If you were one of the (un)lucky ones in the first few waves of the new MCAT test, you are either hopelessly doomed, or you’re one lucky dog!
That’s because there are so many unknowns that all anyone knows is what they don’t.
AAMC, the organization that administers the test, has cautioned medical school adcoms not to put too much weight on the MCAT score, and that precaution applies not just in 2017, but from here to eternity. That’s because the test is considered just one measure among a whole host of other indicators that adcoms can use in their admissions decisions. Equally important is a student’s pack of ECs (extracurriculars) such as community service, grades, grade trends, work in health care settings, shadowing doctors, research, choice of undergraduate institution, and according to AAMC, even his or her “socioeconomic status, race-ethnicity, first-generation college status…cultural competence…”
Whaaaat??? But let’s get back to the question at hand…
How is the new MCAT being scored?
Each of four sections of the new MCAT has a possible 132 points, for a grand total of 528 points on the exam. When AAMC reports your score to your list of selected schools, they’ll reveal:
1. Your individual score (and percentile ranking) on each test section
2. Your overall score (and percentile ranking) on the whole test
3. The “confidence band” for each section, which assigns you a point more or less in each section, indicating the AAMC’s confidence in where you truly fall on the point scale
4. A “profile” that shows where you fall on the scoring continuum for all test sections (see AAMC’s chart below):
50th percentile is not so bad!
Unlike the old (pre-2015) MCAT, the test administrators are recommending that students in the middle of the percentile ranks on the new MCAT could be the superstars. In fact, they’re recommending against adcoms giving too much weight to applicants who get perfect scores! They are making a point of emphasizing the center of the scales, rather than the top third. (That’s 500 on the overall test, 125 per section.) The effect is to bring greater heft to applicants who in the past may have been passed over.
Whether schools will actually hew to this kind of analysis is verrrrry questionable! Will they pass over students who have sweat blood and tears for four years to keep up their stellar grades, for someone sitting right on the 50th percentile line? Will they automatically give greater weight to someone just because he/she shows “perfect mediocrity” in his/her MCAT prowess?
Likely not. But the AAMC is giving the green light to schools to give a little less weight to the MCAT number, and elevate the importance of the ECs, LORs (letters of recommendation), and the ever-weighty personal interview.
New MCAT test values?
In the past, the AAMC had enough experience with individual MCAT tests that they could assign values to each test that might pump up or diminish a student’s grade. That’s because some tests were admittedly harder (or easier), and the altered number was more reflective of the entire universe of tests and test takers.
Since the 2015 new MCAT is still relatively fresh, that kind of finesse is still in its formative stages. So, here are a couple of things you can rely on:
1. The one reference you will have is how you did against others who took the same test. That’s also the one reference the schools you’re targeting will have.
2. With more questions in each new MCAT section, AAMC believes the scores will prove more accurate. (Obviously, an 8 out of 10 score isn’t nearly as accurate as 80 out of 100.)
After two rounds of applicants taking the new MCAT, an increasing confidence is building as numbers begin to fill new percentile rank tables. And that means we’ll all know better what a 483 or a 522 means. By sometime in 2017 there should be more consensus on what a truly “good” score is!
What’s the bottom line?
The bottom line is that you might be a lucky dog to be in the first 2-3 new MCAT waves, but you may not. The fact that you are only being judged against a defined group of test takers who take the test this year could be a good thing, especially if some of your stiffest competitors decided to take it early.
But the utter lack of dependable numbers and trends gives schools very little to go on with scores on the new MCAT over the next couple of years. This is the time to pump up your application in every aspect and let it shine, because it will carry the day if your MCAT doesn’t!