of knowledge will NOT be made up via taking many exams! you have to have the tools to do well meaning having taken ALL your pre-reqs (or about done) by the time you sit for the MCAT. A large component of this exam is pacing yourself that can only be learned via REAL TIME simulated test taking.
    One point, taking standardized exams will NEVER END so go in to the MCAT knowing that you will have a lifetime of taking exams. This is the nature of medical training and medical practice.
     
  4. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    A huge disadvantage of any set of "statistics" is that they refer to past conditions and not to the present. You took your test in the present after careful preparation and did your best. Your individual performance has nothing to do with "statistics" or the expectations of others because you were the one taking that test.

    You cannot carry your ethnicity around on your shoulders. You can only do what works for you as an individual. Race is DNA and nothing more. There are no great predictors out there that indicate that one set of DNA makes a better physician/scientist than another.

    As a future applicant to medical school, you make the most of your individual accomplishments. After all, when you are standing at a patient's bedside in the middle of the night trying to take care of a problem, your race or ethnicity is not going to get the job done for you.

    Your work ethic, your preparation, your individual accomplishments will get you into medical school. What others have done in the past does not predict your future. There is a huge "pre-med syndrome" that often forces people to compare themselves to others to the point of being ridiculous. No two people are exactly the same and no two people are equal. You are unique and you have to figure out what works for you. By focusing on yourself and challenging yourself to do better and better each day, you increase your achievements.

    Read some (auto)biographies of folks like the late Dr. Vivien T. Thomas or Sidney Poitier's "The Measure of a Man". Look up some folks like Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr who was the first black chairman of the American Cancer Society and first black president of the American College of Surgeons. His memoirs/autobiography is soon to be published "Equinamity Under Duress". All of those men ignored what was "expected" of them and worked very hard on their achievements because "they" expected only the highest of themselves.

    There are plenty of African-American folks out there like Edward Cornwell, III, MD chairman of Trauma Surgery at Johns Hopkins, Matthew George, Ph.D who is chair of Biochemistry at Howard University, Claudia Taylor M.D. orthopedic surgeon at Johns Hopkins, Christopher Leet MD, cardiologist, Cato Lawrencin M.D. chair of orthopedic surgery at UVa, Pamela Ross MD, emergency medicine at UVA and Alfred A. Santos, M.D. premier minimally invasive surgeon who are quietly getting the job done every day.

    There will always be someone who is ready to tell you what you "can't " accomplish. I always consider the source and tell myself that I "can" accomplish what is important to me. I simply refuse to allow others to define my goals and achievements. Others who spout statistics are attempting to take something from you and your goals to "pump themselves up". Pity them and continue foward in your career. Envy is a negative emotion so you have to remove yourself mentally and physically from "negativity".

    I was quite fortunate to have two very strong parents who would allow nothing except excellence from me and my siblings. Remember, you define yourself. To allow anything else or anyone else to define you is to give them power over you. No other human can live your life except you. You only live once and if you play your cards right, once is enough. Nothing in this life is given to you but you can earn anything that you set your sights on with hard work, thorough preparation and dedication to your craft. Refuse to take your eyes from your goals and find a way to achieve them.
     
  5. jsnuka

    jsnuka Senior Member
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    The numbers are disappointing, but the statistics do not reflect me personally nor should they reflect anyone else who is progressing through the application process. It is a motivating factor. Through proper preparation and discipline and hard work; I can or another applicant can show that those stats are outdated and should not be taken as a blanket that should cover most Black men.


    Again, a motivating factor to do my very best on the test and in my studies going forward. No matter what there will be those who will chide your success for getting accepted to med school, succeeding through medical school and beyond. YOU just have to take care of yourself and leave that other stuff alone (as was intmated earlier).


    I do not worry about it. I cannot be burdened by the past. Either my own or thatof others who look like me. When it gets down to test day or course exams, it is just me and that test paper/bubble sheet or the computer and NO ONE ELSE. I am either going to "show 'em what I got" or fall short of that; but the only person who determines that is me. If my preparation is on point and thorough, NO ONE can touch me and I KNOW that. If I decide to slack off and get overconfident or lazy or otherwise do not put the work in, then the window is open for a lower score or worse case scenario an abysmal one.

