How Coronavirus is Changing the MCAT for Summer 2020

You’ve probably heard by now that COVID-19 has shaken up MCAT testing for 2020 in a big way. Are you struggling to adjust your online MCAT prep? Here we’ve compiled a comprehensive walk-through to help you navigate these unprecedented times. 

For starters, if you are contemplating taking the MCAT this summer, there has never been a better time to commit. From when testing centers open again until September 28th, the MCAT will only last 5 hours and 45 minutes, instead of the normal 7 hours and 30 minutes. If you are prone to test-taking fatigue, this will be an added bonus for you. For those already planning on taking the MCAT this summer, we’ve tried answering as many of your questions as possible while also including links for you to do your own digging.

When can I change my test date?

Registration begins May 7th. Most likely this will start early in the morning of May 7th. To maximize your chances of securing the date that you want, create a Twitter (if you don’t have one) and follow the @AAMC_MCAT account on Twitter to get updated on when registration opens. You can also set up push notifications on your device for every time that account makes a tweet, making sure you don’t miss it. This way, you won’t need to frantically refresh your browser from now until May 7th.

What new dates have been added? And how does this affect applying early?

The AAMC has added three new test dates: June 28th, September 27th, and September 28th. These dates will be absolutely free game when registration opens (whereas other dates already have students signed up for slots), so if you are looking for a test date on May 7th, we recommend starting there.

If you are planning on applying this summer to medical school, June 28th will still allow you to get your MCAT score back in time to be considered an early applicant for medical schools as the AAMC has shortened the time to receive your score to only 2 weeks. As many of you are aware, applying early increases your chances of acceptance, and June 28th still will be considered early in the cycle. On top of this, AMCAS has pushed back when they will send the first applications to medical schools back to July 10th, which is 2 weeks after that June 28th test date. The full schedule can be found here, and updates on the AMCAS and application cycle can be found here.

What time of day will I take my test? Will I get to choose my start time or will it be assigned?

Nobody knows yet. However, the AAMC has signaled that more information will be released before May 7th, and their updates have recently been on Friday afternoons. It has been announced that the MCAT will be administered at 3 time slots: 6:30 AM, 12:15 PM, and 6:00 PM. These changes are to ensure social distancing and adequate safety for all examinees. Once your time has been chosen/assigned, we recommend that you start taking all of your practice exams at that specified time to adjust your body and brain to perform at that time of day.

Will the shortened exam have less time per question?

No. You will still be given the same amount of time per question but there will only be fewer questions. Should that cause some feelings of anxiety as each question is now more important? No. There will be the same number of scored questions per section. The AAMC has simply removed the experimental (unscored) passages that they used in previous years to develop new questions for each section. A full outline of the exam can be found here.

How has the test day schedule changed?

One of the hardest aspects of the MCAT is its brutal 7.5-hour length. This has now been greatly reduced! But one downside is that the traditional 30-minute lunch break has been reduced to 10 minutes. Similarly, the 10-15 minute tutorial at the beginning of the exam has been removed or reduced, so it will be important to familiarize yourself with the MCAT format and keyboard shortcuts before taking the test. If you want an in-depth schedule for the new test day, click here

Will the scoring change?

No. The MCAT will still be scored from 472 to 528. It will continue to be equated, scaled and normalized across each day’s tests, so everyone will be affected equally by these changes. You can read more about that process here (note this has not been updated for Coronavirus, and it will only take 2 weeks to receive scores this year).

If you are currently scheduled to take the MCAT on May 29th…

Stay tuned, as the AAMC will make a final decision this week on whether to cancel this test day or not. You will know if this date is cancelled or not before registration opens on May 7th. 

If you are applying this cycle…

Make sure to look at the schools you are interested in as they announce any changes to their application or interview process. There have already been widespread announcements regarding DO applications (AACOMAS), Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS) and the California medical schools. These describe their acceptance of pass/fail grades, how they will treat applications without MCATs, and their encouragement to not delay applying just because an MCAT score is not available. However, it appears students are still expected to take the MCAT this year in order to be accepted.

Individual medical schools could create different policies, especially regarding how they will consider applicants for interview invites and acceptances. If a school has not made an announcement yet or has not addressed all of these topics, check back regularly. Their admissions committee may still be working out the details.

What updates should you watch out for?

  • What time registration will open on May 7th for future MCAT dates.
  • How already-registered students will learn their test times.
  • If the May 29th date gets cancelled or not (expected this week).
  • Further details on MCAT structure, including a breakdown of how many passages and discrete questions sections will have.
  • Further AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS updates regarding system-wide changes in application processes (check frequently).
  • Individual medical schools describing changes in their application, interview, and acceptance policies (check frequently).

Additional Resources From the AAMC:

Summary

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/coronavirus-mcat-faqs/

Timeline

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/mcat-testing-calendar-score-release-dates/ 

New Test Day Format

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/covid-19-changes-mcat-exam-administrations-may-29-/

AMCAS Application Updates

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/coronavirus-covid-19-and-amcas/

Additional Application Resources:

AACOMAS

Osteopathic Medical Schools Adapt Admissions Processes in Response to COVID-19

TMDSAS

https://www.txhes.com/newsroom/updates/tmdsas-covid-impacts-ey21.html

California Medical Schools

https://medschool.ucla.edu/apply/covid-19-impact-on-admissions

If you have any questions at all, please be sure to reach out. I’d love to chat with you about optimizing your MCAT game plan.

Warm regards,

Theo Bennett

Theo Bennett scored a perfect score (528) on the MCAT and has been accepted at Harvard, UPenn, Columbia, UCLA, and other top 10 medical schools across the country. You can learn more and sign up to work with him one-on-one here.

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