MCAT goes digital

By By Natalie Hale

By Natalie Hale

The days of taking the MCAT with paper and pencil are in the past, because next year, the test is going digital.

Beginning in January 2007, the Medical College Admissions Test will only be available at Thomson Prometric computer-based testing sites. Utah currently has four sites, including one at the U.

A study conducted by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions involving 3,000 students preparing for the MCAT found that 80 percent of the students had never taken a higher-level college exam on a computer.

Many of the students also expressed concerns about the exam’s new computer format.

“I think that taking the MCAT on computers will be more difficult for students, but that it is only a matter of time before it will be just as acceptable,” said Zoe Amos, a third-year medical student.

Issues with the familiarity of the format-such as highlighting, right-and-left click buttons’ functions and skipping problems momentarily-are among students’ primary concerns, according to the Kaplan study.

There are advantages to the new format of the exam, said Marilyn Hoffman, coordinator for pre-professional advising.

“My concern for students preparing to take the MCAT is that they know to register early for the exam date they want,” Hoffman said. “Registration takes place six months prior to the testing date, and I would recommend that students register at least two months in advance to make sure they will be able to get a seat for the date they want at the testing center.”

The new computer format of the exam will allow it to be administered 22 times per year, a significant increase from the traditional two times a year.

The new format will also decrease the exam’s time from eight-and-a-half hours to five-and-a-half hours.

The Thompson Prometric Testing Center is climate- and sound-controlled, equipped with ergonomic chairs, leading-edge technology and guest lockers for exam-takers.

The computerized MCAT will also halve the time it takes students to receive their results, providing scores within 30 days instead of the traditional 60, with the possibility that the time could eventually be reduced to 15 days.

The MCAT is joining a league of other higher-education exams already taken on computers-including the Graduate Record Exam, the Graduate Management Admission Test and the Dental Admissions Test-but will still be the longest test administered.