October 19, 2015

Medical School Admissions Offices Have “No Idea” How to Use the New MCAT Score

Rob Humbracht

"We have not figured out what's a competitive MCAT score."

A wonderful, tell-it-as-it-is workshop at the UC Davis Pre Health Conference, led by Dr. Ann-Gel Palermo, an admissions officer from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, contained that gem of a quote above.  It shows that admissions offices are taking a “wait-and-see” approach to the new MCAT.  They’re not sure precisely what the new MCAT measures and how to use it to select a class.

This means a few things for applicants to med school:

  1. If a student has both a new and an old MCAT, Mount Sinai will look more heavily at the old score, since they know for sure what that means.
  2. If a student takes the new MCAT, the admissions office will use the score percentiles to translate it to the old MCAT score.  This is important because it means that - contrary to what AAMC is trying to claim - medical school admissions offices will not use the new scores more liberally.  They’re just converting them to old scores.  We covered this in How to Convert Old MCAT Scores to New (and vice versa).
  3. It means that the Psychology section will be the least important, since it has less research to support what it shows and how it predicts medical school performance.
  4. Until research proves otherwise, medical schools will use the old scores to figure out who’s an academic risk.  According to Dr. Palermo, for example, Sinai will screen out applicants with lower than an 8 on the verbal section, because they represent a risk of not performing well in their clinical assessments.

When the new MCAT was released, I was under the assumption that only in this transitional year, where so many applicants have taken both the old and new MCAT, would medical schools be uncertain about how to use the new MCAT score.  Not so.  As Dr. Palermo said, “We need a few admissions cycles to figure out passing rates, Step 1 Scores, clinical reasoning, etc.”  If we take this on face value, it means that medical schools will continue to translate the new scores to the old scores for several YEARS, not just in this transitional year.

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