    I find the important thing is to remain focused on MY GOALS and to not allow others to ascribe goals or expectations upon me. If I do the things (often times the little things--the details), then things work out exceedingly well for me.



    I think that the previous posters said everything that I could say and then some.

    On another note, STAY FOCUSED!!!!

    Take responsisbility for your actions and for those things that you fail to do to ensure your success.

    Make a plan and stick to it. Do not let the stumbling blocks of life stop you from achieving your goals. Sure, it gets difficult and downright unbearable at times, but keep on persevering until your goals are met and then set new ones.

    We NEED YOU!!!

    Your community NEEDS you.

    Academic medicine needs YOU.

    Those that have gone before you NEED YOU.

    Good luck!!!:luck:
     
  6. NightnDay79

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    As you can probably tell, there are already a URMs in medicine. Unfortunately, there's still a shortage of the amount we need. I can tell you I contributed to the low stats when I first took my mcat. Why- definitely not prepared for it. I didn't know what the mcat was truly about and didn't prepare for it through any simulation or mcat prep books. Results- catastrophe. Now, however, Im finishing up a post-baccalaureate program which allowed me to prove I could handle medical courses and opened my eyes to my previous unprepared approach to the mcat. After taking the CBT in january I can tell you preparation and simulation exams helped me out tremendously. I will be matriculating in August to Drexel Univ. College of Medicine for the class of 2011 :)
     
  7. flaahless

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    I think the MCAT stats are dissapointing, but what I find most saddening is that there aren't that many black men applying to med school. I think women got us beat by something like 2:1

    Yeah, the statistics did give me an extra fire in studying for the MCAT. According to the numbers, not that many of us get above 30 and I definitely had that in mind. I scored between 32-37 on my practice test. I don't feel as confident about my April 12th MCAT, but hopefully I represented us well.


    My advice to aspiring urms echoes Jsnuka. WE NEED YALL! For real. The process is daunting, but push forward. Physicians need you, patients need you, the community needs you and we need representation.
     
  8. 4paw

    4paw Member

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    I've been reading a great book recently which mentioned a harvard website,
    https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/

    This shows the implicit forms of racism/classism/other forms of oppression that we carry around. No matter what our status in these systems might be.

    There are other psych studies that show how being asked to check off race or ethnicity just before a test will decrease the score.
    being asked to check off gender before a math test, the same thing happens.

    All of this is on an unconscious level - so experiences that address that level are great - including listening to a motivational mlk recording.

    these things do matter, there are studies into them. check out that harvard study. one of the guys quoted in the book was upset because he himself is an anti-oppression activist, a black man. and his score was consistently in support of racist systems. however, one day it wasn't and he realized that that morning, he had been watching the olympics, where over and over black athletes were coming out strong and ahead.

    the book i was reading this in was either called 'blink' or the other book by the same author. 'blink' is good as it explores when intuitive response is right or wrong. when it comes to systems of oppression, and how they work on blink judgements, snap judgements, that immediate decision is not helpful. at other times, it is. very interesting book.

    Siobhan
     
  9. MSTPbound

    MSTPbound student
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    I appreciate this insight; I think it is an important aspect of what I had in mind with my original post (as you might imagine from the title of the thread). It is critical to be aware of how some of these "other than conscious" issues can affect behavior - just consider the entire field of sports psychology as a popular example - and to talk about ways to address these challenges.

    I agree with much of what has already been stated in this thread - however I was also especially interested in how aware we are of the effects of the constant conditioning behind the language and numbers that might reinforce messages that we otherwise deny on a conscious level, e.g. "lack of aptitude or ability correlated with a particular group identity," etc. Sometimes I feel like inadequately addressing the effect of the message dooms one to reinforcement of a lie even if we make explicit efforts to claim the contrary.

    That's why I do so much of the writing, self-work, and even listening to the right recordings when necessary - just want to give myself the best chance of cleaning up the subconscious messaging while hard work, diligence, persistence and perseverance address needs of the conscious self.

