Scoring

Why are there new score scales for the new exam?

The new score scale was developed because:

 

1. The new exam tests different content and skills, requires broader preparation, and asks students to draw upon their knowledge to answer questions using scientific inquiry and reasoning skills—much like they will be asked to do when they are in medical school.

 

2. Professional standards advise that when there are substantial changes to a standardized test, a new score scale is developed.

 

3. The new scale helps highlight applicants with scores in the middle of the scale instead of the top third. It draws attention to those students who might otherwise be overlooked.

 

We understand the desire to look at scores from the new exam and to compare them to the scores from the old exam. Because this is a new exam testing different content and skills, scores from the old and new tests cannot be directly compared. Like admissions officers, it will take time for you to develop meaning for the new scale scores.

 

So what do you tell your students? See the FAQ "How do I help my students understand their scores?"

Why are there new score scales for the new exam?

The new score scale was developed because:

 

1. The new exam tests different content and skills, requires broader preparation, and asks students to draw upon their knowledge to answer questions using scientific inquiry and reasoning skills—much like they will be asked to do when they are in medical school.

 

2. Professional standards advise that when there are substantial changes to a standardized test, a new score scale is developed.

 

3. The new scale helps highlight applicants with scores in the middle of the scale instead of the top third. It draws attention to those students who might otherwise be overlooked.

 

We understand the desire to look at scores from the new exam and to compare them to the scores from the old exam. Because this is a new exam testing different content and skills, scores from the old and new tests cannot be directly compared. Like admissions officers, it will take time for you to develop meaning for the new scale scores.

 

So what do you tell your students? See the FAQ "How do I help my students understand their scores?"

How were the percentile rank tables for the new score scale calculated?

The percentile ranks reported in the 2015 testing year were based on the scores of examinees who tested on April 17 and 18. The AAMC anticipated that these examinees would be atypical of examinees testing exam in a typical year—one that runs from January to September and that is not in the midst of change.

 

Based on the characteristics of examinees, we weighted the scores for April examinees to estimate the distribution of scores for a typical year. These adjustments—which were carefully researched using a wide range of data about past examinees—enabled us to provide examinees with percentile ranks when we released the very first set of scores in June 2015. The same percentile ranks were used for all of the scores reported in the 2015 testing year.

 

View the percentile rank tables for 2015.

How were the percentile rank tables for the new score scale calculated?

The percentile ranks reported in the 2015 testing year were based on the scores of examinees who tested on April 17 and 18. The AAMC anticipated that these examinees would be atypical of examinees testing exam in a typical year—one that runs from January to September and that is not in the midst of change.

 

Based on the characteristics of examinees, we weighted the scores for April examinees to estimate the distribution of scores for a typical year. These adjustments—which were carefully researched using a wide range of data about past examinees—enabled us to provide examinees with percentile ranks when we released the very first set of scores in June 2015. The same percentile ranks were used for all of the scores reported in the 2015 testing year.

 

View the percentile rank tables for 2015.

How do I help my students understand their scores?

You know your students best and understand how the other parts of their application support their MCAT scores. MCAT scores are one component of an application, and historically medical schools use them in different ways. Medical schools are starting to think right now about what the scores mean for their programs. But like with the old exam, different schools will continue to consider different ranges of scores, and continue to use them in holistic review evaluating them in relationship to applicants' grades, experiences, and attributes.

 

The percentiles from the new exam will be the best guide during this transition period.

 

  1. Look at where the student scores compared to others who took the new exam. Evaluate how they scored on the four sections  
  2. The test includes more questions and the scores offer greater reliability. The new score profile provides admissions officers the opportunity to see applicants' strengths and weaknesses across the sections of the exam and what they indicate about an applicant's fit with their programs.  
  3. Look at the data tables in the Medical School Admission Requirements ® (MSAR®) to get a sense of the range of MCAT and GPA percentiles that medical schools historically have used to offer acceptances. These may provide general information about the match between your students' preparation and the medical schools in which they are interested.
     

For more information, see Understanding your MCAT Score Report.

How do I help my students understand their scores?

You know your students best and understand how the other parts of their application support their MCAT scores. MCAT scores are one component of an application, and historically medical schools use them in different ways. Medical schools are starting to think right now about what the scores mean for their programs. But like with the old exam, different schools will continue to consider different ranges of scores, and continue to use them in holistic review evaluating them in relationship to applicants' grades, experiences, and attributes.

 

The percentiles from the new exam will be the best guide during this transition period.

