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MCAT, LSAT undergo changes

Published: Friday, September 22, 2006

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 20:07

The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), an exam necessary for those hoping to enter medical school, will soon change to a computerized test, and scores from the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), a test for prospective lawyers, will no longer be averaged together.

The MCAT has been around for 80 years and has undergone multiple changes, but it recently underwent one of the biggest changes in 75 years, said Amjed Mustafa, manager of MCAT programs at kaplan Test Prep and Admissions.

"It will be computerized, and the content will decrease by 30 percent and will turn from an eight-and-a-half hour exam to a five-and-a-half hour exam," Mustafa said.

The first computerized MCAT will be administered on Jan. 27 and registration begins Nov. 14.

Mustafa said the change is proportional when it comes to content and time, but that the biggest challenge for future examinees is anxiety related to computer interface testing.

"They (the examinees) lack familiarity with the computer based testing," Mustafa said. "Students now not only have to learn the science behind the MCAT but also have to learn the testing format on the computer."

Mustafa said operational issues with paper and pencil tests brought the changes.

"It was an administrative hassle," he said. "They were dealing with tests getting lost and security issues. This way they can keep track of your test electronically."

Other changes will be implemented to ensure the examinees' identification, Mustafa said.

"There will be facial identification as well as finger print scanning," he said. "I guess that way you know that the doctor you are going to took the MCAT himself."

Although the new MCAT format may be taxing for future examinees to learn, Mustafa said it would be better. However, more than 50 percent of advisers agree the new format will require more preparation, he said.

Some students might have trouble finding testing facilities near them, because most facilities will be located in bigger cities, Mustafa said, but people can choose morning or afternoon test times from more than 22 dates.

"The good news is students get more of a choice of when they want to take the exam," Mustafa said.

While the LSAT is not becoming computerized, it is also experiencing changes.

In June, the American Bar Association (ABA) voted to no longer require law schools to report an average of multiple tests taken, said Karen Severn, pre-law coordinator for Texas A&M.

"The ABA collects admissions data from Bar schools … now they are required to report only the highest score," she said.

The change will allow extenuating circumstances that might not be considered when law schools weigh applicant ability to be considered, Severn said. It was implemented in the fall of 2006, she said.

Severn said she was concerned students' testing behavior might be affected.

"Most people, after taking it once, don't want to have anything to do with taking it another time," she said. "But now, with the opportunity to take it more than once, students may not be as focused when they take it the first time."

The LSAT takes about six to eight weeks of preparation, but statistics show students who have taken the test multiple times during the past year have not improved their scores more than one or two points, Severn said.

"The change in scoring is more for the students who went in to take the test and they had food poisoning or some other circumstance that could have affected their score," she said.

More students may begin taking the exam multiple times, because there is nothing to lose, Severn said.

"For most applicants, it could be problematic," she said. "But for my students, it won't be, because I have pushed them to take the test earlier in June. They are Aggies, they are prepared."

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