If you're an aspiring doctor, you've likely been preparing for the MCAT (even if you didn't know it yet) for years of your life. The MCAT is a comprehensive scientific exam that future physicians sit in order to get into medical school. With sections ranging from chemistry to physics to biology, it requires both an in-depth knowledge of virtually every scientific niche and a familiarity with basic logic.
It's fiendish, and it's just as competitive as every other aspect of the medical school application process.
Unfortunately, complications with the test-taking process itself can arise to make your journey towards becoming a doctor even more difficult. The MCAT comes with a long list of rules and regulations that seek to reduce the likelihood of candidates cheating on the examination. In some cases, these rules promote fairness.
In other cases, MCAT candidates find themselves caught up in accusations of misconduct or test-taking irregularities that can easily destroy their dreams of ever practicing medicine…before they even get into medical school.
If you've found yourself in this situation, know that you're not alone. At the Lento Law Firm, we're ready to help you work towards a successful outcome—one that, ideally, involves neither cancellation of your hard-earned scores, any damage to your reputation, or other unfair consequences that you may currently be facing.
What Is the MCAT? Who Takes This Test?
The MCAT, or the Medical College Admission Test, is a rite of passage that many consider to be more than just a standardized test. It's a grueling examination that assesses not only a student's knowledge of many different scientific subjects but also their ability to play logic games, manipulate data, and stay focused for the staggering almost eight-hour-long testing day.
The MCAT is a computer-based exam. Many medical schools require MCAT scores prior to considering admittance for any of their applicants. The Association of American Medical Colleges develops and administers the MCAT every year as a way to provide a level playing field for the numerous medical school hopefuls.
In general, the idea accompanying MCAT scores is simple (and the same as every other standardized test): The higher your score, the higher your likelihood of getting into the medical school of your dreams. This places a lot of pressure on students preparing for the exam as well as the examination experience itself.
One of the factors that make the MCAT so difficult is the sheer amount of information that the test covers. The MCAT measures candidate competency across the following scientific and academic sub-disciplines:
- Organic Chemistry
- General Chemistry
- General Biology
- Critical Analysis
In addition, the MCAT doesn't keep things easier or simpler by testing each of these different scientific niches by themselves; the MCAT mixes them all up and asks test-takers to manipulate data across disciplines. This requires far more than just a basic understanding of the scientific content; students ideally need an innate familiarity with virtually every field of science, as well as a talent for tackling complex problems under extreme pressure.
The MCAT features four sections:
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
This challenging examination has test dates from January to September. Candidates of all ages attempt it, as it's not uncommon to take a break after attaining an undergraduate degree to get related experience in order to boost chances of medical school admission.
Along with the hefty amount of preparation required (an overwhelming 300-350 hours, at least), the MCAT requires other investments. In addition to the eight-hour day of testing, candidates must pay a $310 registration fee, or more if they register late or accrue penalties. This makes the MCAT an examination that is extremely costly in every sense of the word.
Misconduct During the MCAT Application and Administration Process
The AAMC has created specific rules of conduct to guide the MCAT application and test administration experiences as fairly as possible. The association does so mostly to ensure that the exam remains as consistent as possible across its myriad administrations.
When an application or testing irregularity does arise, the AAMC does reserve the right to take immediate action—which can include cancellation of your scores. If this happens, you may not receive any notification of what your scores would have been. You will likely not receive a refund of your test registration or associated costs. You'll have to re-register and take the test again in full. This could cause severe delays in your medical school application timeline—or it could throw your ability to apply to medical school at all in jeopardy.
The AAMC has identified the following violations of MCAT registration and scheduling rules. Violations regarding any of these rules could result in the cancellation of a testing appointment, an MCAT ban, or the cancellation of a candidate's scores. These violations include:
- Registering for more than one AAMC identification profile.
- Registering for the MCAT or setting up an MCAT appointment using someone else's AAMC ID.
- Allowing another person to pursue registration for the MCAT using your AAMC ID.
- Allowing someone else to show up to an MCAT appointment using your AAMC ID.
- Obtaining multiple simultaneous appointments while holding multiple AAMC IDs.
- Exceeding your testing limits for the MCAT, including any instances of doing so while having or using more than one AAMC ID.
- Any instance of providing inaccurate, misleading, or false information while you're requesting an initial AAMC ID or using it to register for the MCAT examination.
- Giving your AAMC ID or MCAT appointment to someone else, including any instances where a candidate sells this opportunity or information to another.
- Purchasing someone else's AAMC ID or MCAT appointment.
- Switching AAMC IDs or MCAT appointment data with another candidate.
These types of MCAT registration irregularities are rare, but can lead to harsh punishments.
