I recently concluded my application cycle with an acceptance, and I’ve been catching up on the news regarding medical school admissions. Admittedly, I’m disappointed. Also shocked by how much can happen while being occupied. It kind of felt like Neo getting out of his “bubble.”
Simply put, the MCAT is still important and should remain so, at least until other forms of assessment, such as the Situational Judgment Test, are refined enough (which could take another two application cycles) to take its place.
Let’s assume that medical schools completely abandon the MCAT as a factor when evaluating candidates. There are reasons to do it, as stated by Alessandro and Cameron. But what happens next? Where do we go from here? The whole point of requiring applicants to take a standardized exam is to place them on a level playing field regardless of whether they attended an Ivy-league institution or a “hidden Ivy.” Taking out the MCAT would practically disregard the context behind various GPAs, value the reputation of an undergraduate institution, and pathetically prioritize extracurricular activities associated with big names more than those associated with unfamiliar ones. Would we compare academic honors and recognition awards much more critically, and awkwardly praise some of the most unattainable ones even if they don’t integrate smoothly with an applicant’s narrative?
My goodness, we’re collectively acting on the unspoken mission to increase representation at this moment! Everyone has their reasons for attending specific colleges, and lowering student debt is just the beginning. I understand that we should no longer become distant, unrelatable physicians. The intangibles are valuable, but let’s not expect applicants to overemphasize them in this hypercompetitive process. The MCAT is just an exam that we might as well use to distinguish ourselves as some sort of badge rather than taking numerous medical/non-medical trips across the world in an infeasible fashion, similar to how the preclinicals are being treated.
My hope is that the Situational Judgment Test and other related exams like Casper become suitable to replace the MCAT, as many would hope. If there was a way to truly validate the efforts concerning the intangibles by investing in extracurricular activities conducive to an applicant’s socioeconomic and racial background, then that would be fantastic.
For now, we remain in this transition period, and future applicants may need to continue using the extracurriculars section of their application to demonstrate the competency requirements listed by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Do not disregard the Medical College Admissions Test just yet.
James Goldchild is a premedical intern.