MCAT Validity Research
The AAMC maintains an ongoing program of research to evaluate the fairness, use, and predictive validity of the MCAT exam.
Among the research being conducted is a 10-year longitudinal research study to examine the current version of the MCAT exam. The MCAT exam assesses applicants’ problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles that are important to being ready for today’s medical school.
Below is information about the MCAT validity research program and recent findings.
MCAT Validity Committee
The AAMC’s MCAT Validity Committee (MVC) is a group of educators, admissions officers, researchers, and pre-health advisors from medical schools and undergraduate institutions in the U.S. and Canada evaluating the MCAT exam. The MVC meets regularly to review research progress, discuss findings to date, and make decisions on research plans and results dissemination.
The institutions and committee members are shown below. Also shown below are the institutions and members of the MCAT Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (PSBB) committee, which oversaw research prior to the launch of the new exam on the newly added test section.
Diversity, Fairness, and Academic Preparation
Research on diversity, fairness, and academic preparation aims to understand the examinees’ demographic characteristics, test preparation, test-taking behavior, and test scores in years before and after the introduction of the new MCAT exam. Results are used to inform and guide the AAMC's development and dissemination of free and low-cost test preparation information and resources to all aspirants, especially those who are educationally- and socioeconomically-disadvantaged.
- Diversity of aspiring physicians - Is the demographic diversity of individuals who take the new MCAT exam the same as or greater than those who took the old MCAT exam?
- Fairness in predicting success - Will scores from the new exam predict academic performance equally well for students from different sociodemographic backgrounds?
- Increased breadth of academic preparation - Will more individuals learn about psychology, sociology, and biochemistry in preparation for the MCAT exam? Will more individuals with coursework outside of the natural sciences (e.g., ethics, social justice, humanities, behavioral and social sciences) apply to medical school?
Admission Decision Making
Research on admissions decision making aims to understand how admissions officers and their committees use the new MCAT scores in the admissions process.
Results are used to develop resources to ensure that admissions officers and their committees can use MCAT scores in good and balanced ways in medical school admissions.
- Acceptance of applicants with moderate scores - Will medical schools increase the percentage of applicants with total scores in the middle of the MCAT score scale who are invited to interview?
- Use of section scores - Will admissions committees use information about applicants’ strengths and weaknesses from the new MCAT score reports to identify applicants who best fit their academic missions and goals?
Predicting Academic Performance
Research on predicting academic performance aims to understand how well medical students’ MCAT scores predict their academic performance at different stages of their undergraduate medical education.
Results provide evidence about how well scores on the new MCAT exam predict medical students’ academic performance at different stages of their undergraduate medical education and can help admissions officers and their committees make good use of MCAT scores and other application information in admissions decisions.
- Comparing predictive validity of the old and new exams - Do scores from the new exam correlate with the academic performance throughout medical school as well as or better than scores from the old exam?
- Examining the predictive validity of the newest test section - Will scores from the PSBB section correlate with performance in medical school courses that call on the behavioral and social sciences better than other sections of the exam?
- Comparing the predictive validity of the new exam to other predictors - Do scores from the new exam add value to the academic information applicants already provide about themselves through applications?
The MCAT Validity Research will span approximately 10 years (from 2014 to 2023). The timeline for the study will support the evaluation of the new MCAT exam from its introduction to examinees in 2015, to the first use of MCAT scores in selecting students for the 2016 entering class, to the performance of these entering students, as well as students entering in 2017, from entry through graduation. Each year at LSL we will present findings when they first become available.
- 2017 - Medical School Admissions: Survey (Impact of new exam on admissions decision making) / Medical Student: Outcomes (Association of MCAT scores with performance in 1st year of medical school)
- 2018 - Medical Student: Outcomes (Association of MCAT scores with performance in 2nd year of medical school)
- 2019 - Medical Student: Outcome (Association of MCAT scores with USMLE Step 1)
- 2020 - Medical Student: Outcomes (Association of MCAT scores with clerkship performance)
- 2021 - Medical Student: Outcomes (Association of MCAT scores with USMLE Step 2 CK, Step 2 CS, Graduation)
MCAT Validity Publications
MCAT Validity Data Report 2019
Read the latest findings on how well MCAT scores and other academic metrics predict students’ performance across their pre-clerkship courses, progression to the third year of medical school, and performance on the USMLE Step 1 exam.
Academic Medicine collection (2019)
Read research articles published by the AAMC MCAT Validity Committee, which describes their work to evaluate the new exam.
- Sein Swan A, Cuffney F, Clinchot D. How to Help Students Strategically Prepare for the MCAT Exam and Learn Foundational Knowledge Needed for Medical School. [published ahead of print September 24, 2019]. Acad Med. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003000.
- Busche K, Elks ML, Hanson JT, Jackson-Williams L, Manuel RS, Parsons WL, Wofsy D, Yuan K. The Validity of Scores from the New MCAT Exam in Predicting Student Performance: Results from a Multisite Study. [published ahead of print August 13, 2019]. Acad Med. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002942.
- Girotti JA, Chanatry JA, Clinchot DM, McClure SC, Swan Sein A, Walker IW, Searcy CA. Investigating Group Differences in Examinees’ Preparation for and Performance on the New MCAT Exam. [published ahead of print August 13, 2019]. Acad Med. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002940.
- Terregino CA, Saguil A, Price-Johnson T, Anachebe NF, Goodell K. The Diversity and Success of Medical School Applicants with Scores in the Middle Third of the MCAT Score Scale. [published ahead of print August 13, 2019]. Acad Med. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002941.
- Lucey CR, Saguil A. The Consequences of Structural Racism on MCAT Scores and Medical School Admissions: The Past is Prologue. [published ahead of print August 13, 2019]. Acad Med. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002939.
Academic Medicine collection (2013) (PDF)
This collection of articles describes the research that supports the design of the new MCAT exam launched in 2015.
MCAT Validity Research (PDF)
This resource describes the MCAT validity research agenda to evaluate the fairness, use, impact, and predictive validity of the new MCAT exam. It includes a comprehensive overview of the research agenda, objectives, timeline for data collection and release, and ways you and your committee can stay up-to-date.
Validity Research on the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior Section (PDF)
Annotated Bibliography of MCAT® Research
The bibliography presents a list of publications and presentations about research on the MCAT® exam since 1987. Among the areas explored are the relationship between performance on the test and performance at difference stages of medical education, test validity, reliability and equating issues, medical college selection procedures, and issues related to acceptance to medical school.