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FAQs: The MCAT Exam and COVID-19

July 31, 2020

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Read answers to frequently asked questions about the temporary changes to the MCAT exam during COVID-19 and on topics related to using MCAT scores from the shortened version of the exam.

Test Delivery

Will there be enough testing appointments to test everyone who wants to take the MCAT exam in 2020?

There will be 21 exam dates held between May and September of this year. We added three new dates (June 28, September 27, September 28) and will offer three test appointments on each of the 21 dates. Exam appointments will start at 6:30 a.m., 12:15p.m., and 6:00 p.m. (local time). These new dates and test appointments will support delivery of about 1.5 times the number of testing appointments we have in a typical year, adding enough capacity to make up for canceled exams, meet social distancing requirements, and provide flexibility in locations with longer stay-at-home requirements. Paired with expedited score reporting for exams held from June 19 to September 28, this plan was designed to help offset the regional effects and possible resurgences of COVID-19.

Rescheduling fees have been waived so that students can change their reservations if they have heath concerns or their local health and safety advisories change.

How will test centers help examinees be safe?

Test centers will follow multiple health and safety measures, including: 

  • Require that examinees acknowledge that they meet current health requirements and will follow health and safety guidelines while testing.
  • Social distancing: examinees will be seated six feet (2 meters) apart in the test center.
  • Examinees will be required to wear masks and will be allowed to wear gloves in the test centers.
  • Hand sanitizer and tissueswill be available.
  • Enhanced disinfecting practices will occur at all test centers.

Social distancing practices will be in effect throughout 2020 and longer as needed.

We encourage you to learn more more about the health and safety protocols in place at MCAT test centers.

How is AAMC helping students manage their testing plans during the pandemic?

The AAMC is committed to supporting examinees throughout the MCAT testing and application process. To do this, we have:

  • Waived all MCAT rescheduling and cancellation fees so examinees can adjust their test dates to accommodate preparation and health and safety needs.
  • Extended all subscriptions to MCAT preparation products through the end of the year so that students with adjusted test dates can continue preparing for the exam. Visit www.aamc.org/mcatprep.
  • Expanded eligibility guidelines for the AAMC Fee Assistance Program to help more students with financial need qualify for benefits. Visit www.aamc.org/fap.
  • Updated medical school admissions policies with COVID-19 information on MSAR. No subscription is required to access this content. Visit www.aamc.org/msar.

Will the test dates and test appointment times be the same for exams administered in Canada?

The new June 28, September 27, and September 28 dates also appear on the Canadian testing calendar. There will be three testing sessions a day on all Canadian dates, with standard start times at 6:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m., and 6:00 p.m.

Why can’t students who were rescheduled to September 30 test on earlier dates?

They can. The registrations of students with test appointments on dates that were canceled for COVID-19, were placed in ”hold” status. The September 30 date was used as a placeholder for the holding status, though exams will not take place on this date. As of May 7, students with reservations in the “hold” status are able to reschedule their exams.

Will 2020 applicants with conditional acceptances get priority in registering for the early test dates?

No. Unfortunately, the AAMC doesn’t have mechanisms for giving registration priority to individual students. The June dates (5, 19, 20, 27, and 28) are intended to provide flexibility to those students to register and report their scores to schools where they hold conditional acceptances.

How will students be notified if their exams are cancelled in response to stay-at-home advisories?

Examinees will receive cancellation notices from the AAMC or Pearson VUE by email if their test centers are closed. Information about canceled dates will also appear on the AAMC’s website and will be shared on the AAMC’s social media channels. 


Shortened Exam

Why is the AAMC shortening the length of the MCAT exam?

Due to concerns about student safety and in response to stay-at-home and other orders from local and state health authorities, the AAMC canceled eight test dates in 2020 between March 27 to May 21. When testing resumed on May 29, stay-at-home and social-distancing protections reduced the number of examinees by 50 percent who can test at any given time. The AAMC added test dates and test appointments to make up for these canceled dates and to give ample flexibility to examinees to schedule their exams. To provide enough appointments to make up for the canceled dates and to create flexibility for students in continued hotspots due to the pandemic, we are administering the test more than once per day. To do so, the AAMC temporarily shortened the length of the test appointments to 5 hours and 45 minutes to allow multiple administrations each day, with exams starting at 6:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m., and 6:00 p.m.

How is the AAMC shortening the length of the MCAT exam?

The number of scored questions remains the same. Other elements of the exam have been reduced or removed to shorten the seated time, such as the tutorial and end-of-day survey.

Access the new test day schedule.

How will AAMC help students familiarize themselves with the functionality of the exam without the test-day tutorial?

The AAMC has an interactive tool on the MCAT Test Prep Hub that allows students to practice with the exam’s functionality, such as strike-out and highlight, and become familiar with the hot keys. This tool is available for free and has been shared with students on social media and through other channels.