    Hope this doesn't seem too far "out there".:)

    -MSTPbound
     
  10. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    Interesting. I tried the test about dark versus light skinned people being good versus bad, and as I would have expected, it said that I have little to no automatic preference between Dark Skin and Light Skin. Considering that I had dark skin paired with good first and then light skin paired with good second (after I was more experienced at categorizing all of the test items quickly), I have to wonder if I would have slightly prefered dark skin if I had done the test in the reverse order. :p

    It showed the overall stats of all test-takers at the end though, and if this thing really is accurate at testing people's subconscious views, that is pretty sad.

    MSTPbound, I do think that motivational songs, recordings, speeches, etc. are very powerful. When you get your MCAT score back, be sure to post an inspirational thread to encourage future students. :)
     
  11. MSTPbound

    MSTPbound student
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    ...(with tremendous anxiety:scared: )... I wish I were nearly as confident in my performance as you seem to be Q. I know that going in I took every measure I thought I could take... but now that it's over, I still can't say for certain that my "best" was enough... I just know that it was my best.

    If the outcome is favorable, I look forward to posting that thread as much as you would want to read it. If not, however...:( :oops:

    Here's to hoping for the best case scenario, for me, and all other test takers who share my concern. :luck: .
     
  12. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    That's all you can do. Now you should start working on your AMCAS essay if you haven't already. It won't be much longer. :)
     
  13. baylormed

    baylormed On the Search

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    There was a report on the news about a high-school girl who replicated a psychological experiment in which children were given two dolls--a black and a white one--and asked which one was good vs bad, and I believe pretty vs. ugly.

    Almost (if not all, I can't remember) the children, including those of dark skin, categorized the black doll as bad/ugly and the blonde one as good/pretty.

    Pretty darn sad.
     
  14. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    There have even been experiments like this done with medical students and practicing physicians. The researchers asked the students and physicians to make judgments about a "patient's" quality of life after watching a video of the patient describing their symptoms. Each video was actually of an actor reciting an identical script. Both the medical students and the physicians were more likely to judge the quality of life to be worse for the black actors versus the white actors, even though the symptoms each actor described were identical. I think there were some flaws with how the studies were designed, but it's still a lot of food for thought.

    Did any of you ever read the book "Black Like Me" by John Howard Griffin? It's a true story. Griffin was a white man who darkened his skin in the late 1950s and travelled around the South passing himself off as a black man. He was the exact same person with the exact same credentials, but other people sure didn't treat him the same way when he had dark skin.
     
  15. mdnsw

    mdnsw Junior Member

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    I'm not a urm and I have to say I am shocked that you can even discuss how your race will affect your score on a totally objective multiple choice exam. Seriously, the computer that grades your exam has no idea what race you are. How stuck in the idea that everything bad that happens to you is due to racism can you be to reach the point that you even blame results on multiple choice exams on race. I don't mean this as a flame. It sounds like someone above is doing well and I hope you do, but doing well or poorly can't be blamed on race.

    When I first read the topic I thought it would be about how you didn't do as well on the MCAT because your goals are lower. Knowing that I needed >30 to get into medical school was a strong incentive to prepare well for the mcat. I thought you were saying that as an urm, knowing you only needed a 23 to get into medical school encouraged you to spend less time preparing since your target score is lower. That would make sense at least. That would be a feasable explanation of one factor contibuting to poor urm mcat performance, but that's not what you have been talking about. Seriously, is any multiple choice exam racist? You couldn't possibly, honestly think so.
     
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  17. chuckles1

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    How do you feel about the stats (besides the fact that they're crappy)?

    They are reflective of the disadvantage created by racism in this country, and other factors.

    Do they figure into your thought process and preparation at all?

    Yes. I think its important to look at statistics and as why, not just what. We all know the numbers are lower. When I figure out the reasons why numbers are lower, I can then decide which of the factors apply to me, determine which factors I can change, and decide how to change them.

