Video 14: Role in Admissions

How are MCAT scores used in the admissions process? In this video we’ll talk about:

  • An overview of admissions
  • Some insights that are key for approaching this section

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Video Transcription:

Hey everyone! It’s Radhika here again. In today’s video we are going to talk about the role of your MCAT score in regards to admission cycles. So we’ve talked about the MCAT extensively up until now, but in order to know how you should be gearing your practice and your studying, you should know what kind of role the actual score you get on test day will play in regards to when you’re applying to the Canadian, and even the American schools. All right, let’s get started!

The first thing I want to talk to you about today is the type of ways that your score is going to be used. Essentially there are four ways that your score may be utilized in a single admission cycle. So here they are: the first is as a cutoff. This refers to the fact that there is a minimum score, which makes you considered as an applicant to a certain medical school. For example, the University of Western Ontario uses a cutoff criteria. If you go to their website and you go to the “Perspective Students” on the medical education page, what you’ll see is that the University of Western Ontario, the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, has published scores that they deem as to be the minimum in order to be considered as an applicant to that school. If you do not make that criteria, unfortunately, your application doesn’t get considered. So the cutoff is one of those ways.

Another way is as a flag. Now a flag on your file, on your application file, identifies you as a weaker or a stronger candidate. So if you did extremely well in one of the sections that the school takes a lot of pride in, or if you did really well in all of the sections, then your file is flagged very positively. Now, if you didn’t do well in one of the sections, despite having done well in all the other sections, then that kind of puts a red or a negative flag on your file.

The third way that some of these schools may use your MCAT score is a direct criteria. This is more so specifically when they use your MCAT score as a percentage of their overall evaluation criteria, either before the interview or after the interview. If they use it before the interview, that’s to decide if: “Hey, do we want to give this applicant an interview?” If they use direct criteria after the interview, that’s more along the lines of: “Now that we’ve interviewed this candidate, do we want to give them admission to our school?”

And the last way is as a tiebreaker. This is when medical schools evaluate a couple, maybe even just two candidates side by side, that have done very similarly in terms of their applications. To distinguish between the two candidates, they’re going to use your MCAT score as the tiebreaker.

Now, the most important question that you’re probably thinking of right now is: “All right, so out of all of these ways in which my score may be used, which are the one’s that I should really care about?” Well, it’s the first one that we talked about there, the cutoff, and the third one, direct criteria. These are the two most prevalent uses of your MCAT scores, especially when you’re applying to Canadian medical schools.

Now the next thing I want to talk to you about is how some of these schools will actually be looking at your score, as per the policies of the medical schools themselves. So here it is: This is data that we’ve collected, and it is data that sometimes changes. So before I really begin, what I want to do is give you a bit of a disclaimer: This is unofficial data. Schools can change this at anytime, and they’re not obliged to keep it the same year after year. If you want to get this information, you definitely can. You have access to the same information that we had access to when we were creating this list. What you have to do is go to the admissions website for each of the schools that you’re interested in, and look at the section that’s talking about admissions, and specifically the MCAT score and what kind of a role it plays in admissions.

What I want to reiterate here is that almost every school in the country will probably use your MCAT score twice in the admissions process. The first time they’re going to use it as consideration. What this means is: “Should we consider this applicant further, in terms of giving them an interview?” So it’s probably going to be used in this sense of consideration, as a cutoff or a minimum score. So if your application doesn’t meet that cutoff, or doesn’t meet that minimum score, we can say that your application is dead and it’s not going to be considered any further.

Now the other thing that you need to remember is, not only are they looking at your total overall score, most of these schools are also looking at the scaled score for each section. So for example, we can’t blow off one section completely and then say: “Hey, I did super bad on CARS, but my total score is okay, because I did amazing on the biological and biochemical foundations of living systems section.” That’s not how it works. You have to hit the minimum in each of those criteria’s, and you have to hit the minimum overall cutoff, that’s your total score, in order for your application to be considered. Should you not, that application isn’t going to go any further.

Now the second way that medical schools are going to use your score is to see if they want to give you an interview, or after your interview, if they’re going to offer you a position at their school. In the second round of them viewing your MCAT, it’s not so much as a minimum for consideration, it’s not so much the cutoff that they’re viewing. This is more direct criteria. If you want to get an idea of what a good school that uses direct criteria is, try visiting the undergrad medical education page for McMaster University.

McMaster has what they call a pre-interview formula, in which they say some percentage of your MCAT score will be used in order to calculate a number, which will essentially determine whether you get an interview with McMaster or not. Once you’ve done your interview they’ll also use another type of formula to calculate whether, directly, they want to offer you a position. So McMaster’s a great example of what direct criteria is like.

Before I move on, one thing I really want to talk to you about is to not confuse the words “minimum for consideration” with a competitiveness idea. When you hit the minimum for consideration, those are the lowest MCAT scores that a school is willing to accept in order to look at your file. Just because you hit those, does not mean that you’ve met the criteria in order to be invited for an interview. There are many factors that the medical schools consider. For example, U of T publishes some of the minimums that you must have acquired on your MCAT in order to be eligible to have an interview. Now when they publish the data of the people who actually interviewed, you can see that, not only have they met the minimums, but they’ve far surpassed them. So a competitive MCAT score is not the same thing as a minimum MCAT score. You want to make sure that you have surpassed that minimum for consideration. Don’t forget that.

In the last couple videos we’ve been talking extensively about the MCAT. We’ve gone over and we’ve talked about the skills that it tests, we’ve talked about the science sections, the CARS section, we talked about scoring as well. The types of scoring that you get, how the scoring will be used. And although the bulk of these videos in this video series project has focused on discussion around the MCAT, I want to take a moment here and bring you to focus. Remember that the MCAT is only one component of your journey to medical school. All the other components on this page are either equally important, or more or less important, but you cannot forget their consideration.

The MCAT is super important, but things like extracurricular activities, especially the type of clinical experience that you obtained through those actives, having a competitive GPA, are also extremely key to your application cycle. Giving focus to just this aspect, the MCAT aspect, will not render you as a strong candidate. In order to be a strong candidate to some of the Canadian medical schools, which are at the highest end of competition, I believe, through medical schools all around the world, you have to make sure that you’ve excelled in these other factors as well. In short, I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll say it one more time, medical schools are looking for a complete package. Not just a high MCAT score or not a low MCAT score that is offset by strengths in other areas, but a student that is well rounded in all of the factors that you see here. This is why I urge you to make sure that you’ve got your bases covered in all of these factors.

Well, I hope you were able to learn a lot. Just to reiterate some of the concepts that we’ve learned today, I talked about the four ways in which your score could be used, and then we went over some of the ways in which the Canadian medical schools actually used your scores. Now, don’t forget, if you want more specific information, to make sure that you visit the medical education admissions page of the schools that you’re interested in, to get the most updated and correct information. The last thing that we talked about was to make sure that you’re giving just as much attention to the other parts of your application as you are to your MCAT portion.

I hope you were able to take away lots of important information and I’ll see you next time. Bye for now!

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