Ronny Reyes, Daily Mail, December 13, 2022
Two woke Ivy League students have called on medical schools to change the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) over claims of racial disparities.
Alessandro Hammond, a Harvard med student, and Cameron Sabet, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student studying ethics in medicine, argued in a Washington Post op-ed piece that white applicants have an unfair advantage through the test.
The duo wrote that the exam ‘clearly favors white applicants who have the wealth and resources to help them achieve competitive scores on the test — and disadvantages those from a lower socioeconomic background.’
They called on the American Association of Medical Colleges to make the MCAT, which carries a $330 fee, a pass-fail exam.
Hammond and Sabet’s criticism of the MCAT comes nearly a month after the American Bar Association elected to scrap admissions test requirements for law schools over similar claims.
While the two Ivy League students noted the MCATs do serve as a way to measure the core competencies of applicants, they said the way the current test works is flawed.
As with the argument against the LSAT, where opponents said expensive fees created a barrier to entry and success on the exam and prep courses, Hammond and Sabet said the disparity was even greater with the MCAT.
‘Well-to-do applicants can gain an edge through books, courses and coaches — and even by retaking the test, which is one of the most expensive standardized tests, at a fee of $330,’ the duo wrote.
The fee is notably higher than the LSAT, which costs $215, and the SAT, which fetches $60.
By changing the exam to a pass-fail test, the students said it would force colleges to better review each applicant rather than putting most of the weight of their decisions on a single test score.
Hammond and Sabet also noted that the average scores of racial groups point to a trend that privilege can often dictate how well an applicant does on the MCAT.
The median MCAT score for white applicants falls on the 83rd percentile, while Hispanic students fall in the 65th percentile. The median score for black students falls on the 61st percentile, and Native American applicants fall on the 58th percentile.
‘Looking at these figures, it’s clear that medical schools understand that minority students meet some threshold of competency even if they achieve lower scores,’ Hammond and Sabet wrote.
The duo ultimately argued that their proposed change to the MCAT would help improve diversity in medicine and trust between doctors and communities of color.
‘Unless the AAMC acts now to eliminate graded standardized testing requirements, the medical community will continue to grapple with the challenges of building trust in minority communities,’ they wrote.
The students’ claims mimicked that of opponents to the LSAT, the equivalent exam law students take to apply to college.
The LSAT, or Law School Admission Test, estimates a prospective students reasoning and reading comprehension, and it serves as a predictor on how they will fair in classes.
Opponents argued that many lower scorers on the LSAT can’t afford exam prep courses and guides, and schools that admit the poor test takers are penalized by ranking lower on the prestigious US News & World Report’s law school ranking system.
The American Bar Association voted to drop the LSAT and other standardized tests as requirements for law school admissions after one of its own panels warned that the exams hurt diversity in the schools.
The ABA’s ruling will take effect in the fall 2025 semester, after a final determination from the association’s House of Delegates in February.
Despite the ABA panel’s vote on Friday, half of 82 law schools in the US recently polled by Kaplan Testing said they would keep the tests, with only four saying they would scrap them.
Jeff Thomas, Kaplan’s executive director of legal programs, said that, with half the schools keeping the requirement no matter what and nearly half unsure of what to do, the ABA’s decision could amount to little.
‘It doesn’t necessarily mean that anything in admissions is actually going to change,’ he said.
The Law School Admissions Council, which administers the LSAT, also warned the ABA that dropping the test admission may not tackle diversity problems, and could ultimately create even more advantages for wealthy applicants.
Kristen Theis-Alvarez, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid at University of California, Berkeley School of Law, echoed these concerns.
‘We believe that removal of the testing requirement could actually increase the very disparities proponents seek to reduce by increasing the influence of bias in the review process,’ she wrote in a submission along with dozens of university officials.
The Berkley School of Law’s opposition to getting rid of the test is notable as it joined Harvard and Yale in withdrawing from the US News ranking list.
Conversations over the testing requirement became heated over the spring, when the lack of diversity in women and people of color in law became widely reported.
In written comments submitted to the ABA in May, a prospective law student named Fariha Amin, said the LSAT remains the primary hurdle for her dream job.
Amin, a full-time worker and mother of a six-year-old boy, noted that, despite taking tutoring courses, her scores were still not enough for law schools to admit her.
‘I would hate to give up on my dream of becoming a family lawyer, just due to not being able to successfully handle this test,’ she wrote.