 

  1. Look at where the student scores compared to others who took the new exam. Evaluate how they scored on the four sections  
  2. The test includes more questions and the scores offer greater reliability. The new score profile provides admissions officers the opportunity to see applicants' strengths and weaknesses across the sections of the exam and what they indicate about an applicant's fit with their programs.  
  3. Look at the data tables in the Medical School Admission Requirements ® (MSAR®) to get a sense of the range of MCAT and GPA percentiles that medical schools historically have used to offer acceptances. These may provide general information about the match between your students' preparation and the medical schools in which they are interested.
     

For more information, see Understanding your MCAT Score Report.

Will the percentile ranks be updated each year?

The percentile ranks provided on your students' score reports show the percentages of test takers who received the same scores or lower scores than they did. They show how your students' scores compare to the scores of other examinees.

 

Every year on May 1, the percentile ranks are updated using data from one or more testing years. These annual updates will ensure that the percentile ranks reflect current and stable information about your students' scores. This means that changes in percentile ranks from one year to another reflect meaningful changes in the scores of examinees, rather than year-to-year fluctuations. Updating percentile ranks is consistent with industry practice. You can view the percentile ranks here.

 

The update schedule will be as follows:

  • On May 1, 2016 the percentile ranks were updated to include all exam results from April through September 2015.
  • On May 1, 2017, the percentile ranks will again be updated, this time to include all exam results from the prior two years.
  • On May 1, 2018, the percentile ranks will be updated to include all exam results from the prior three years.
  • After 2018, percentile ranks will include all exam results from the then three most recent years.

 

If you look at your students’ scores in the Score Reporting System after May 1, 2016, you will see these percentile ranks. Please note that the updated percentile ranks are very similar to the percentile ranks in use from April 2015 through April 2016.

Will the percentile ranks be updated each year?

The percentile ranks provided on your students' score reports show the percentages of test takers who received the same scores or lower scores than they did. They show how your students' scores compare to the scores of other examinees.

 

Every year on May 1, the percentile ranks are updated using data from one or more testing years. These annual updates will ensure that the percentile ranks reflect current and stable information about your students' scores. This means that changes in percentile ranks from one year to another reflect meaningful changes in the scores of examinees, rather than year-to-year fluctuations. Updating percentile ranks is consistent with industry practice. You can view the percentile ranks here.

 

The update schedule will be as follows:

  • On May 1, 2016 the percentile ranks were updated to include all exam results from April through September 2015.
  • On May 1, 2017, the percentile ranks will again be updated, this time to include all exam results from the prior two years.
  • On May 1, 2018, the percentile ranks will be updated to include all exam results from the prior three years.
  • After 2018, percentile ranks will include all exam results from the then three most recent years.

 

If you look at your students’ scores in the Score Reporting System after May 1, 2016, you will see these percentile ranks. Please note that the updated percentile ranks are very similar to the percentile ranks in use from April 2015 through April 2016.

How are admissions officers using the new scores?

The AAMC designed new score reports to enhance the interpretability of the new scores. With the improved score reports in hand, the AAMC has pursued a multi-pronged outreach campaign to help medical school admissions committees understand and use the scores from the new exam. This campaign included the development and dissemination of resources and tools about the scoring of the new exam and the use of the reported scores to help admissions committees accurately interpret the meaning of the new scores. It also included presentations at national and regional meetings, focusing on the new content, the new score scales, and the new score reports. The AAMC held a special Professional Development Conference for admissions officers this summer, prior to the opening of the 2016 application cycle. We continue our efforts to provide resources and support during the 2016 application cycle.

 

At this time, medical schools are working with the new scores for the first time, and it will take some time for the scores to gain meaning. We do know that medical schools are looking at the percentile ranks to help them bring meaning to the new scores. We will continue to work with medical schools to learn more about how they are interpreting the new scores.

 

Also, work has begun with committees of admissions officers, medical school faculty, and pre-health advisors to study the use of the new MCAT scores in medical school admissions. The AAMC and the committees will disseminate annual reports of their findings.

How are admissions officers using the new scores?

The AAMC designed new score reports to enhance the interpretability of the new scores. With the improved score reports in hand, the AAMC has pursued a multi-pronged outreach campaign to help medical school admissions committees understand and use the scores from the new exam. This campaign included the development and dissemination of resources and tools about the scoring of the new exam and the use of the reported scores to help admissions committees accurately interpret the meaning of the new scores. It also included presentations at national and regional meetings, focusing on the new content, the new score scales, and the new score reports. The AAMC held a special Professional Development Conference for admissions officers this summer, prior to the opening of the 2016 application cycle. We continue our efforts to provide resources and support during the 2016 application cycle.

