computer based MCAT- anyone else shocked?

Fellow OPM’s
This is mainly addressed to those brave souls who, like me, sat for the computer based test this past Saturday. It should also serve as a heads-up for anyone considering taking the CBT in August 2006.
I woke up on Friday morning with a funny feeling that the software I had been practicing with (AAMC online practice tests) might not really be the same format as what they use in the Prometric Testing Center.
After many phone calls, oblique answers and generally getting the runaround, I found out that I was right… none of the software functions I had come to rely upon (highlighting, strikeout) would be available on Saturday. So I spent most of what was supposed to be my relax-and-focus day cramming in extra practice tests under the new conditions (grrr). I am currently debating whether to register a complaint over what I feel basically amounts to product misrepresentation, since what I “bought into” was in fact a version of the test that won’t really exist until 2007. I do not relish paying for the privilege of being a lab rat for their beta version of the software and putting it on my permanent record to boot. But overall I am utterly overjoyed to be done with it and looking forward to the summer! I’m somewhat reluctant to file a grievance for fear of raising a “red flag” on my AAMC file somewhere. Everything else about the test was fine (I thought the conditions were more calm and controlled than they would have been for paper test, and content was manageable), but I’d like to hear from anyone else who took the CBT as to whether you take issue with this software discrepancy or feel that it may have had an effect on your performance. RMG, Dr. 2B

I did not take the test, and I’ve yet to take the MCAT. That said, I was able to speak with the Director of my school’s pre-health advising program earlier today, and this was one thing we covered.
What he primarily noted to me was that the VR section was different. Rather than being reading and understanding a passage, he said that there were a number of short videos of situations - trainings, intubations, ethical discussions, etc - and that test-takers were asked to analyze pertinent aspects of them : “Why did the Resident have trouble intubating?” “How do you feel about the ethics of that decision with regards to the client’s care?”.

Thats a joke right pi?

I hopw its a joke!

He did specify that it wasn’t everything that had changed to this format, but rather, it was an addition/change that jumped out at his students who took it.
I believe it was a beta test of sorts for the new MCAT and may not even show up on the official ones. Again, I also have very limited perspective on this, and it’s 2nd-3rd hand information, so please take all this with a grain of salt.
But yeah… what I described is the impression that I got from him, and I wanted to give a heads up. When I follow up, I’ll see if I can find out more.

Woah…well I definitely didn’t have that (video-based “passages”). I must admit it sounds more relevant to the types of skills one would hope to cultivate in a future physician, but totally off the board in terms of what one typically trains/studies for (traditional MCAT format)!
RMG, Dr. 2B

Re: clinical videos

Just got confirmation that at least some of the pilot/beta/test MCAT runs had these. I don’t know whether it will necessarily be part of the final version of the computer-based exam. What was indicated to me is that they saw some tests, they seemed well received, and they may replace some but not all of the VR section.

Has anyone else come across other information on this?

Hi there,

The problems that have been described by the beta testers were similiar to those that happened when USMLE went from paper to computer-based. During the first year, everyone screamed and yelled that they were “lab rats” for an untested system. Now, you do not have a choice as there are no paper-based USMLE exams in the United States. All three steps are on computer.

Actually, the computer-based MCAT has been tested and has checked out. The software is ready to go and the change-over will be implemented after the August MCAT. At this point, I have no information on what the final sections of the computer-based exam will contain. These will be discussed in detail when the brochures and CDs go out for the first round of computer testing.

I would caution anyone who is taking the August MCAT to not take the exam if you are not thoroughly prepared because you want to “avoid” the computer-based MCAT. This is not a good enough reason to take a test that you have not fully prepared yourself for.

The computer is the medium for USMLE and COMLEX testing for you in your future medical career. I am hoping that the ABSITE (American Board of Surgery In-traing Exam) will also go to computer so that I am not wasting the last Saturday in January every year on sitting there for five hours freezing. It would also allow those of us who have had to take this exam post call (three out of the four years for me), to take the exam after we have had some sleep.

To those who were beta testers, if you found that the software was so non-functional that you had difficulty with the test, then you need to petition the testing agency as soon as possible to re-take the exam and not wait for your scores to do this.

Good luck everyone!


As is usually the case, Nat is right on the money. Computer based proficiency testing is te way of the future. So, you might as well take the plunge now. Eventually, all board exams will be this way. There is even chatter about changing the anesthesia boards to this format.

Furthermore, CBT records keeping for residencies is also in the pipeline. This will entail changing residency training & determination of completion from a calendar-based model to a competency-based paradigm. That means, you complete or “graduate” from you residency when you are deemed “competent” - that could be longer or shorter than the calendar determined length of programs today & based upon individual performances.

Of course, the former scenario is much more immediately on the horizon, but do not be surprised if some of you who are not so far along encounter these very things in the course of your medical education & training.

I took the GRE on the computer, and while it was an adaptive style test, I still enjoyed it better than the one I took on paper. I scored higher, too, on the computer.

Since I adapt educational and employment activities to computer use every day, I much rather prefer taking a test on a computer.

I’m looking forward to my April or May 2007 test date, although I’ll be nervous until then!