Prohibited Items and Behaviors During the MCAT Exam Administration
Misconduct during the MCAT registration process isn't the only type that the AAMC can investigate and adjudicate. There's also a lengthy list of expectations regarding licit behavior during the administration itself. For example, the AAMC prohibits the following items and behaviors during the test experience:
- Accessing, using, or possessing any electronic devices after you've checked in for the examination (including during breaks)
- Having or using any type of camera or AV recording equipment
- Utilizing any method of giving or receiving aid on the MCAT examination
- Having or using any type of notes, books, written materials, or other resources during the administration of the test
- Looking at another test taker's devices or notes
- Bringing any object that could have a secondary or primary use as a weapon into the test-taking facility (including the break areas)
- Leaving the test-taking facility at all while you're checked in for the examination
- Performing any type of abusive or disruptive behavior during the examination itself
In addition to these expectations regarding licit behavior during the administration of the MCAT, the AAMC also has a specific set of guidelines surrounding the use of the note board booklet that the test-taking facility will provide for your use during the examination. Instead of traditional pen-and-paper note-taking systems, the test-taking facility will give you a small booklet of wet-erase pages. The AAMC expects that you will:
- Keep this booklet on your desk
- Refrain from dismantling the booklet in any way
- Leave the booklet in the exam room, including during breaks and after the exam
- Preserve your notes in the booklet, including after the exam
- Use your booklet for in-test notes, not to aid dishonest practices (e.g., writing extensive notes immediately after coming back from a break as if you'd just accessed an illicit resource).
Finally, because the MCAT constitutes such a competitive, pressurized exam-taking experience, the AAMC has specific guidelines regarding your discussions of the MCAT after the exam. Once you've finished taking the exam, you're not allowed to describe the MCAT that you've taken in any level of specific detail. You may not outline the steps that you took to answer a question. You may not speculate about which of the questions on the test were included for assessment or experimental purposes. You also need to avoid helping anyone else perform any of those activities.
Investigation and Adjudication of MCAT Misconduct
After an allegation of MCAT misconduct, what happens?
When the American Association of Medical Colleges becomes aware that a medical school candidate or someone who has taken the MCAT has possibly violated an AAMC policy, they will begin an investigation immediately. The AAMC has many systems in place to provide notifications regarding policy violations, and it welcomes information from outside parties.
Once the AAMC initiates an investigation, the AAMC will review all relevant information to come to a determination regarding guilt. The information that the Association reviews may include:
- Information that the subject of the investigation submits (e.g., medical school or MCAT application data)
- AAMC records
- Information sourced from external policies
- MCAT policies
- Medical school admission and enrollment standards
The AAMC will send a notification to the subject of their investigation shortly after the association becomes aware that a policy violation may have occurred. They do this partially to put the allegations in writing and partially to give the subject an opportunity to respond to these allegations. This occasion may represent the first time that an MCAT candidate becomes aware of their alleged misconduct; it may also represent their sole chance to influence the outcome of their case.
Upon receipt of the subject's response, the AAMC will draft a report containing all information, including subject-submitted data, relating to the case. The association sends out this report to all interested parties (including the subject) and allows a short window of time for the subject to advise the AAMC of any inaccuracies in the report. If nothing changes, the AAMC finalizes the report and recommends associated punitive measures.
Potential Consequences for MCAT Testing Irregularities
The AAMC has the ability to hold onto the policy violation report and disseminate it as they see fit—which can have a strong and likely unhelpful effect on a medical school candidate's reputation.
In addition to any actions involving the investigation report, the AAMC may also take any of the following actions:
- Terminating an exam administration
- Canceling an MCAT score or registration
- Placing a candidate's MCAT scores on hold
- Suspending a candidate's MCAT eligibility
Any of these consequences could make your path towards becoming a practicing physician extremely difficult (or even impossible). It's important that you don't let that happen. Reach out to a seasoned student defense attorney to ensure that you have your best chance of a successful outcome.
Rely on Joseph D. Lento to Defend Your MCAT Examination Experience
If you've put in the time to prepare for your MCAT, you should be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor. You need to be able to have the score that you've worked so hard for so you can move forward with your medical school application process.
If allegations of misconduct are making that difficult for you, it's time to take action. However, you're probably going through a lot right now. The MCAT provides a very stressful environment even in the best-case scenario. Now, as your medical school application timelines get closer and closer, as the number of tersely-worded notifications you receive begins to pile up, you might find yourself more frustrated, scared, and confused than you've ever been.
At the Lento Law Firm, we seek to reduce your stress surrounding alleged MCAT misconduct. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has worked tirelessly to present strategic defenses for students across the country who face allegations and accusations that stand in the way of their futures. He can do the same for you.
It's time to take action to protect your future and your reputation. Fortunately, you're in the right place. Joseph D. Lento is ready to help you defend your MCAT scores and test-taking experience.
Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to see how we can help.