 

At this time, medical schools are working with the new scores for the first time, and it will take some time for the scores to gain meaning. We do know that medical schools are looking at the percentile ranks to help them bring meaning to the new scores. We will continue to work with medical schools to learn more about how they are interpreting the new scores.

 

Also, work has begun with committees of admissions officers, medical school faculty, and pre-health advisors to study the use of the new MCAT scores in medical school admissions. The AAMC and the committees will disseminate annual reports of their findings.

Will the new MCAT exam be more useful in determining student success?

The AAMC has been committed to studying how the new MCAT exam will predict future success in medical school and has mounted two validity research studies.

 

The first study was to understand whether the scores from the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section could predict performance in medical school courses that draw on the behavioral and social sciences. This study was conducted with eleven medical schools who administered a prototype version of the exam to more than 2,000 first-year medical students. Early results show that medical students' grades in related coursework correlate well with their performance on the prototype of the exam.

 

For the second study, the AAMC formed a validity committee to study the new exam more generally. This committee includes representatives from 18 medical schools, along with two pre-health advisors. This study will be conducted over the course of many years. The AAMC and the committee will disseminate annual reports of their findings.

Will the new MCAT exam be more useful in determining student success?

The AAMC has been committed to studying how the new MCAT exam will predict future success in medical school and has mounted two validity research studies.

 

The first study was to understand whether the scores from the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section could predict performance in medical school courses that draw on the behavioral and social sciences. This study was conducted with eleven medical schools who administered a prototype version of the exam to more than 2,000 first-year medical students. Early results show that medical students' grades in related coursework correlate well with their performance on the prototype of the exam.

 

For the second study, the AAMC formed a validity committee to study the new exam more generally. This committee includes representatives from 18 medical schools, along with two pre-health advisors. This study will be conducted over the course of many years. The AAMC and the committee will disseminate annual reports of their findings.

General

What was the process for changing the exam?

A comprehensive review of the exam began in 2008 by an expert committee (MR5) made up of medical educators, medical students, pre-health advisors, and admissions officers. The committee held more than 90 outreach events and administered more than 2,700 surveys to gather input on the old exam and the concepts that were most important for entering medical students to know. To read more about the process to change the exam, read "Redesigning the MCAT exam: Balancing Multiple Perspectives."

What was the process for changing the exam?

A comprehensive review of the exam began in 2008 by an expert committee (MR5) made up of medical educators, medical students, pre-health advisors, and admissions officers. The committee held more than 90 outreach events and administered more than 2,700 surveys to gather input on the old exam and the concepts that were most important for entering medical students to know. To read more about the process to change the exam, read "Redesigning the MCAT exam: Balancing Multiple Perspectives."

Why are concepts from biochemistry included in the new exam?

The MR5 Committee added biochemistry concepts based on the results of combined data gathered from the AAMC-HHMI Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians Committee input, survey data from medical school respondents, and input from stakeholders at various outreach events. The data suggest that knowledge of biochemistry fundamentals is increasingly important to the academic success of students entering medical school. The exam covers biochemistry content covered in many first-semester biochemistry courses. The new exam covers the cellular and molecular biology content that is taught in introductory biology sequences.

Why are concepts from biochemistry included in the new exam?

The MR5 Committee added biochemistry concepts based on the results of combined data gathered from the AAMC-HHMI Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians Committee input, survey data from medical school respondents, and input from stakeholders at various outreach events. The data suggest that knowledge of biochemistry fundamentals is increasingly important to the academic success of students entering medical school. The exam covers biochemistry content covered in many first-semester biochemistry courses. The new exam covers the cellular and molecular biology content that is taught in introductory biology sequences.

How does the new exam measure skills in scientific thinking and reasoning, research methods, and statistics?

The new exam measures examinees' ability to reason scientifically and employ the principles of research methodology and statistics. It does this by requiring the application of these skills to solve problems in the natural, social, and behavioral sciences test sections.

Test takers are asked to use the four scientific reasoning skills to demonstrate they can work with the competencies and concepts. Among the research methods and statistics concepts applicants need to demonstrate are basic probability, measures of central tendency, measures of variability, confidence intervals, statistical significance levels, graphical presentation of data, hypothesis formulation, independent and dependent variables, hypothesis testing, and reporting research results. At most colleges and universities, students learn these concepts in introductory biology, chemistry, physics, and biochemistry courses and labs, as well as in introductory psychology and sociology courses.

How does the new exam measure skills in scientific thinking and reasoning, research methods, and statistics?

The new exam measures examinees' ability to reason scientifically and employ the principles of research methodology and statistics. It does this by requiring the application of these skills to solve problems in the natural, social, and behavioral sciences test sections.

