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While few people have commented on my previous post about the MCATs being
scored without a guessing formula and in fact, carry instructions
encouraging students to guess, I do want to elaborate. Besides the
general attitude portrayed by these rules--gee, somethings wrong inside
you, let's take something out and MAYBE that will cure you--IMO, such
instructions do a terrible disservice to the students taking the test.
Mayber this is done ON PURPOSE, but having now worked with some students
on practice tests, IT IS NOT IN THEIR INTEREST to rush through the test
so as to make and 'educated' guess at EACH question. The nature of the
questions IS NOT a regurgitation of 'facts' learned in their courses, but
rather involve reading reasonably complex passages--about scientific
concerns to which they probably HAVE NOT been directly exposed, and
answering a series of questions about these readings. It turns out that
the questions can be answered by DIRECTLY applying the information in the
passages and/or using VERY basic knowledge that any reasonably bright
student would carry in from their course work. Examples--one passage on
the workings of a fluorescent light, another on the nature of visible
light spectroscopy. The only 'facts' needed to answer any of the dozen
questions were 'F = ma', white light is a mixture of all frequencies, and
and ampere is a Coulomb/s--although the last could actually be deduced
from the passage. On the other hand, few of the questions were trivial
and most required some 'estimate' type computations (using supplied
formula) to answer. EVEN yours truly HAD to take his time to correctly
answer the questions.

MY POINT then is, that by encouraging 'guessing' the test also encourages
speed and slopiness which ARE NOT beneficial to good scores and certainly
NOT a good model for future physicians! Again, I'm soliciting any
alternate views, any rationale for allowing guessing, before I write up a
formal complaint to the MCAT folks.


Richard W. Tarara Updated software (3-15-96) now available
Department of Chemistry & Physics
Saint Mary's College