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MCAT glitch irks students

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Monday, February 12, 2007

A computer glitch on the Medical College Admission Test has caused some test-takers to choose between canceling their scores and accepting possibly lower ones.

On Jan. 27, the MCAT – required for students seeking admission to medical schools – was administered electronically for the first time. An error in the verbal reasoning section affected 787 of the 2,378 test-takers. Those examinees faced questions about songbirds after reading a passage about robotic fish.

The Association of American Medical Colleges, which runs the MCAT, has said it “will be able to provide valid scores” despite the glitch but has not explained how the tests will be scored. The AAMC will allow affected test-takers to cancel their scores and receive a full refund, in a departure from regular policy. Typically, students can only cancel the MCAT on the day of the test. Test-takers affected by the January glitch can cancel their scores up to Feb. 15, and the test will not be counted against the annual limit of three exams.

Daniel Sonshine ’07, who encountered the error on his exam, said he thinks his performance may have been hurt by the mistake. He later received a letter from the AAMC assuring him his test would be accurately graded and informing him of the cancellation option. Sonshine, who said he spent hundreds of hours preparing for the exam, wrote a complaint to the AAMC about the situation but decided not to cancel his score. Still, Sonshine is upset with the AAMC. “How hard would it be to write an apology?” he asked.

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