Test takers are asked to use the four scientific reasoning skills to demonstrate they can work with the competencies and concepts. Among the research methods and statistics concepts applicants need to demonstrate are basic probability, measures of central tendency, measures of variability, confidence intervals, statistical significance levels, graphical presentation of data, hypothesis formulation, independent and dependent variables, hypothesis testing, and reporting research results. At most colleges and universities, students learn these concepts in introductory biology, chemistry, physics, and biochemistry courses and labs, as well as in introductory psychology and sociology courses.

Will the new MCAT exam be more useful in determining student success?

The AAMC has been committed to studying how the new MCAT exam will predict future success in medical school and has done this through forming two validity studies research.

The first study was to understand whether the scores from the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section could predict performance in medical school courses that draw on the behavioral and social sciences. This study was conducted with eleven medical schools who administered a prototype version of the exam to more than 2,000 first-year medical students. Early results from our validity research show that medical students' grades in related coursework correlate with their performance on the prototype of the exam.

For the second study, the AAMC formed a validity committee to study the new exam. This committee is comprised of 18 medical schools and two pre-health advisors. This study will be conducted over the next 10-15 years. Throughout the course of the study, we will be releasing information.

Will the new MCAT exam be more useful in determining student success?

The AAMC has been committed to studying how the new MCAT exam will predict future success in medical school and has done this through forming two validity studies research.

The first study was to understand whether the scores from the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section could predict performance in medical school courses that draw on the behavioral and social sciences. This study was conducted with eleven medical schools who administered a prototype version of the exam to more than 2,000 first-year medical students. Early results from our validity research show that medical students' grades in related coursework correlate with their performance on the prototype of the exam.

For the second study, the AAMC formed a validity committee to study the new exam. This committee is comprised of 18 medical schools and two pre-health advisors. This study will be conducted over the next 10-15 years. Throughout the course of the study, we will be releasing information.

Why were social and behavioral sciences topics included on the new test?

The development of the new Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior section was a collaborative effort. The section was developed by the MR5 Committee and a working group it appointed. These two groups used multiple methods to determine whether to include a new section of the exam focused on the psychological and social foundations of behavior and to identify the content of such a section. They conducted a review of the literature and considered input from blue-ribbon and advisory panels, such as the Behavioral and Social Sciences Foundations for Future Physicians Committee as well as input from individuals with expertise in the behavioral and social sciences as it relates to medical school curricula and medical practice.

Results from the literature review and input from the blue-ribbon and advisory panels indicated that knowledge of the behavioral and social determinants of health and wellness are becoming more important in medical education and that more medical schools are developing courses that emphasize the behavioral and social determinants of health.  The test emphasizes concepts that tomorrow's doctors need to know in order to serve a more diverse population and to understand the impact of behavior on health and wellness. The new test communicates the need for future physicians to be prepared to deal with the behavioral and social issues of medicine

Why were social and behavioral sciences topics included on the new test?

The development of the new Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior section was a collaborative effort. The section was developed by the MR5 Committee and a working group it appointed. These two groups used multiple methods to determine whether to include a new section of the exam focused on the psychological and social foundations of behavior and to identify the content of such a section. They conducted a review of the literature and considered input from blue-ribbon and advisory panels, such as the Behavioral and Social Sciences Foundations for Future Physicians Committee as well as input from individuals with expertise in the behavioral and social sciences as it relates to medical school curricula and medical practice.

Results from the literature review and input from the blue-ribbon and advisory panels indicated that knowledge of the behavioral and social determinants of health and wellness are becoming more important in medical education and that more medical schools are developing courses that emphasize the behavioral and social determinants of health.  The test emphasizes concepts that tomorrow's doctors need to know in order to serve a more diverse population and to understand the impact of behavior on health and wellness. The new test communicates the need for future physicians to be prepared to deal with the behavioral and social issues of medicine

Does the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section reflect the most recent version (i.e., 5th edition) of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders?

Yes, the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section is written to be consistent with DSM-5. For examinees who may have learned about concepts in psychology using the previous version, DSM-IV, we have provided a resource that helps them understand the changes from DSM-IV to DSM-5 that are relevant to the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section.

Does the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section reflect the most recent version (i.e., 5th edition) of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders?

Yes, the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section is written to be consistent with DSM-5. For examinees who may have learned about concepts in psychology using the previous version, DSM-IV, we have provided a resource that helps them understand the changes from DSM-IV to DSM-5 that are relevant to the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section.

What impact will the new exam have on minority and low-income students?

