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Volume 72, Issue 84, Friday, February 2, 2007


MCAT gets new electronic format

Some test takers see glitches with computerized exam; 
officials encourage students to report problems

The Daily Cougar

The traditional paper-and-pencil format is no longer an option for students interested in taking the Medical College Admissions Test.

Starting January 2007, test takers will begin taking the exam via computer.

The change, announced by the Association of American Medical Colleges in 2004, was largely an administrative decision. Officials believe the new method will be more efficient than the old one, which used test and essay booklets and scantrons.

As a result of the change, the MCAT will be available to students for 19 annual testing dates -- a significant increase from the two dates per year previously available.

Along with more testing dates, the MCAT will also contain fewer test questions, shortening the test day to five-and-a-half hours from eight.

"There are a third fewer questions on the new MCAT -- 70 fewer questions,"Jeffrey Meanza, director of graduate programs for the Princeton Review, said.

The convenience in availability and new test format are a welcome change for pre-med students.

"I'm happy that it's changing to computerized form," biology junior Nancy Vanaphan said.

The new computerized format allows for score reporting to be cut down to 30 days from 60 days. The AAMC hopes to read its goal of sending students their scores in 15 days by 2008.

Although the MCAT is shorter and requires less time to administer, "the content is the same," Meanza said. 

The amount of time for students to prepare for the exam is a recommended minimum of 300 hours.

The registration fee for the MCAT remains at last year's price of $210, though it is possible that the cost may go up next year, Meanza said, though nothing official has been announced by the AAMC.

The new format has already run into some trouble after being in use for a month. The New York Times reported Tuesday that test takers had problems with some questions on the verbal reasoning part of the exam.

Officials at Thomson Prometric, the company that administers the test, did not comment on the error.

Meanza said complications are to be expected after such a big change and will be dealt with by the AAMC.

"As with any major overhaul of a test, problems arise," Meanza said. "I would strongly urge students ... who encounter problems in the future to contact AAMC directly. Students need to be proactive and make sure that testing companies know when such problems occur."

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