Yes, I said it. The MCAT is a biased test! According to the AAMC, the average MCAT score for White students in 2009-2011 was ~27, for Hispanic students ~24, and Black students ~20. Why is that? Are the minority races dumber? Was Adolph Hitler right in calling certain races inferior? I don’t think so. I simply think the MCAT system is biased.
It is biased for several reasons that lead to underrepresented students scoring lower than average. First of all, simple things such as the passages used for questioning are biased. If I am being questioned on basketball, but have never played basketball, I would probably struggle more on maintaining interest, understanding passage concepts, and answering questions than Michael Jordan would. Generalizing this specific example demonstrates how tests that are text intense can favor one group depending on the passage at hand.
A second and perhaps more obvious bias in the MCAT system is the ability to take preparatory courses. I have no hard data on this, but I suspect that fewer minorities can afford to take courses such as Kaplan and Princeton Review which have been shown to significantly improve test performance. It would be interesting to see the results of a study which compared MCAT scores by race of people who went to the same College and took the same preparatory courses. My suspicion is that the difference in average scores would be less.
So, how do I know the MCAT is biased? First of all, it does not take a Rocket Scientist to understand the basic concepts explained above. Second, let’s just say I’ve heard it from the designer’s mouth! Two years ago, I had the chance to chat with the gentleman (who has since died in his elder days) who was charged with designing the MCAT. This man was an educator and editor of Encyclopedia Americana as well. When I asked him if he thought the MCAT was biased, he didn’t hesitate to say that it was. But what he said next is what really caught my attention and what I think most people need to understand. SO WHAT IF IT’S BIASED!!! Almost everything we do in life is biased to some extent.
After having a lovely discussion with this gentleman on a couple occasions, I came to understand his point. In order to do something effectively in a culture, you must understand the ways of that culture. Medicine is a culture!! We have our own language; we carry ourselves in certain manners, and expect a certain level of competence from our colleagues. So, if you want to be a Medical Doctor, the biased MCAT excuse will NOT get you in the door. You are expected to work alongside professionals who are the ones writing the questions for the MCAT, USMLE, and National Board Exams.
So, I know the MCAT is biased but….SO WHAT!!! Deal with it. I am not saying that the score gap will narrow, I am simply saying you cannot go into the test using this an excuse not to perform well. In the end, you need to be the best all-around candidate you can be, and a good MCAT score is part of that. Ponder That!