The AAMC and the review committee for the exam studied this question carefully. For example, in considering the potential impact of adding new test content in psychology, sociology, and biochemistry, the committee compared the course-taking patterns of medical school applicants from different groups and found that they were approximately the same. Similarly, decisions about what to include on the two natural science sections were guided in part by evidence that particular content areas were well covered at minority-serving undergraduate institutions as well as at other schools. The AAMC is planning additional studies on these important topics.

Although we cannot say for certain, our best estimate is that mean differences on the new MCAT exam will not be markedly different than those on the old exam (and on other graduate and professional school exams).

What impact will the new exam have on minority and low-income students?

The AAMC and the review committee for the exam studied this question carefully. For example, in considering the potential impact of adding new test content in psychology, sociology, and biochemistry, the committee compared the course-taking patterns of medical school applicants from different groups and found that they were approximately the same. Similarly, decisions about what to include on the two natural science sections were guided in part by evidence that particular content areas were well covered at minority-serving undergraduate institutions as well as at other schools. The AAMC is planning additional studies on these important topics.

Although we cannot say for certain, our best estimate is that mean differences on the new MCAT exam will not be markedly different than those on the old exam (and on other graduate and professional school exams).

Will the AAMC continue to help prepare students attending under-resourced institutions for the exam?

The AAMC has an ongoing outreach campaign to students, pre-health advisors, and faculty at under-resourced institutions. Through meetings and conferences, webinars, videos, web pages, and publications, we make information easily available. We will continue to offer free and low-cost materials available on our website.

The AAMC has also collaborated with the Khan Academy and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create free, open access video tutorials for the new MCAT exam. Today the collection has more than 800 videos and hundreds of review questions. The collection is available from the Khan Academy and in the Pre-health Collection within iCollaborative. Free instructional resources recommended by undergraduate faculty are also part of this Pre-health Collection.Additionally, the AAMC provides discounts and fee waivers to students who qualify for financial assistance. Learn more about the Fee Assistance Program.

Will the AAMC continue to help prepare students attending under-resourced institutions for the exam?

The AAMC has an ongoing outreach campaign to students, pre-health advisors, and faculty at under-resourced institutions. Through meetings and conferences, webinars, videos, web pages, and publications, we make information easily available. We will continue to offer free and low-cost materials available on our website.

The AAMC has also collaborated with the Khan Academy and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create free, open access video tutorials for the new MCAT exam. Today the collection has more than 800 videos and hundreds of review questions. The collection is available from the Khan Academy and in the Pre-health Collection within iCollaborative. Free instructional resources recommended by undergraduate faculty are also part of this Pre-health Collection.Additionally, the AAMC provides discounts and fee waivers to students who qualify for financial assistance. Learn more about the Fee Assistance Program.

Since the new exam is covering more content, will students need to take more classes to prepare?

Examinees prepare for the MCAT exam using many different strategies, and no one way is best for everyone. One common way to prepare is through coursework. Our research shows that the concepts and skills tested on the new exam are taught at most undergraduate institutions in introductory biology, chemistry, and physics and in first-semester biochemistry, psychology, and sociology. These courses are among many universities' general education or major requirements, and some medical schools currently require them for admission. Future examinees will need to plan their coursework with these or similar courses in mind. While the new exam places increased emphasis on scientific inquiry and reasoning skills, we do not anticipate the need for students to take specific courses in research methods or statistics. Our surveys of undergraduate faculty suggest that the level of statistics and data analysis skills tested by the exam is similar to what students typically use the above mentioned introductory courses.

Since the new exam is covering more content, will students need to take more classes to prepare?

Examinees prepare for the MCAT exam using many different strategies, and no one way is best for everyone. One common way to prepare is through coursework. Our research shows that the concepts and skills tested on the new exam are taught at most undergraduate institutions in introductory biology, chemistry, and physics and in first-semester biochemistry, psychology, and sociology. These courses are among many universities' general education or major requirements, and some medical schools currently require them for admission. Future examinees will need to plan their coursework with these or similar courses in mind. While the new exam places increased emphasis on scientific inquiry and reasoning skills, we do not anticipate the need for students to take specific courses in research methods or statistics. Our surveys of undergraduate faculty suggest that the level of statistics and data analysis skills tested by the exam is similar to what students typically use the above mentioned introductory courses.

When will registration open for June-September exam dates?

Registration will open in February 2016 for the June-September exam dates. Please encourage your students to follow @AAMC_MCAT for updates and announcements.

When will registration open for June-September exam dates?

Registration will open in February 2016 for the June-September exam dates. Please encourage your students to follow @AAMC_MCAT for updates and announcements.