Will scores from the shorter exam be different than scores from the standard-length exam?

The number of scored questions remains the same on the shortened exam. Students will receive the same section and total scores on the shortened exam as on the full-length exam. Scores will have the same precision and be reported with the same confidence bands as test scores from the longer exam.

Will the scores reported in two weeks have the same accuracy as scores reported in four weeks?

The number of scored questions remains the same in the shortened exam. Students will receive the same section and total scores on the shortened exam as on the full-length exam. Scores will have the same precision and be reported with the same confidence bands as test scores from the longer exam. 

Will the AAMC shorten its practice tests to match the length of the shortened exam?

The AAMC practice tests have not been shortened to match the length of the shortened exam. However, the full-length practice exams and shortened test provide about the same time per question. The AAMC’s practice products will help students with pacing on the shortened exam, and the additional questions provide more practice and review opportunities. 


Expedited Scoring

For which test dates will scores be reported in two weeks rather than four?

Scores will be reported in two weeks rather than the typical four weeks for exams held from June 19 to September 28 so that applicants’ scores will be reported more quickly to you. Updates on the numbers and percentages of applications that include MCAT scores will be regularly reported to medical schools throughout the 2021 cycle. Reporting scores in two weeks is a temporary measure in place to minimize the disruption of COVID-19 on the 2021 application cycle. After this year, scores will be reported on a normal turnaround time of approximately 30 days.


Score Use

How can we use scores from the 2020 exam in 2021 student selection?

The key to 2021 selection is flexibility. You will undoubtedly receive MCAT scores later than usual for some of your applicants. It will be more important than ever to use your existing holistic review practices to consider students’ experiences, attributes, and opportunities to learn. Some of your 2021 applicants have had disrupted learning, finished their semesters at home and online, faced uncertainty in what these changes mean for the competitiveness of their applications, and faced multiple disruptions in preparing for the MCAT exam. These and other challenges provide important context for the MCAT scores applicants submit.

When will admissions committee members receive the guide to Using MCAT Scores in 2021 Student Selection?

The  Using MCAT Data in 2021 Medical Student Selection guide is now available. This guide presents information about how to interpret and use MCAT scores in the context of holistic review. 


MCAT Testing Plans for 2021

Will students be able to take the shorter exam next year?

The AAMC will only administer a shorter MCAT exam in 2020 (May 29 – September 28). The full-length exam will be administered again starting in January 2021. The full-length exam was carefully designed to enable examinees to demonstrate what they know and to use their knowledge to solve scientific problems. Although the exam length was reduced to redress a highly unusual situation, every component of the full-length exam contributes to equitable examinee experiences and our ability to maintain the quality of the scores over time. 

Why is providing a tutorial at the start of the exam important?

The tutorial at the beginning of the exam helps all examinees so they can practice with the features like strike-through, highlighting, and navigation. This is especially important for those who may not have ready access to a computer or the Internet when preparing to take the exam.

Why is the satisfaction survey at the end of the test day important?

The survey at the end of the exam provides important information about the quality of the test administration experience and the test questions that examinees answered, and we will reintroduce the end-of-day survey in 2021. The AAMC studies every survey response carefully to help us continually improve the exam. More than 90% of examinees take the time to complete this brief survey, and it’s an invaluable source of information.

Will the AAMC offer remote online proctored administrations?

The AAMC’s goal is to make the MCAT exam available to every individual who wants to take it. The revised 2020 MCAT testing plan provides 50% more testing appointments than available in a typical year so examinees have the flexibility to decide if, when, and where they want to test.  In developing the revised MCAT Testing Plan, the AAMC carefully considered an online, remote-proctored administration of the exam. Ultimately, that method raises great concerns regarding fairness and test integrity issues. Specifically: 

  • Online-proctored testing disadvantages some examinees (especially individuals with inadequate technology resources or insufficient internet speed, individuals living in shared spaces, and individuals who require special testing accommodations). 
  • Online-proctored testing introduces risk for technology problems that become a burden on examinees to resolve. We are aware of other major standardized tests where connectivity and technological problems have occurred this year, according to news reports.
  • Online-proctored tests cannot yet replicate security measures that ensure the fairness and validity of the exam. Center-based testing is more secure. 
  • Operationally, the proctoring community isn’t yet ready to successfully administer an exam like the MCAT.  

We believe that for now, delivering the exam in Pearson VUE professional testing centers under strict health and safety protections to a small number of examinees at each test center remains the best way to ensure access to the MCAT exam.

Will you expedite scores next year?

Reporting scores in two weeks is a temporary measure in place to minimize the disruption of COVID-19 on the 2021 application cycle. After this year, scores will be reported on a normal turnaround time of approximately 30 days.

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