    Ex. The financial factor of MCAT preparation courses didnt apply to me as much, as I could afford to take a course. However, cultural factors associated with the choice of verbal passages may well have. In this case, I may need to remain conscious of the fact that many of the passages will be about others and their cultures or interests and not mine, and I will work to analyze these topics more closely.

    If so, how have you dealt with it, or how do you deal now?

    Although the averages are low, don't just settle for a low score. I took the MCAT twice based on the fact that I didnt have enough time to prepare the first time, and I quite frankly didnt realize that people beasted for the MCAT the way that they did. My preprof office was surprised when I said Id be retaking, but I knew that it was the best choice for me giving my preparation.

    Do you have any advice for aspiring URM pre-meds facing similar issues?

    Find a mentor who understands your situation, (or at least partially anyway because we are all different.) Remember that even if they don't consciously want you to fail, many people are programmed to believe that minorities are programmed to acheive less (even we believe this at times) and may not push you to do better if you are already above a minority average or even if you are below one simply because they dont see the possibility. It is up to you to see the possibility.

    Also, people who havent gone through your struggle will never understand it, so dont really worry about people who complain about AA being unfair or underestimate your value. We know our struggles, our strengths, and our beauty.
     
  18. chuckles1

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    Another little thing from one of the posts above:

    Race is not genetic and has nothing to do with your DNA.
    Race is a social construct.
    This social construct can then affect things associated with DNA, such as prevalence of genetic disorders, etc.

    I have seen this misconception stated over and over again and even believed it myself at a time, which I why I am pointing it out. I hope that future physicians can take the time to research and understand this fact, as it will greatly influence the way you think about things.
     
  19. MSTPbound

    MSTPbound student
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    Hello mdnsw,

    I think I understand your confusion, and I don't hold your inability to interpret the issue I present in this thread against you. "Stereotype threat" is a well documented phenomenon that has been shown to adversely affect test performance; if you are unfamiliar with the term, perhaps a search in pubmed or Google might help to clarify any obscurity. My inquiry has nothing to do with "racist exams" nor did I suggest that there should be a direct causal relationship between race and performance. It is rather a question about test-taking psychology; and I don't believe that the 30 I scored on my MCAT had anything to do with my race one way or the other.

    If you need any further clarification about my goals here, feel free to PM me about it. Otherwise, I trust you should find resources that better inform you than I probably could.

    Regards,

    MSTPbound

     
  20. 4paw

    4paw Member

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    I suggest mdnsw take the Harvard test. If they come out neutral, then they can advance such outdated 'neutral' arguments. And when they convince all adcoms to take the test and then analyze the data and it comes out that the whole process is neutral, then the 'neutral' argument will have some weight. Even basic psychology tests talk about i.q. tests and other professional tests, and how social discrimination becomes involved. this is square one. i hate going back to square one.

    By the way, I noticed that Oprah just picked up on that author of "Blink" and the harvard test the other day...
    i'm glad this stuff is getting into the popular media. out of the classrooms, onto the streets!
     
  21. mdnsw

    mdnsw Junior Member

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    I would be interested to know how significant you think stereotype threat is on the MCAT and how much of the performance difference between races can be explained based on stereotype threat.

    Even if a specific study were done with a p value less than 0.05 showing a 95% chance that there is a significant decrease in performance among AAs who check a race box when taking the mcat, I suspect that the difference due to stereotype threat is a very small portion of the total racial difference. Also, it's been a really long time since I took the MCAT, but I'm pretty sure you get a survey including your racial identifier at the END of the test when your performance is past.
     
  22. kjaymay

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    I saw that film of the psychological experiment it really was a slap in the face. Children really do not know any better though. The race boxes I put those in the pile with the employment verification that are only done if you want to and not required. I think it really speaks to owning your race. I used to check them proudly then I didn't after a while I got tired. You need to check them every time. Proudly everytime. Yes you are a person and it will be irritating sometimes but thats with everything. Your human nature has a tendency towards this inconsistency that we have to conquer. I enjoyed reading this especially the list of people some that I never heard of that I saved on my to do list to look up thanks njbmd.

    I'll be back!

     

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